Food & Drink

Sacramento co-op members vote not to overhaul constitution after heated campaign

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The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op opened its new store on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. Former Co-op general manager Paul Cultera showed off the larger new store at 28th and R streets.
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The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op opened its new store on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. Former Co-op general manager Paul Cultera showed off the larger new store at 28th and R streets.

The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op's members voted against a clean-slate rewrite of the store's constitution, the co-op board of directors announced in an email to members Friday.

Two-thirds of participating members needed to vote in favor of the overhaul for the changes to be made, and only 56.4 percent did so. A record number of Co-op members voted in the election, the board said in its email.

If enacted, the proposed changes would have installed 10-year noncontinuous term limits for board representatives, opened membership to non-California residents, allowed non-members to buy stock shares, added two vice chairpersons to the board and reduced member meetings from quarterly to annually.

The 10,000-member co-op makes about $45 million in sales annually, up from just over $100,000 when it was founded in 1973. Proponents of the changes, including the board of directors, said the Co-op's binding document needed to reflect the store in its current state.

"While the board is disappointed in the results of this vote, this is not the end of our vision to modernize our policies and ensure we’re sufficiently meeting the needs of our Co‑op," the board of directors wrote in an email to members. "Changes need to be made — even many members who voted 'no' during this process recognized that updates are necessary for our store to thrive in the increasingly competitive grocery store landscape."

People opposing the bylaw changes, including several former board representatives, argued they would have given the board and a small group of staff members too much power and limited the average member's involvement in the Co-op. Many pointed to general manager Dan Arnett, who was hired in September 2016 from Central Co-op in Seattle and would have taken over as CEO had the vote passed, as the new bylaws' architect.

The co-op board and an attorney devised the proposed bylaws over the last two years before presenting them in May. Voting ran from June 4-17.

The Bee's Benjy Egel is launching a new effort to cover Sacramento's dining and beer scene. Please send tips and story ideas by email at begel@sacbee.com, on Twitter @BenjyEgel or by phone at (916) 321-1052.

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