Friday, January 2, 2009

What if you ran an election and nobody came?

I was perusing the LAB web site ("Vote Today! (12.15.08)" and see that three National Board seats were open, representing Regions 1, 4, and 6 (not us). However, there appears to be only one candidate on the ballot in each region: "...Running for election are: Region 1: John Siemiatkoski, President, Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition Region 4: Rob Sadowsky, Executive Director, Active Transportation Alliance (formerly Chicagoland Bicycle Federation) Region 6: Amanda Eichstaedt, Chair, League of American Bicyclists..."

Could it be that cyclists are simply not interested in running their national organization? Not a good sign. But it might be worse than apathy, according to the LabReform page:

LAB and a Soviet-style election

"LAB members in 3 League regions are now being offered a chance to vote -- but like elections in the old Soviet Union, there will be only one choice in each region..."

My opinion?

Sent today (1-4-09)

Editor, The American Bicyclist

I was perusing the LAB web site ("Vote Today! (12.15.08)" and see that three Regional Board seats were on the ballot in the Fall of 2008, representing Regions 1, 4, and 6. Unfortunately, there appears to have been only one candidate on the ballot in each region. Could it be that League members are simply not interested in running for the Board of their national organization? That concept is troubling.

In addition, LAB, like any other organization, needs new brains to be cycled through the LAB leadership in order to prevent inbreeding and stale thinking. Will these three new Board members, elected by default, provide critical, outside-the-box oversight of LAB's policies and procedures? Should the Nominating Committee have worked harder to solicit more choices?

A second issue is the large number (42%) of appointed rather than elected Board members. This can be problematic for a membership-based organization. While it is undoubtedly practical to appoint rather than elect some board members, especially those with needed expertise (such as members of the cycling, planning, or engineering industries) or appoint a trained and experienced treasurer, auditor, or legal counsel, this current LAB practice compromises the membership's representation. Indeed, this policy leaves open the possibility of severely manipulating the balance of an otherwise membership-elected Board to perpetuate a temporary majority or point of view. Imagine if our 100 elected U.S. Senators could have, on their own, appointed an additional 72 members in the 109th Congress when Republicans ruled. Or, for that matter, in the upcoming 111th Congress when Democrats will rule. So much for the People.

LAB is a critical organization for American cyclists and must be supported, nurtured, and grown. LAB represents the interests of its membership (and cycling in general) at the national level where national transportation policy and funding are determined. LAB can lend support to local and regional organizations by bringing local issues to national attention and bringing national resources to bear on selected, critical, local problems. LAB sponsors the League's excellent cycling education program and its instructors (LCI's), the Bicycle-Friendly Communities program, and does other fine work. But as good as these programs are, all of these efforts, and LAB's prioritization of member-supported resources, must be responsive to member input through our choice of leadership.

Therefore, as messy as democracy may be, I think it is important to have fully democratic representation on the Board. Our Board should not be unduly controlled, through appointments, by the existing board members regardless of their high caliber, but should reflect the evolving views and diverse thinking of the membership. Having large numbers of appointed board members threatens this ideal, and increasingly takes members out of the loop of governance and decision-making. Hence the need for lively and contested elections and a minimum of appointed members.

Keep LAB strong. If you are not a member, join. If you are a member, become involved in leadership.

So if you have gripes, e-mail our regional Board rep., Harry Brull. His address is on the League web site here. Board Chair Amanda Eichstaedt's email is there too.


Anonymous said...


This group doesn't represent me. It claims to since I ride a bike, but it has no authority, moral or otherwise. It's a lobbying firm that politicizes the act of riding a bike.

The reason the board has played games with membership is because there is money to be made. Plain and simple. Rather than reforming it, let it die. Something will replace it and hopefully its culture won't be rotten.

Khal said...


Any organization can become as rotten as its members allow. I am amazed at how bad our U.S. government became during the last eight years (in my opinion, anyway--YMMV). The last administration certainly did not represent me. We shall see what happens with the next bunch.

I think the moral authority LAB has is derived from the good work and sensibility of its members and how members hold the organization accountable. Lacking those values, LAB can certainly have problems. Insurmountable? Will see. I have not thrown away my hammer and sickle yet. Will continue to work on improving LAB.

Thanks for your comment, and keep the rubber side down!