WSM owners, unite

Year after year it seems that the member/owners of Weaver Street Market wonder if our co-operative grocery store is doing the right thing. Are we getting enough dividends? Are the prices fair? Do we really need to open new branches and additional businesses? And more recently... How can WSM justify telling us and our friends whether and how to dance while we are being law-abiding consumers of their goods and services?

The recent dancing ban is just the latest example of an issue that had caused some owners to want to learn more about how our market is being managed. Rather than wonder alone, I'd like to get together and talk to other owners about what they think. Things are happening rather fast - the deadline for applying to be on the WSM Board of Directors is Tuesday 9/19 and the next open board meeting is Thursday 9/21 - so I'd like to get together as soon possible. However, I'm going out of town for the next 5 days, so I have to settle for Friday, 9/15 at 7:30pm. Let's meet at our favorite co-operatively owned grocery store. I'll wear an OrangePolitics shirt so you can find me. ;)

Also, please put the Annual Meeting on your calendars, it's at noon on November 5th and includes a free lunch. Hope to see you there!

Issues: 

Total votes: 158

Comments

"How can WSM justify telling us and our friends whether and how to dance while we are being law-abiding consumers of their goods and services?"

Isn't the more accurate question, "How can Carr Mill Mall justify...?"

Are you holding WSM responsible for the ban that their landlord imposed?

"Are you holding WSM responsible for the ban that their landlord imposed?"

Yes. The new "live on the lawn" program was presented by WSM and CMM. This policy states that WSM and CMM will decide and enforce who gets to "perform" on the lawn. They are partners in this debacle now. We are all very sad that WSM is connected to this. The above call for action by WSM owners is a democratic method to help resolve this problem.

OK, I got it, Brian. The ban and the new program are one in the same.

I. Upcoming WSM Board of Directors Elections

This November two of the nine WSM Board of Directors positions will be determined by elections. One will be the Worker-Owner position now held by Jacob Myers (who operates the coffee bar in the Carrboro store). The position will be voted upon solely by WSM employees who also own a worker-owner share.

The other position is the highly publizied Consumer-Owner position. If you do not work at WSM and you own a WSM share (ie you think you're a "member"), you can vote for this position. I, myself, will apply for this position and would like to bring about more consumer-oriented change to the operations of OUR co-op.

Additionally, the Board currently has a vacancy to fill. This position is one of the two appointed positions. Andy resigned only because he is work and family time demands outweighed his Board demands. Andy has been a great addition mainly owing to his ability to diplomatically question monitoring reports from the Executive Director (Ruffin Slater). He was reappointed to the Board this past summer and his replacement will hold that position till the summer of 2008. The Board is currently conducting interviews of the applicants and intends to internally vote upon and fill the position before the November elections of the two other positions.

II. Getting Carr Mill Mall Property Manager Nathan Milian to reevaluate his decision regarding Bruce Thomas' life-celebrating dance. NOTE: I believe Ruffin when he consistently has stated that Nathan Milian made his decision wihtout any input from Ruffin.

Did you know Nathan Milian had been appointed to the Economic Sustainabilty Commission (aka the Dowtown Development Commission) by the Carrboro Board of Aldermen? Did you know that the Commission internally elected him as its Chair? Did you know that the Commission meets every 2nd Thursday at 7:30pm? See http://townofcarrboro.com/AdvBoards/PDFs/AdvisoryBoardMembership.pdf
My question is: How can one serve on a public citizens' advisory Commission, let alone be the Chair, when one's decision is so utterly unpopular with the community's values? And, yes, it is widely known that Nathan Milian is not a citizen of Carrboro; he lives in Durham. I'd like to ask the Commission this question personally this coming Thursday September 14th at the Carrboro Town Hall; the day after the next weekly dance-in on the lawn.

I should have written that there are SEVEN Board positions rather than nine.

I just received this in my email:

September 11, 2006

To Weaver Street Market Owners:

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the feedback you are giving us about our handling of the lawn issue. We continue to be engaged in working toward a resolution that will maximize community use of the lawn. Here is a short update of what has happened in the last week. Please continue to send us your feedback and suggestions at feedback@weaverstreetmarket.coop.

Thank you

Ruffin Slater, General Manager

Update on Lawn in front of Weaver Street Market:

Weaver Street Market has engaged Andy Sachs of the Dispute Settlement Center to assist in facilitating a resolution to the lawn issues. Over the last week, Mr. Sachs met with several of the parties involved.

