UPDATE: This post has been edited to clarify a point about the SFBC board’s actions. Please see note at end.
For the first time in its history, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which has grown to become one of the city’s most active and effective advocacy organizations, is facing a contested election for its board.
Depending whom you talk to, the issues are member’s privacy vs. members voting rights, progressive vs. neoliberal politics, whether the board should become professional or stick to its grassroots tradition, or whether diversity and equity belong at the core bike advocacy.
The conflict has created a face-off between two opposing candidate slates for the seven board seats up for election this year, giving members what looks like a stark choice between business as usual and a takeover by a new board.
Then, in the midst of it all, Executive Director Noah Budnick announced his resignation after only eight months on the job.
It all looks a little dicey for the SFBC, which since the 1990s has grown its membership tremendously while learning to navigate city politics to help change the way San Francisco thinks and talks about bicycles.
But looks can be deceiving.
Budnick’s resignation may not have anything to do with the current board turmoil. Budnick has been circumspect about his reasons, and when asked has referred only to his coming status as a foster parent.
The stark choice between two opposing slates is not mandatory. Members will vote for individuals, not necessarily for one full slate over the other. Whichever candidates are elected will have to find a way to work with current board members.
Proposed Bylaw Change
The roots of the current situation go back a few years, and bubbled to a simmer this summer when the current board proposed a change in the bylaws that would have redefined membership. The existing board reasoned it was necessary to keep members’ contact information private. The change would have, among other things, eliminated members’ voting rights, with future board members instead being appointed by existing ones.
To members of the board, that would not have been dramatically different from the way past board elections have been run. Read more…