Saturday, October 9, 2010

BDS & The Olympia Food Co-op Board Election

Update: Olympia Food Co-op Board Election Update

This post was temporarily taken down at the request of
Olympia BDS while they prepared their candidate endorsements. You won't find any endorsements below but boycott supporters are well-advised to consider voting for the candidates endorsed by Olympia BDS. Because there are five openings and five obvious boycott opponents, vote-splitting among the eleven other candidates by boycott supporters could possibly lead to the election of one or more boycott opponents to the board.

Last July, after a two-year process and in an admirable act of conscience, the Board of Directors of the Olympia Food Co-op (OFC) voted unanimously to honor the Palestinian call for "broad boycotts ... against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era." In less than one week voting for Board members begins. The election takes place from October 15th until November 15th. Below you will find information about the candidates from an internet search and from the current OFC newsletter where you can find the complete candidate statements (which you should read before you vote) plus a ballot and voting instructions.

There is a field of sixteen candidates this year; members can vote for five. Two of the candidates are incumbents running for re-election, which means they voted in favor of supported or did not block consensus in support of the boycott of Israeli goods. They are: Eric Mapes and Suzanne Shafer (not to be confused with non-incumbent candidate Susan Schaeffer).

Notwithstanding the controversy over the boycott of Israeli goods, Karen Bray says in her statement: "The Co-op has done well in staying true to its mission statement." Boycott supporter? I'm not sure.

Candidate Wally Cuddeford says: "With the recent boycott drama, I am deeply concerned about pronouncements by people in the community that they intend to run for the board strictly with the goal of overturning the boycott. It is my firm belief that, whether you agree with the boycott or not, such a single-minded aim is reckless, irresponsible, and ultimately dangerous." Dangerous? That seems hyperbolic. In any case, Cuddeford is an active, open boycott supporter. You can read his comments at the August member's forum online here.

Kent Davis is "disturbed by the recent Board actions that have created a caustic environment in Olympia." He says: "The Food Co-op should concentrate on providing good food to the community and not get involved in political debate." According to his Facebook page, Davis also likes "Boycott Olympia Food Co-op". I'd say that makes him an boycott opponent. He is also Facebook friends with Linda Sternhill Davis (see below).

Accentuating the positive, Linda Sternhill Davis avoids staking out an open position on the boycott of Israeli goods. Regarding what she would like to see changed at the co-op, she merely says, "Addressing and healing the divisiveness that is currently affecting our Co-op and community." Judging by her Facebook page, though, she's probably a boycott opponent. She is Facebook friends with Akiva Tor, the Consul General of Israel for the Pacific Northwest, and Gary Acheatel, one of the founders of Advocates for Israel. Like Kent Davis, Sternhill Davis is a fan of Boycott Olympia Food Co-op.

Rochelle Gause is on the board of the Olympia Rafah Sister City Project. Here is how she closed her comments at the August member's forum: "In memory of the thousands of Palestinians who have lost their lives at the hands of our F-16s, Apaches, bulldozers and bullets, and in memory of our own Rachel Corrie who died to bring light to this situation, please honor the boycott. Thanks!" She is a boycott supporter.

Erin Genia was a 2008-09 Jessie Lloyd O'Connor Scholar, her bio says: "An exploration of the commonalities between Native American and Palestinian struggles led her to the Rachel Corrie Foundation 'Breaking the Silence' mural project and the Olympia-Rafah Mural project." Erin Genia is also listed as a member of the "alliance of Artists Against Apartheid", which supports the boycott of Israel. Methinks she is a boycott supporter.

Candidate Kim Henderson has been a "Co-op shopper and a volunteer stocker" for twenty years. Where she stands on the boycott is a mystery to me.

TJ Johnson is "concerned that after 30+ years the Co-op has lost focus." He wants "to re-energize and refocus the Co-op on its core mission - serving its members/owners, making good food accessible to more people and being the cornerstone of a vibrant, sustainable and equitable local food system." Notwithstanding these comments, Johnson is listed by Olympia BDS as a boycott supporter and Johnson was one of only two city council members who supported the failed proposal to form a sister city relationship between Olympia and the Palestinian city of Rafah

In her candidate statement, Andrea Lipper says, in part: "I am interested in being on the Board of Directors of our Co-op for 3 main reasons: 1) I want to help steer the Co-op's future growth in membership, revenues, and locations. 2) I want to work on strengthening the Co-ops internal policies including boycott policies." That's somewhat ambiguous. However, Andrea Lipper is quoted in a March 22, 2007 letter (accessible via; login required) to The Olympian as opposing the Olympia-Rafah sister city proposal because "Rafah is the home of HAMAS ..." and "Ninety percent of Rafah's population voted for HAMAS ..." She suggested forming a relationship with an Israeli city instead. I'm thinking she's a boycott opponent.

John Regan says: "As a member of the BOD my decisions would be grounded in the Co-op's history, mission, commitment to social justice through economic development (including its decision to boycott Israeli products), as well as the challenges and opportunities presented by the marketplace." He appears to be a boycott supporter.

Susan Schaeffer graciously tells us that she's "an excellent administrator" and "a fairly new Co-op member" who "would like to be part of the Co-op moving beyond recent events." She claims to "bring no preconceived notions, and ... no rigid allegiances." Part of her "vision for the Co-op" is to "Find a way to repair the sense of community destroyed by the boycott." She wants to lead "in shifting the Co-op's mission from one of political theatrics to one of serving its members – all of its members . . . well." Curiously, in an August 13th letter to the Tacoma News-Tribune, the no-preconceived-notions, no-rigid-allegiances candidate Schaeffer writes, "I support my Jewish friends in their view of the Olympia Food Co-op boycott. If the board does not change its position, I will resign my membership." Yet, here she is two months later running for the Board of Directors. Go figure. I reckon she's a boycott opponent.

Joshua Simpson says, in part, in his candidate statement: "I would also like to see the Co-op always continuing to provide more and more local and cruelty free products to the Olympia community, while continuing to boycott products that are not conducive to developing a more 'socially and economically egalitarian society'." He continues: "The Co-op's main strength right now is it's adherence to its mission statement and goals, even when it ... faces strident opposition and threats." Simpson was listed by Olympia BDS as a boycott supporter.

Susan Godden Trinin is an active, open boycott opponent with two pieces in the September edition of Works in Progress: "The story behind It's Our Co-op's petition" and "Statement from anti-boycott Co-op member". In her candidate statement, former Board member Godden Trinin says:
We face some real, intense challenges in the wake of the recent boycott. I firmly believe the Boycott Policy must be reviewed, revised, retooled in the interests of opening up the process to more discussion, more opinions, more enfranchisement--consensus-based decision making. I believe a fresh voice, with experience and dedication, could be an asset in facing the challenges of this issue, and our expansion program as well.
Godden Trinin adds elsewhere: "I am a 30-year member of the Jewish community since my marriage and raising two Jewish daughters. I also feel that this experience helps my understanding of the complex and polarizing issues before us at this time."

Claims Teresa Young: "When I visit the Co-op on my shopping day, I always run into people I know and care about. ... The Co-op is more than just a store, it's our store. No matter what changes the Co-op may go through, I see the Co-op sticking to its roots and being guided by its mission and sense of social justice." Young, apparently, still shops at the co-op. That's a plus but her assertion "it's our store" echoes the rallying whine of the boycott opponents: "It's our co-op". I can't tell where Young stands on the issue. Can you?

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