The 2007-8 LAB Election — LAB Reform Endorsements

Links:  At Large Candidates    Region 2    Region 3    Region 5

This election is about the kind of organization LAB should be and how it should operate.  There are two diametrically opposed views on this question.  Our view is that LAB should adhere to its traditional mission–the one on which it was founded 127 years ago: to protect and defend the rights of cyclists.

The League is not well run.  The budget doesn’t balance–we get only a “poor” rating from  Membership is low and barely growing, especially in clubs where it should be the strongest.  Some directors think they can wish their way to 100,000 or even 1 million members despite the fact that our membership peak (102,000) occurred back in 1898.  We now struggle to reach barely 25 percent of that peak.

Some League programs, and public statements by its officials, contradict LAB’s own position statements on key issues.  The Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) program has rewarded cities that build dangerous facilities and that ban bikes from important streets.

The best way to get new members — and keep them — is to be worthy of their loyalty.  That means paying attention to their concerns and watching out for their interests.  We need a board with the backbone to confront — and cure — the problems that have festered for years.

LAB Reform has asked questions to elicit the thoughts of Board candidates on important issues.  We thank those who responded and we say shame on those who did not.  We wonder why they did not want their views shared with the members.

Below are our endorsements for the candidates in this year’s election, and the reasons for them.  Please read them, and the candidates’ replies to our questionnaire, before casting your vote.  If you share our concern for the League, please vote for our endorsed candidates.

The ballot and candidates statements are on the LAB website.

Please send in your vote right away.  Help take back our League from those who have mismanaged it.

Thank you.

At-Large — (All members can vote for an “at large” candidate)
LAB Reform Endorsement:  Hans van Naerssen

Two of the three at-large candidates, Hans van Naerssen and John Siemiatkoski, answered our questionnaire.  Gail Spann, who did not answer, apparently does not care to share her ideas with us on important issues about the future of LAB.

Both Hans and John have major strengths and weakness.  They both have some good ideas on board governance but seem not to fully understand the serious problems created by a League board that fails to support the interests of its members, rather than outside donors.  Based on his support of an elected vs. appointed board, we endorse Hans van Naerssen for the At-Large Seat.

Hans favors an all-elected Board and greater transparency in Board actions.  We believe these are two critical reforms needed for LAB to recover from serious governance problems that have festered over the last 10 years.  He also wants LAB to establish a vision of what it wants bicycling to be in 20 years, and then devise strategies for its role in shaping that vision.  We agree that long-range planning is important in any organization, and any plans should include specific actions the League will take to reach that vision.  Such plans must reflect member input.

Unfortunately, Hans seems unable to understand that LAB, as a small organization, cannot really control the status of bicycling.  It can and must, however, try to influence how cyclists will be treated by the parties we must deal with–motorists, police, and governments.  We are pleased, that Hans wants “best practices” to be part of all LAB programs, including BFC.  However, we wish he would clearly condemn poorly conceived, often dangerous facilities that encourage segregation, not integration, of cyclists.

We do not agree with Hans’ view that the current requirements for ballot and referendum petitions are appropriate.  Some of us had to struggle to fulfill the old requirement to get 50 member signatures during 30 days in winter, when most club rides have ended for the season.  Had Hans tried to get on the ballot via petition or if he had a serious governance issue he wanted to put before the members, he would likely feel differently.

The issue is not, as Hans stated it, ensuring that significant issues are raised and dealt with, and that less significant issues do not consume the time or energy of LAB.  The issue is whether the petition requirements are reasonable.  We think they are not.  The referendum and nomination by petition used to be an important “safety valve” to protect the League.

The safety valve was effectively blocked by secret By-Laws changes in 2003, which raised ballot petition requirements by a factor of about 8 for regional seats and a whopping 25 times for the national at-large seat.  For a referendum, the requirement was raised by a factor of over 3.

John Siemiatkoski has the advantage of being the only at-large candidate who is an LCI.  Thus, he is not only a graduate of the BikeED Road I course (as is Hans), he has gone on to a higher level in BikeED as an Instructor.  He offers a useful idea for helping Bicycle Friendly Community applicants correct shortcomings that prevented them from earning an award, or from reaching a higher level award.

However, we are very disappointed that John did not support the idea that communities that have unfairly restrictive laws against cyclists or that have dangerous facilities should not win any award.  If LAB is to back up its claimed defense of cyclists’ rights, either of these deficiencies is serious enough to be grounds for rejection.

We are also disappointed that John does not support an all-elected Board.  He answered that the current petition requirements for running for the Board and for referenda are not appropriate, but he doesn’t say what the requirements should be.  He says only that governance is the Board’s responsibility, and in Question 1 he stated that up to four (1/3 of the Board) appointed directors is OK.  That would seem to contradict his answer to Question 5 (Members’ Rights).

