It’s hard to find things to be positive and excited about these days. The assault on so many of the values to which we hold dear from what feels like every direction can feel overwhelming. Listening to the daily barrage of news is almost overwhelming. Two items occurred this past week that are especially distressing to me. One is the Senate voting in the tax bill to open up ANWR to drilling and development after over 35 years of battling for its protection. Protecting ANWR was the first environmental battle in which I engaged back in the late ’70′s and is therefore especially poignant to me. The other is the decimation of two Utah National Monuments. Cutting back 85% of Bears Ears left me speechless.
These two items don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the attack on the very bedrocks of our democracy and community. The daily attempts to undermine the basic tenants of our social contract in the United States is breathtaking. The actions to delegitimize the sanctity of our separation of power and the Third Estate (the Press and free speech) is almost incomprehensible. Who ever could conceive of an Administration bent on deconstructing our federal government that has been built for over 240 years is stuff of novels not reality.
In a speech this past week here in Chicago, President Obama spoke about the dangers of complacency in protecting our democracy and freedom and the imperative for citizens to fight to protect our freedoms and opportunities for ALL people living and working in the USA. The actions of individual citizens matters and is necessary. And what better organization than Sierra Club to be at the forefront of this endeavor?
Being the premier entity of grassroots activism in practically every community in every state the Club has the breath and capacity to not only resist the worst affronts to our environment and democracy but to move our own agenda forward. And forward it is with communities, cities and states taking up the torch and carrying it forward.
This is the perfect pivot to the recent Sierra Club Board of Directors meeting last month. After it was over I began to reflect on what I experienced and how I felt about it. Given what I have expressed above I find that I found something to feel positive about and by which to be encouraged. It appears to me that the Club is going through a metamorphosis that has its roots in the hiring of Mike Brune as Executive Director.
I believe that Sierra Club is at the end of an early stage of an overhaul that will result in a substantially greater capability and capacity to affect change in a direction commensurate with our values and goals. We are at the end of several year initiative to modernize how we internally operate and externally integrate with a larger movement and society in general. I have always believed in something that Teddy Rosevelt once said, “No one is better off unless we are ALL better off.” Combined with our current mantra that “It takes everyone to change everything” and we have the basis of all our endeavors.
As partially described in my notes below, we are changing the internal workings of the Club while simultaneously shifting how we relate to our volunteers, members, partner organizations and society in general. We are building a stronger and bigger movement of which to be a part that is more cohesive and is committed to equity and environmental protection.
I came away from this meeting feeling much more confident that we will be able to resist the Trump Administration agenda, move forward to protect our most sacred landscapes, build a carbon free energy sector, create a strong alliance with others that share our values and goals and do all this while simultaneously factoring equity into everything for which we stand.
Sierra Club Board Meeting, Oakland, CA. November 16 – 18, 2017
Overall, there are many items of innovation going on about how to operate in alternative ways to create greater results.
1. Finance Committee Meeting to Discuss and Recommend the 2018 Budget.
A. We reviewed schedules showing resources of full time equivalent (FTEs) national staff and resources allocated to volunteers and chapters. Click here to see the report.
B. Due to the reaction to Trump’s election we have experienced a massive increase of membership and contributions. Thus, we discussed whether it was prudent to budget all of our expected revenues in 2018. If so, that would result in a significant increase of staff and overhead when it is uncertain if we will be able to sustain our current revenue stream. Alternatively, should we hold back some income in order to have the resources to sustain our programs at a consistent basis? This would entail increasing our reserves so that in future years they are available for drawdown and not go below our budget reserves policy. Ultimately, we agreed to do a bit of both. We recommended the largest budget (by far) in Club history of $140 million. This will result in a dramatic increase in staff AND a substantial increase in our financial reserves.
2. At the National Advancement Committee (NAC) we discussed our branding initiative to determine a way to more effectively communicate who we are, what we do and why it is imperative to support our endeavors. Incidentally, I Chair this Committee.
3. We had a joint meeting with the Sierra Club Foundation where we participated in an exercise to try to figure out how best to prioritize the allocation of the additional funding that has come in. We debated by what method we determine how the Club can use these funds most effectively to be a larger and more powerful organization with greater capacity to affect progress on our initiatives.
4. The Board participated in an exercise to consider the pros and cons of executing term limits for campaigns. We discussed the need to provide the opportunity for and to encourage new leaders to step up versus the value of experience and continuity. This discussion will be factored into the task force developing a recommendation that we expect to consider at our February Board meeting in Denver.
5. We had a presentation to update us on the CEFA (Clean Energy For All) Campaign. How do all of our campaigns work together to merge all our work to be collaborative? There were many examples of how well this initiative is working on not just one campaign but multiple separate ones working together. We are piloting different ways to see how best to execute this process. This will continue over the next six to eight months in order to develop best practices.