In addition, Carr Mill's principal owner, Paul Greenberg, initiated a meeting, which took place on September 5 and included himself, Mall Manager Nathan Milian, Mayor Mark Chilton and Alderman Dan Coleman. The September 5 meeting included a frank exchange of information and concerns. Mr. Greenberg expressed his desire that Carr Mill continue to serve as a focal point for the Carrboro community. He also agreed with an idea put forth by Alderman Coleman that he meet with Bruce Thomas, who had already agreed to meet with Mr. Greenberg. It is expected that this meeting will take place on or around September 20. The Mayor has offered his office for this meeting and either he or Alderman Coleman will be present to facilitate. Mr. Greenberg agreed to reflect on the ideas discussed prior to his expected return to Carrboro on September 20.

Mayor Chilton and Alderman Coleman appreciated the Mall owner's initial step toward resolution. Coleman said, "We appreciate Mr. Greenberg taking the initiative to seek to resolve this situation. We are confident that he will find Bruce Thomas to be easy-going, respectful of the mall's concerns, and amenable to a win-win solution. Beyond that, we look forward to hearing Mr. Greenberg's articulation of policy concerns that best serve the interests of the mall and our shared goal of its continuing to serve as a vital center for Carrboro."

WSM General Manager Ruffin Slater added that the lawn and the activities that it supports have been a major asset to the community. "The activities on the lawn have existed in part because the Mall's owners allow their property to be used by the community," Slater said. "The challenge for the community and the owners of the property is how to continue the use of the lawn while respecting the legitimate needs of the property owner and of other users of Carr Mill."

Slater said following a successful meeting between Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Thomas, Andy Sachs will remain available to help take up the challenge of balancing the needs of everyone involved.

As an shareholder of WSM, I would like to applaud the efforts of Ruffin Slater, Paul Greenberg of Carr Mill Mall, Mark Chilton and Dan Coleman in working to resolve this issue in way that allows for communication between Bruce Thomas and Carr Mill Mall and that seeks to keep the lawn as the vital center of Carrboro while at the same time respecting the fact that it is private property and that there are other tenants besides WSM at Carr Mill.

I posted the WSM email in the hope that some folks could fill all of us in a little bit.

What information and concerns were exchanged?

Does "Mr. Greenberg agreed to reflect on the ideas discussed prior to his expected return" mean that some substantive agreement might be hammered out?

For that matter, does anybody have a CLEAR idea of what CMM's concerns/issues are?

Bill,
re: "CMM's concerns/issues"
That's what we're hoping to learn in the next step in the process. It's clear that CMM has concerns in regard to safe and legal behavior, also that use of the property enhances and does not interfere with its business purpose or that of its tenants. We should know more in a week or two.

re: "What information and concerns were exchanged?"
Mark and I did our best to summarize several hundred blog postings, letters, and conversations on the topic. Ok, not exactly but we did try to convey our sense of the most salient community concerns.

-Dan

Thanks, Dan--and thanks to Ruffin for supporting more dialogue and communication, and to Mr. Greenberg for being willing to communicate and share information. I know from speaking with so many people, and having to work so hard to clarify my non-shitkicking, pro-dialogue perspective when asked, that most people really want to be part of a *solution*, not part of a problem. It takes work to wade through the words, and I appreciate all who are attempting to do so with respect for all.

elizabeth,

I just don't see any reason that community reaction should be one thing or the other.

For example, it's entirely possible that Mr. Green decided to engage because of the protests, not in spite of them. I don't know that for a fact, but it's hardly a unique circumstance that protest (and the threat of more) leads to dialog by those who were not particularly willing to talk before.

I also would like to point out that I haven't seen any shitkicking yet. Some heel-kicking, yes, but no shitkicking.

I agree with Bill. I don't see any "shitkicking" going on.

I belive the ONLY thing keeping dialogue happening between the town and the owners of WSM is community outcry. (blog posts, dance-ins, community letters, emails from WSM owners, letters from WSM owners, letters to the editor, etc.) Isn't this how democracy works?

How are these peacful activities "shit-kicking" or "part of the problem"?

