Boardwatch Report: April 23, 2019 SFBC Board of Directors Meeting

Four Momentum members were present at the April 23, 2019 SFBC Board meeting, and all communicated opposition to the acceptance of donations from companies associated with autos/fossil fuels.

What you can do:

Send a message to protesting the acceptance of money from companies that promote auto use or are affiliated with companies that make cars.

Attend the next SFBC Board meeting:  Thursday May 28.  It is important for the Board to see member interest in decisions that affect the SFBC.  We (SFBC and Momentum members) want to be able to understand issues that come before the Board so that we can intelligently and effectively work for better bicycling in the City. 

Relevant to Momentum’s Priorities:

1. Engaging members:

Positives were that members arriving after the public comment time around 6:30 p.m. were permitted to share comment when they requested to do so after late arrival.  The board also projected emails on the screen submitted by members and the directors read the emails silently during the meeting (without comment).  

Concerns were the limited written materials that were available, so discussions/board reports were therefore more challenging to follow for members who were in attendance, and not available online for members not able to attend.  An additional concern was a member present requested participation in the small group discussions about conflict of interest, but member participation was not facilitated.

It was also difficult to follow some discussion during the meeting, in part because the slides used for discussions were not always easily visible or were not kept on the screen long enough to review all the content.  During the small group breakout discussions regarding potential conflicts of interest, it was hard to hear members of the Board and their ideas until the group gathered together and some members shared their ideas with the full group  

2. Reducing Private Motor Vehicle Use in the City:

Funding from car companies:  Shirley Johnson shared the following four options from the Governance Committee regarding comprehensive change to fundraising goals and recommendations for future Board discussion:

1. No restrictions on donations
2. No donations from autonomous vehicle companies
3. No donations from car companies or parent companies
4. No donations from autonomous vehicle companies, including Transportation Network Companies (TNC)

Due to imminent fundraising needs, the Board voted to maintain an interpretation of the policy from last year for the 2019 Golden Wheel Awards, permitting solicitation and acceptance of money from GM Cruise Automation (LLC).

Members voting for GM Cruise: Sarah Bindman, Marie Jonas, Meaghan Mitchell, Jane Natoli, Alexandra Sweet, Brad Williford, Juli Uota, and Andy Thornley.  

Members opposed to accepting GM Cruise: Preston Rhea, Nicholas Aulton, Shirley Johnson, and Kelly Shields.  

Members abstaining: Jean Kao and Robin Abad Ocubillo

3. Transparency/Good Governance:

Shirley Johnson included in her Governance Committee report an additional priority of developing a policy around Board replacement when a member resigns or is no longer able to serve.

Observation: Transparency/good governance practices have room for improvement based on the April board meeting discussion.  The meeting included an opaque discussion about what exactly defines and who should identify when a conflict of interest is present.  During the subsequent discussion and vote later in the meeting deciding whether to accept donations from car companies, two directors abstained, but failed to identify if abstention was a result of a conflict of interest.  The Board appeared to operate on a narrow definition of conflict of interest as occurring when a member may have the possibility of personal gain from a decision.  (e.g. if a board director works for a payment processing organization and the SFBC is going to vote on a decision regarding obtaining such a service for the SFBC, the board member should not vote if his/her/their employer is one of the candidates for the job.)

The broad theme was that self-identification and assuming personal responsibility for abstaining if an individual board member thinks they may be at risk of a conflict is the current expectation.

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