Gail Spann, the third candidate and the newly appointed incumbent (she was appointed to finish the balance of Preston Tyree’s term), did not return the questionnaire.  We wonder why she does not care to share her thoughts with us.  From her election statement, we conclude that Gail does not to understand the need to support cyclists’ rights and best practices of bicycle operation.

On balance, we give the edge to Hans based upon his answers and the fact that he has the managerial experience that LAB needs to keep it focused on its goals and, almost equally important, financial prudence.  We urge LAB members to elect Hans van Naerssen to this seat so we can begin to restore the League as a members’ organization.

At-Large Candidates’ response to our Questionnaire

Region 2 — (DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA, WV)
LAB Reform Endorsement:  Bill Hoffman

There is no question here that Bill Hoffman is the better candidate.  His depth of experience is unmatched — as a cyclist, League Cycling Instructor (LCI 33) and as a League volunteer with the second-longest tenure of any living volunteer in LAB history (and the longest of those still active with the League).  Bill is also a former League director.  His broad-based advocacy work of 35 years has ideally prepared him for the Board.  Bill has the experience, the judgment and the courage to take action to cure the League’s many ills.  We strongly endorse him.

Bill knows that education is the best, and most important form of advocacy.  If we teach people to operate their bicycles properly, they will be much safer, they will find the bicycle to be a much more effective and enjoyable means of conveyance, and they will want to do it more.  How can there be a better means of encouragement than that?

We are grateful that Ellen Jones had the courtesy to reply, knowing that we would almost certainly endorse Bill Hoffman instead of her.  Unfortunately, her answers give us little encouragement that she understands that the League is a members’ organization rather that another Washington lobby group.

Ellen offers no support towards restoring an all-elected board or for repealing the sneak Bylaws changes of 2003 that sharply curtailed members’ rights to run for the board or to conduct a referendum on issues that the board refuses to face.  (The Bylaws changes were passed before she was on the board, so we do not blame her for them — only for not supporting their repeal.)

In her reply, Ellen does not admit that segregated bicycle facilities often introduce hazards.  She wrote: “we are using the League’s critique of our most recent application (we’ve been recognized at the Bronze level twice) to ratchet up our efforts to make it safer and more convenient for more DC residents to bicycle more often.  She is completely uncritical of the hazards from segregated facilities, including the many door zone bike lanes in Washington D.C.  See photo of one of these ~1/3 down from top in this article.  The “coffin corners” of typical DC bike lanes and those around the perimeter of Thomas Circle may be even more egregious than the door zones.  These hazards make it **less safe** to bicycle in D.C.

Ellen puts little value on cyclist education, as evidenced by her lack of *any* exposure to LAB’s BikeEd program, even though she was the executive director of WABA, a major local bicycling advocacy organization, for more than a decade.

We are confident that Bill Hoffman understands what is truly cyclist-friendly, and will work to move the League back in that direction, and away from the warm and fuzzy but careless of safety “bicycle friendly” mantra that currently drives LAB.  Please give Bill your vote.

Region 2 candidates’ response to our Questionnaire

Region 3 — (AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, PR, SC, TN, VA)
LAB Reform Endorsement:  Bruce Rosar

The Region 3 contest epitomizes the two views of the kind of organization LAB should be and how it should operate.  Our endorsed candidate, Bruce Rosar, is superbly qualified to serve the Region.  He is an active recreational cyclist, and was a commuting cyclist until he retired, has been a League Cycling Instructor for many years, and serves as a cyclist advocate in the Raleigh area.  Bruce has developed cycling educational materials geared to replace:  Fear with Respect, Uncertainty with Skill and Doubt with Knowledge.

Don Sparks did not answer our questionnaire.  The last time he ran, in 2005, he arrogantly refused to answer our questions: “I will get to this as soon as I respond to the Flat Earth Society and the Association for UFO Believers.”  He has shown disdain for the rights concerns of members and is the last incumbent director who participated in the sneak-attack interference in the 2003 Region 4 election.  In addition, he voted to restrict members’ voice in League governance.  It’s time for a member-oriented director in Region 3.

We urge a resounding vote for Bruce Rosar in order to let the ruling faction know that members in Region 3 are dissatisfied with Don’s performance and with the League’s unbalanced focus.

Candidate’s response to our Questionnaire

Region 5 — (AR, AZ, CO, IA, KS, LA, MN, MO, MT, NE, ND, NM, OK, SD, TX, UT, WI, WY)

Harry Brull, the incumbent, has no opponent.  We endorsed Harry in 2005 in a 3-way race.  We do not agree with some of his answers in our questionnaire this time (for example, #1 and #4), but he strikes us as one of the more reasonable directors on the current Board, and he indicated an openness to discussion on issues.  An endorsement in an uncontested race is meaningless anyway, but we look forward to a good working relationship with Harry.

Candidate’s response to our Questionnaire

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