6. There was a presentation on how the Sierra Student Coalition is piloting initiates that can make them more effective in distributed organizing. We are developing the Climate Justice League which engages youth with online training and tools to organize in support of the planet and create community.
7. We reviewed and discussed the proposed responses to the CCL (Council of Club Leaders) Resolutions. It’s good news that they have been so quickly acted upon. Click here to see the current status of the responses and updates on the progress of those that are still being deliberated. There was a conversation about how to insure that chapters have input into policy decisions that might effect them prior to adaptation to insure that their thoughts and concerns are taken into account.
8. We were informed about another pilot program in the Florida Chapter to correlate and unify local and national work but sensitive to insuring that the local volunteers still retain control of the agenda and direction in an integrated model.
9. I was honored to present the following resolution to honor Fran Caffee. It was unanimously adopted. I was privileged to be able to subsequently present this to her along with Clayton Doughenbough recently.
Board Resolution honoring Fran Caffee
The Sierra Club Board of Directors recognizes Fran Caffee for her leadership at the group, chapter and national level over three decades. She took up local conservation activism in the 1980′s with Sierra Club to save a salt marsh near Savannah, Georgia, where she lived. When she moved to Aurora, Illinois, in the 1990′s she established the Valley of the Fox group. There in 1995 she started a group of volunteers who monitored the Fox River, and later its tributaries, for pollutants. This group, the Water Sentinels, expanded to over 20 States, and still exists today as a Grassroots Network Team.
Fran also took on a leadership role with the Grassroots Network Support Team where she has served as its primary liaison to the Water Sentinel Team and Chapter Water Sentinel groups. She has also played a vital role in the Grassroots Network grant process. Her insights and constant presence have been invaluable. Fran also served as a national volunteer lead on the Outings team for many years.
In 2006 Fran received Prairie Rivers Network’s River Steward award. In 2014 Fran was honored with the William E. Colby Award for outstanding leadership, dedication and service to the Sierra Club. Upon learning about the award she told the Illinois Chapter: “I am indeed humbled by this recognition. I have stated to others that I have not saved a river or removed a dam. And I certainly have not written any great documents. As long as I could keep everyone else working I could be Alpha Cat. But it really started here in IL with volunteers and staff who share my vision that every human being deserves clean drinking water. You made it easy for me to volunteer.”
Locally Fran has planted water willows in the river, organized countless cleanups, advocated for rain gardens, natural areas, parks and public ownership of the riverbanks, and organized citizens to speak out on behalf of this vital natural resource. The City of Aurora proclaimed Oct. 28, 2017 as Fran Caffee Day and named the rain garden that she and other Sierra Club volunteers helped plant at RiverEdge Park as Fran’s Gardens.
The Sierra Club National Board of Directors recognizes and commends Fran for all that she has done for the Sierra Club, her fellow citizens and the planet and wishes her well in light of her current health challenges. We look forward to a speedy recovery so she can return to the work for which she loves and has dedicated so much of her life.
10. Political Program update. There is lots to be proud of from the 2017 election cycle. We reviewed our impact and strategies and success in building power. We did much more work on down ballot candidates to get them connected more with our issues. We looked for places where we could make a difference and where our allies weren’t engaged. We won an anti fracking vote in Colorado. Lessons learned are that persuasion matters and that mobilization is not enough. Good candidates matter. Getting involved early matters. It will be still several months before we get more definitive information. Highly educated voters who voted for Trump are vulnerable to being influenced to change their loyalty. 2018… more partnership with Chapters on state and local elections. Stepping up training. Conservative Voter Outreach Plan update in response to CCL Resolution. The committee is working on structuring messaging based on survey results. We are trying to reach out to moderate conservative voters in a way that doesn’t upset our core supporters. While our current program may not be having a huge impact due to limited resources, what we want to do is build a program with demonstrable results so that we CAN attract much larger funds and then go to scale.
11. Paid Internship Policy update/discussion for National interns. We discussed bringing our business principals into practice regarding our equity and pay them a living wage of $15 an hour. By changing what we pay changes who we can employ by not excluding candidates who cannot afford to work for low wages. This opens up the job pool to a larger pool of candidates in line with our equity objectives. The Board will consider a formal proposal for approval on our December Board call.
12. The nominating committee gave its report and presented the list of 8 Nominating Committee Recommended Candidates. Click here for the full report. Here are the candidates.
Colin Bennett (Connecticut) Oliver Bernstein (Texas) Tony Fuller (Illinois) Debbie Heaton (Delaware) Kendl Kobbervig (Wisconsin) Steve Ma (California) Ross Macfarlane (Washington) Margrete Strand Rangnes (Washington, D.C.)