I hear what you guys are saying, but hey--where did anyone get the idea that by "shitkicking" I meant any of the actions you're referring to? My definition of shitkicking has to do with people who would rather foment polarized viewpoints from the safety of their computers than try to understand someone's point of view, and is not about whether I agree with anyone or not--more about how easy and harmful it is to make quick and judgemental assumptions about folks and what they say, and for some people, how much of a rush they get from doing so willfully. That kind of negative energy bleeds me, but like many humans, I get sucked into such "debates".

And I agree--the dance demo's and letters have been important work. As far as the activities that have kept this issue under the spotlight, I've been in plenty (and in some that have been behind other doors). It amazed me to read one person's opinion somewhere, judging that this whole situation wasn't "as important" as working to deal with poverty, hunger, etc. This person has no idea whether or not any of the protesters and letter-writers involved on this issue actually *do* spend a lot of our time on fighting just such battles AS WELL AS trying to work out solutions regarding the Lawn. I spend 8 hours a day working against the odds in a human services field.

It's a measure of where some dialogue has probbaly gone before, that there is so much distrust and polarization of people's views. I'm new to this, but I'd guess a lot of people in local blogs have felt the need to not just explain, but actually defend their words more than once--due to the two dimensional quality of the internet, but also due to something in our human nature I won't try to describe right now. It makes me tired, but yes--it's part of the necessary work of community communication. Still, people should have the freedom to describe an energy drain when it's happening, such as when I described my feelings in terms of "hyperbole" fatigue. There is a fine difference between broad, passionate engagements in discourse, and the use of hyperbole (and again, don't assume I'm talking about the discussion *here*), and it does wear me out when that steals energy from more resolution and concensus-based forms of strategizing.

Even when I do it *myself* (admission of occasionally GUILT!).

It is very encouraging to read that good dialogues are taking place and that it is likely that in the near future Paul Greenburg will meet with Bruce Thomas.

Perhaps it is time. at least for the present, to stop considering options for another Commons area which could serve, not as a substitute, nor as a new site for WSM, but as as an alternative venue in case the worst were to occur.

Wondered if anyone would volunteer to post the Board applicants announced at tomorrows meeting?

I wanted to add (in fact I thought I had posted this last night) that one way WSM could better engage owners in managing the organization would be to post the agenda on their website before the meetings. I had a lot of difficulty understanding the discussion last night when they referred to "2.6 not 2.11" etc. In addition, it would help us know when topics of interest are going to be discussed at their meetings.

They may also want to consider opening up their meetings to a small amount of public comment, perhaps a petition period at the beginning of the meeting where members could voice requests to the Board.

To their c redit, they do post the minutes of Board meetings after the fact, but I haven't been bored enough to look at those yet.

Hello I am reporting to you live from the WSM Board meeting. I am posting from my phone so I have to keep each comment short.

So far we have heard a scintillating financial review from an external accountant. ;-)

I was surprised to find that there is only one woman on this all-white 6-member board. There are 3 more white guys here who inroduced themselves as nominees. Adding Billy makes at least 4 white male Board candidates.

Thank you Ruby. I encourage, strongly, a few folks but they each declined because of either other engagements or because they thought it too much of a time commitment.

I don't blame them - this meeting is D U L L !

They are now discussing what seems to be a survey of themselves about organizational issues. It sounds like it would be interesting if I could see it.

So, Mr. Greenberg was planning to be back on or around this past Wednesday and, at the least, have a conversation with Bruce. Further conversation with the Mayor was at least hinted at in the WSM press release.

Has anybody heard anything? Mayor Chilton? Alderman Coleman?

Three meetings have taken place in the past 48 hours:

1. Bruce Thomas, Nathan Milian, Paul Greenberg, and myself for the purpose of acquainting Nathan and Paul with Bruce.

2) Nathan Milian, Paul Greenberg, Mark Chilton and myself, briefly, for the purpose of setting up #3.

3) Nathan Milian, Ruffin Slater, and myself for the purpose of reviewing a draft policy statement previously roughed out by Nathan and Ruffin.

That updated statement is currently under review by Paul Greenberg. All hope to expeditiously complete that work so that the mall can put a clear policy before the community.

Greenberg continues to affirm his desire that Carr Mill retain its central role in the day-to-day life of Carrboro and that the lawn remain a place for community gathering and expressive activity (in addition to its core commercial purpose, of course).

