RCV: A Democratic Way to Fill Board Vacancies

Below is an excerpt from a letter to the SFBC from SFBC Momemtum member Scott Yarbrough advocating Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) to fill an SFBC Board vacancy following the resignation of Board member Chema Hernandez-Gil:


Congratulations on the Howard Street improvement and thank you for your time and service.  As a member viewing from the side of the room, your time spent in board meetings does not always appear to be easy these days.

Two issues discussed last night left me wondering if I am missing key background details, so I guess this is a request related to the blog post action item and an ask for additional information to help me to better understand.

The first issue relates to replacement procedures following a vacant board seat.  The same SFBC members who chose to vote to select Robin, Shirley, Mary Kay, Marie, Jean, Andy, and Jane during the last election also selected Preston as the next person on the list.  Please consider adopting, on principle, a board member replacement option that uses the ranked choice voting process from the relevant election of the board cohort when a member vacancy exists in the cohort.

It sounded from the discussion last night that there is not a current process in place, and in the absence of process there was observable political rancor in the room.  The board voted to leave the seat vacant following a general discussion based on the theme that it is easier to get more work done with fewer people due to the onerous nature of “onboarding” a new board member, an argument that has no face validity to anyone who has ever worked with an intern.

There may be greater “worker productivity” after someone has had some time and practice with any set of job skills, but the argument that there will be a net loss of any individual board member’s time spent training a new person on a task versus time spent doing the task with fewer personnel defies common sense and ignores the reality that onboarding new board members is a recurrent activity every two year for which established procedures must be in place to “onboard” half or more of the members of the board if complete turnover occurred (Right?  Please acknowledge that there is an “onboarding” new board member process in place.).

I must be missing information that I hope the blog post will address, as I believe that an opportunity for our organization to model good democratic governance was missed with respect to last night’s vote on Chema’s replacement.


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