The full report is included at the end of this document.
13. A resolution was presented to support a nuclear weapons ban policy (click here to see) that was passed. I was the lone vote not to support it by abstaining as I am not convinced that having a world that supposedly has no nuclear weapons is actually going to create a safer or less violent world and that getting to that point is safe.
Nominating Committee Report
November 18, 2017
We received 16 applications and interviewed 12 qualified candidates.
We are pleased to nominate a strong slate of eight candidates for the 2018 Board of Directors election that, we believe, will represent the best interests of the Sierra Club. This slate represents a range of skills, new perspectives, experiences, age, and geographical and ethnic diversity.
Preventing Board Takeovers and Optimizing Board Composition
While Sierra Club bylaws permit petition candidates, the Nominating Committee believes the Board should be wary of organized efforts to wrest control of the Board through the petition process by narrow interests who do not share the goals and values of Sierra Club members. For that reason the Nomination Committee recommends that the Board consider a bylaw change to increase the number of petition signatures required for a candidate to have their name placed in nomination.
[Existing ByLaw 5.3. Members of the Club comprising one-twentieth of one percent (1/20% or 0.0005) of the membership, but not less than 100 or more than 500, may also nominate one or more candidates for Director by a petition signed within eleven (11) months preceding the next election and delivered to the principal office of the Club by the date set for the close of nominations. ]
The legitimacy of the existing Nominating Process is also critical to the health and ongoing vitality of the Sierra Club. In appointing members to the Nominating Committee, the President should ensure that each member of the Committee and the Committee as a whole will act in the long-term interests of the Sierra Club and fully in accordance with its highest norms and values.
Achieving equity, inclusion, and justice through board composition: what can we do to concretely shift the board for diversity or other strategic goals?
We, as members of the Sierra Club, must first face our past and move to a more inclusive future. Our job is to find the best candidates and nominate them with equity, justice and inclusion as our guiding principle. We need participation Club wide to find the best candidates.
We are utilizing and/or recommending a number of tools to achieve this end:
The NomCom is utilizing a Diversity Matrix to help us balance our consideration of applicants. As part of this we are doing one for the existing Board and may need data to help us complete that.
Recruitment for board positions is critical to achieving this end. On a year-round basis, we urge all Board members, members, and staff to recruit and assist diverse applicants that reflect a demographic of equity, justice, and inclusion.
The NomCom requests that the equity, inclusion and justice staff consider assisting this recruitment process (for example by helping us track and identify potential candidates more systematically)
We welcome other suggestions for increasing the diversity of the recruitment process. Please forward them to the Chair for the Committee’s consideration.
A number of factors affect the quality of our nominating and election process. The NomCom suggests that the Sierra Club engage in research targeted at better understanding some of these factors:
The Sierra Club should benchmark our nominating process against similarly structured organizations.
The Sierra Club should conduct polling and/or focus groups to understand both why members vote or do not vote as well as the factors that they think are most important for Board membership. Such research should include how the balloting could be improved (for example balloting by text or social media) and may have the additional benefit of boosting electoral participation.
Nominees (Mini bios appended)
The Nominating Committee nominates the following eight candidates for 2018 election:
Colin Bennett (Connecticut)
Oliver Bernstein (Texas)
Tony Fuller (Illinois)
Debbie Heaton (Delaware)
Kendl Kobbervig (Wisconsin)
Steve Ma (California)
Ross MacFarlane (Washington state)
Margrete StrandRangnes (Washington, DC)
The Nominating Committee sincerely thanks all those who submitted applications this year. The Sierra Club is most fortunate to have such passionate and talented volunteers who deserve our appreciation for their continuing work on behalf of the environment.
Members who wish to run by petition must announce their intention to do so by noon PST on the last business day of November (Thursday, November 30, 2017). Sierra Club’s Secretary must be notified of each proposed nominee in writing by mail, fax or email, in care of the Executive Office in Oakland, California. The written consent of each proposed nominee must be received before petitions for them are circulated. This can take the form of an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org,which will be forwarded to the Club Secretary. Official petition forms and instructions will be sent to all announced petitioners the following week. The verified signatures of at least 353 Club members are required for someone to run as a petition candidate. All petitions must be filed by noon PST on the second Wednesday of January (January 10, 2018).
Members wishing to be considered as candidates for the 2018 Board of Directors’ election are required to be Sierra Club members continuously for one year beginning January 11, 2017.
The Nominating Committee consists of the following seven volunteers:
John Spahr,Chair (WY) 2016-2019
Sara Patton (WA) 2015-2018
Roger Gray (NY) 2016-2019
Vicki Lee (CA) 2016-2019
Glen Besa (VA) 2017-2018
Michel Gelobter (CA) 2017-2020
Rhea Jezer (NY) 2017-2020