NOTE: Don't read this unless you are a member of the League of American Bicyclists.
This year, I joined the League of American Bicyclists. I wrote about why in my post, here. The Bike League is a nonprofit corporation. Like many moderate to larger nonprofit corporations, the Bike League depends on volunteers for many of the jobs that need to be done, but also on employees that professionally manage and run major program elements. As in many other nonprofit corporations, ownership is vested in people that we call “members.” In most cases, the members are not the same persons that are employed by the corporation. This creates conflict and the Bike League is no different than many other nonprofit corporations in this regard.
One of the manifestations of the conflict is that management direction rarely aligns with all the membership. In the case of the Bike League, one ongoing conflict is over the relative corporate effort that should go into, for example, “bike friendly” versus legal battles versus bike education. Such conflicts are made more intractable by the overwhelming level of commitment and enthusiasm that the various parties bring.
I find one element of this disturbing in the case of the Bike League. It is an element I once found equally disturbing in the Jaguar Clubs of North America. That element consists of the level of power and discretion delegated by the owners (the members) to the management (the employees). Clearly and naturally, the employees tend to want to obtain greater freedom and latitude to make decisions they feel are best for the corporation without amateurs meddling. The owners, on the other hand, may be split between those that endorse the management direction and those that prefer another approach. The element that is disturbing is the maintenance of checks and balances through an elected board of directors; charged with overall corporate governance and keeping an eye on management in the interests of the owners (the members). Appointed directors dilute the influence and control that the owners (members) possess. A requirement for “approval” for someone to run for a director position also dilutes the influence and control the owners possess. Bylaws that do not provide for a means for the owners to directly change things dilute the influence and control the owners possess.
Why is this disturbing? Well, it’s very simple. Ultimately, a nonprofit must be a reflection of its owners. If, through excessive dilution of the ownership element of membership, the nonprofit no longer reflects its members, why should a member belong? And, as I noted before, in the case of LAB, "I Got Nowhere Else to Go!"
THAT is why I support a petition to allow Damon, Brooking, and Spencer to run for LAB directorship. Allowed to run, they will attract support (or not), to the degree that they reflect the voting membership of LAB. If they are NOT allowed to run, we’ll simply not know. I've corresponded with Khal Spencer and he's certainly worthy of consideration. I've not talked to the other two, but signing the petition merely gets them on the ballot as candidates. If you're a member and simply want to sign the petition, go here (make sure you have your membership number handy). If you want to read Khal's take on things, go here. OR simply email me and ask more, or tell me why I'm foolishly naive.
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