Make OPALCO Power Affordable Again.
OPALCO– What's in a Name?
By Sandy Bishop
April 17, 2016
If you spend time on OPALCO's website you will find they are proud to be a locally-owned and operated non-profit co-op. The website reminds us that we are not just members, but member-owners of OPALCO. We have the rights and responsibility to elect the board of directors who make the policies and set the rates for our electric service. OPALCO espouses the Seven Cooperative Principles; Voluntary and Open Membership, Democratic Member Control, Members' Economic Participation, Autonomy and Independence, Education, Training, and Information, Cooperation Among Cooperatives and Concern for Community.
On February 23, 2016, OPALCO announced that the Committee on Nominations named the following as OPALCO Board of Director candidates for 2016. For the two open seats in District 3 (Lopez, Decatur, Center and Charles islands): Lauren Stephens, Brian Silverstein and Jim Lett (incumbent),; for the open seat in District 4 (Shaw, Bell, Crane and Canoe islands: Dr. Jerry Whitfield (incumbent).
All seemed well in our coop – democracy-in-action. Then things started to get interesting; Jerry Whifield was the sole member of the Committee on Nominations for District 4 and he chose only himself to be placed on the ballot. Gabriel Jacobs, who is also from Shaw had to get his name on the ballot through the petition process in order to challenge Whitfield. Dwight Lewis, also used the petition process. He gathered over 500 names, even though a minimum 15 names are required.
The ballots, with all six candidates were issued on April 8. And yet OPALCO, for the first time in recent history, decided to hold some community forums scheduled two weeks after the ballots go out – even though most people who vote, return their ballots within the first week.
On April 15, one week after the ballots went out, Gerry Lawlor sent out a newsletter with the title: The Judge - Leadership and Legacy. Lawlor, quotes both Rosalyn Carter and former OPALCO board member Glenna Hall. Hall encourages us to vote for the incumbents. Lawlor, as many of you know is the Executive Vice President of Rock Island and former Wall Street derivatives trader. Rock Island is a wholly owned subsidiary of OPALCO. The general manager for both Rock Island and OPALCO, is Foster Hildreth.
Upon receiving the email communication from Lawlor, I wrote to both Hildreth and Lawlor wondering about access to the email list and the ethics of using an exclusive email list to voice support for particular candidates, instead of allowing the time-tested voter process to work. I received this message back:
Sorry to hear your frustration. As a private, for-profit company, and member of OPALCO, Rock Island (and Gerry in his role) are within their rights to act in the best interests of their business. We do not share our member or customer mailing lists. Your request is denied. I trust you will find ways to get your message out. Best, Foster"
Why would OPALCO bother to set up what appeared to be a legitimate pre-election candidate selection process, only to violate the members trust and allow our wholly owned subsidiary to interfere with the election?
About 25% of OPALCO members bother to vote in an election. If you haven't yet voted, I encourage you to vote for the non-incumbents and please vote NO on suggested by-law change. Thanks for your consideration.