Dan--

I'm interested to hear how you became involved in these discussions. Did the mayor or the BOA appoint you to be a town representative--or are you doing this as a private citizen?

melanie

Melanie,
When mall-owner Paul Greenberg first requested a meeting with Mayor Chilton, Mark asked me to join them. I am not a "town representative" per se since the town has no formal role in these discussions. Mark and I are simply responding to a request from Carr Mill to help them come up with a solution.

Thanks for asking.

-Dan

OTP, Dan, aren't you in Madison?

The "usual suspects" don't go until tomorrow morning (the trip dates are September 24-26).

It's too bad that the "usual suspect" can see nothing positive in people building relationships and trying to learn how others deal with some of the challenges that we are addressing in our community without the negativity, innuendoes suggesting unethical motivations, and the childish labeling applied to the trip.

Fred, I gather you read my recent post ;-).

Come on, most of the folks going interact locally - so the concentrated focus of the trip must be something special (else why go?). Heck, two of the main learning planks involve university development, is that the difference?

No innuendos. I simply found the sales pitch - "building synergies", etc. - was representative of many junket sales pitches. And while the pitch echoes that of Abramoff and his ilk, I clearly don't expect Ney like hanky-panky.

Junkets can serve a worthwhile purpose - I expect many of this weekends attendees to learn something that will enhace our community.

But I also believe some folks will attending expect a bigger payoff than simple altruism.

Let's not pretend, then, that this or any other public/private junket doesn't have a sub-text.

So, Fred, why are you going? What do you expect to learn? And how will attending/interacting with the large group of "usual suspects" differ from your local interactions with them?

I don't know the exact answer to this question, but I'm pretty sure it has a good answer.

Given the fact that information delivery and communication are so quick and simple now, what sort of lasting - and democratically available - system (that would serve the purpose of discovering useful strategies and ideas employed elsewhere) could we institute with the total amount of funds dedicated to this trip?

On Will's post, Theodore Roosevelt had this to say:

The men with the muck-rake are often indispensable to the well-being of society, but only if they know when to stop raking the muck.

Now, as men go, Will is no Ida Tarbell. But, surely, there is a range of possibilities between the pure altruism of the Madison trip and the degradation of an Abramoff junket to some posh locale. We will need to ask tough questions like those posed by Will on his blog to help us understand where we stand on that continuum at any particular moment. My own disappointment is that our local news media do not ask such questions or help us find answers to them.

Let me qualify that to say "rarely ask such questions... "

What's your objection to this trip Will? From a cognition perspective, learning occurs best in new but relevant environments. That's why simulations are such effective learning tools. To me, this trip is a form of simulation, a chance for town leaders to get new ideas on how to work with the university, with technology, and with issues of affordability/economic development. Even if they don't learn what to do, they may learn what they don't want.

When I read your blog on the usual suspects, it sounded like you don't trust WHO was selected (or volunteered to pay their own way) to go rather than skepticism over the value such a trip could provide in terms of creative, out-of-the-box thinking and planning.

Actually Terri, as I said on my 'blog, I think the trip could (and hopefully will) be a good thing (especially, as Mark notes, considering the investment).

As for the participants (of which I note, over half of which I have some kind of relationship with), I'm sure they all will be on their best behavior.

And, yes, nothing like a road trip to spawn new ways of looking at or dealing with the world.

I wasn't planning to say much about Madison, though the emphasis, sans housing, seemed a bit off, not a mix I wouldn't of chosen, but two recent events kind of jarred my thinking.

One was some public comments by a few of the organizers/participants in the local media (including the LTE I cited) of the wondrous nature of this confab. The apparent uncritical acceptance of which, absent further comment from either the MSM or other local 'bloggers, kind of set the stage.

Two came as a few recent comments, made in a more casual setting, by a local mover-n-shaker . This jolted me into a closer analysis.

So, a long winded way of saying my objection isn't to the trip but to the generally uninspected acceptance that "it's a good thing."

Though Dan is a far superior writer and has a better grasp of history than I, I wouldn't characterize my inspection as muck-raking - more something to stimulate some critical thinking of a trip with scheduled smoozing and buffeting (smooze + feast = smoozefest ;-) ?)

Finally, I've been on these kind of "fact finding" trips before (usually in a business context). It's a given that the "synergy" Mariana describes comes with a sub-text. Does it rise to the level of Abramoff? Heck no. Should it be completely ignored (especially considering how some folks, like Fred, hounded Tim Dempsey)....?

I do look forward to the media coverage. It's a great crew. It's a shame, though, that the DTH isn't going. Their university perspective would've been interesting.

OK, that's what I get for not proofing...

1) "not a mix I wouldn't of chosen" - not a mix I would've chosen
2) especially considering how some folks, like Fred, questioned Tim Dempsey's appointment

My only beef about the Madison junket is that it conflicts with the Carrboro Music Festival (9/24). Might as well mention this on the WSM thread, seeing as how the lawn is a featured venue from 1:00 until dark.

I might as well weigh in with my two cents on this topic, I've traveled on my fair share of meetings over the years - mostly directly related to my research but others that I would have initially qualified as "tangentially-related". My experience has been that the value of my trip could be accurately assessed ONLY AFTER I returned. Meetings that I looked forward to often turned out to be boring and rehashed old news/information. On the other hand, meetings that I often had low expectations for turned out to be exciting and productive, often because of new information gleaned or new contacts made.
I don't know at this point whether this trip will turn out to be valuable or not to the participants, and neither do they. But it has possibilities and isn't that what it is all about - exploring as many possibilities as possible to come up with the best answer? It certainly seems to me to be a better alternative that doing nothing.

Will, I signed up for workforce housing and town-gown relations. And contrary to your "hounding" assertion, if you go back and read what I wrote, you will see that I stated over and over that my objection was not with Tim Dempsey, it was with the contract going to a sitting Town board chair. Since I'm sure my individual concerns change nothing, someone else, or Tim on his own, reached the same conclusion since Ruby is the chair again and Tim resigned from the Planning Board.

Fred, I also was concerned about Tim...

GeorgeC makes an excellent point. Sometimes hindsight is the only way to measure the value of a trip. Then again, sometimes, like my Spring trip to Austin's SxSW, you know you're going to get some bang for your buck. Maybe Madison is the same?

So, given the $1100-1300 you're paying (or is it a business expense?), what do you expect to learn that will help with Town-Gown relations? How will you apply those lessons?

Hey, maybe you'll get a chance to talk Carolina North (which is on your doorstep), with Moeser and the crew. That might be worth the price of admission alone ;-)

Since this thread has turned into a discussion of the Madison trip, some of you may be interested in this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled The University as Economic Savior.
http://chronicle.com/free/v52/i45/45a01801.htm

An RIT blogger added this follow up:
http://www.thetigerbeat.com/blog/?p=90

Thanks Teri.

A couple things stood out.

• RIT has spent about $265 million in physical improvements during the past decade, making us one of the “larger construction sites” in the area.

I wonder how many of those millions and how many of our millions spent on construction stayed in the community? One of the vaporous economic benefits of CN is supposed to be the buildout, but if Main Campus is any reflection, those bucks quickly leave the community.

The Chronicle does say "Last year the university spent $172.4-million on locally purchased equipment", so that's encouraging, though also somewhat anomalous since the Rochester area also produces that type equipment.

Much of that expansion has been fueled by a 10-year, $500-million investment in faculty members and facilities at the university's medical center. While medical breakthroughs by the center's researchers — such as work by Rochester virologists that led to the development of the vaccine against cervical cancer — attract headlines and earn patent royalties, the investment can also be felt locally, says Nancy M. Bennett, director of the university's Center for Community Health. The university is involved in a coalition to eliminate lead in public housing, has worked to diminish racial disparities in immunization rates, and developed a healthy-living program administered through black and Hispanic churches.

Still, barriers remain, Ms. Bennett says, noting that residents are distrustful of researchers who disappear when their grants dry up. "One of our goals is to create a presence that will be permanent," she says, "so that the project comes and goes, and we won't."

Got to like the community outreach though taxpayers might also kind of expect it given the kinds of public monies directed at the expansion.

The aggressive build-up was financed roughly with "$270 million in state funds and $225 million from academic, federal, or industry sources" - the great majority being tax-based financing.

Maybe Fred et. al. will learn how to do it cheaper in Madison ;-)

"It's important to go there, meet their people, see it on the ground and have that shared experience," said Aaron Nelson, executive director of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, whose Community Leadership Council is the official host of the trip. "We're going to see things in a new and different way."

"The second reason is to build relationships among our community leaders," Nelson added. "The hope is that when you get back, and you have an issue you need help with, you can pick up the phone and call the guy you sat next to on the plane for four hours."

Today's soon to evaporate HeraldSun.

 

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