Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sierra Club Meltdown: What the removed Florida leaders have to say. By Geniusofdespair

I have edited their statement of March 26th:

Dear Florida Sierra activists:
The National Sierra Club Board of Directors made an unprecedented and unfortunate decision, as predicted, to "suspend" our Florida Chapter for four years, finalized March 25 on a 10-2 vote (Jim Dougherty and Bernie Zaleha). Consequently, our Flexcom, our committees, and state-wide and regional entities are now suspended.

Today national has also shut down these list serves: FL-CONSERVATION-FORUM, FL-SPRAWL, FL-COASTAL, FL-GLADES-COMM, FL-LEADERS, FL-MEMBERS, and will likely shut down all of the chapter list serves. We expect that National will also take the Florida Chapter pages off the National Sierra Club website soon.

The consequences of their ill-advised, anti-democratic action we fear will be disastrous for the environment, even as our local Sierra groups around the state attempt to continue in their present make-up. Local groups can look to National staff and a National-appointed steering committee for direction.

As over a hundred of us warned, Sierra's name and impact will be undermined now, possibly for years, since powerful public relations firms for the developers and their governmental and otherwise compromised environmental group apologists will doubtless take full advantage of the situation.

Your specific role as a volunteer for one or more of our forty-some Chapter committees has been suspended, though some may be approached by the new national-imposed steering committee.

We hope to (-snip-) not lose all the institutional memory that has come from your generous donation of time, creative energy, and hard work over the years (or for some of our newly-elected Flexcom officers, just the last three months). (Hit read more)

We will all have to make our own decisions as to what roles we take on now with our continuing environmental activism. We acknowledge and are thankful that many of us were introduced through the years through the Sierra Club. Urgent Alerts and announcements of important upcoming meetings will surely still be shared among us.

We are compiling our "lessons learned" from this last year of misery at the hands of the National Club. The implementation of Project Renewal, passed in last month's Board of Directors meeting in Atlanta, has already replaced dozens of national activist committees, comprised of longtime, dedicated volunteers.

Some of these long-time Sierra leaders have begun resigning from the Club entirely. This Earth Day, the Clorox Greenworks products will begin displaying the Sierra Club logo, the first corporate endorsement in the hundred year old organization's history. National has boasted that some share of the corporate earnings from the marketing of these products will be paid to Sierra. As we Floridians have warned for two years,

National's Energy Policy is still encouraging the unwise development of biofuels in a state whose water resources and agricultural soils are already overused and in danger of imminent exhaustion. Nationally, other enlightened groups are realizing the folly of many of these biofuels proposals consume more energy than they produce. Someday, Sierra will stop embarrassing its members and will have to admit that both the technology and the economics of biofuels are wrong. They may not admit that the Florida Chapter was right, but we will still know. Meanwhile, where do the new major funding sources for Sierra's promotion of biofuels really come from? Inquiring minds want to know, of course, and the truth will eventually be revealed.

We are so sorry to have to be telling you this. Please be aware of the club's rules on affirmative standards of conduct-- no personal criticism / attacks, especially in the press; and be very discreet before sharing internal documents outside the Club; to be safe, assume all internal documents are confidential and refer reporters to national's public relations office.

It is true that in recent years, the Florida Chapter has disagreed with National over a growing number of issues, many by official resolutions sent to the Council of Club Leaders and other national bodies:

We opposed the giveaway of our Coffeen Preserve on a Panhandle beach;

we disagreed with the reduction of c4 funds returned to our chapters and groups around the country; we urged a program to share more dues back to chapters and groups, in order to encourage local membership recruitment, which national revoked a year later; we urged changes in staff decision-making without direct volunteer oversight;

we encouraged more emphasis on energy conservation in the new national energy policy and more direct encouragement of sustainable lifestyles;

we opposed IGCC coal plants, even though national funding required us to remain silent on the issue; we asked for more shared decision-making concerning door to door canvassing, and national closed the canvasses in Florida completely;

we asked and were rejected in a shared fund-raising plan with national staff;

we have repeatedly asked in vain (or attempted to provide funding ourselves) for important conservation campaigns (-snip-)anti-sprawl campaigns, and against the behemoth St Joe Corporation in the Panhandle, and anti-coal plant campaigns and other energy work by our local and chapter activists.

But it is also true that Florida was the most enthusiastic chapter to support and attend the first ever Sierra Summit in California with more official attendees than any other chapter! We also participated at national's behest in the NPLA Harvard Surveys; and were among the first to volunteer to be a pilot chapter to dedicate four weekends to national's new Leadership Development Project.

When national reorganized conservation priorities to the three Conservation Initiatives Committees, Florida was the first chapter to reorganize our conservation issue committees under a parallel structure, showing our team work with national conservation leaders.

All this has not kept us from the unprecedented national scrutiny which exaggerated our every internal disagreement over the last two years. (-snip-) The decision-making votes by our hard-working FLEXCOM (were analyzed) and found that 95% of over 220 motions voted on in 2006-2007 were decided by at least a 2:1 margin, And in over four-fifths of the decisions, agreement was overwhelming, with 90% or more voters agreeing.

In approximately two thirds of the decisions, agreement was unanimous.

We sincerely want to thank you for helping us build one of the strongest, volunteer-led Chapters in the country, and we hope that you will continue to channel your energy and time into local environmental work.

Stay in touch! There is so much more to do and your work is really appreciated by environmentalists and our supporters in communities who have wisely avoided internal bureaucracy, complaint departments, and special problem-eliciting websites, etc... See you at the next demonstration, picket line or government public hearing!

Your partners in protecting Florida's fragile environment,

Betsy Roberts, Chapter Chair (November 2006-March 2008);
And Joy Towles Ezell, Chapter Conservation Chair (November 2007-March 2008)

(See yesterday's post and comments for news reports on the Florida Sierra Club Chapter)


Anonymous said...

Is anyone thinking the HUD take-over of our local housing agency? Which is worse?

Geniusofdespair said...

I am thinking that the National board is going to make things a lot worse here in Florida...where are they going to dig up people to work as volunteers for no money?

Anonymous said...

Genius, Sorry, I disagree. The Florida Chapter was corrupt and abused member funds. I am a Florida Sierra member and I am glad the national is cleaning up the chapter. These people fought with other enviro groups and only accepted those that agreed to their narrow agenda.

The financial mismanagement questions are now being investigated. As you point out, they only wanted to spend money on their pet projects, usually in their home areas. Any people are questioning the $122,000 that went to Hometown Democracy.

Suggest you stop defending these people and help repair all the damage they did.

Geniusofdespair said...

you miss the point...and are pretty harsh in your accusations. I never heard accusations like yours.

I think National should have done the following:

1. Stayed out of it or
2. Mediated it.

I don't think they should have taken such drastic actions. I don't believe for a minute that the Florida chapter was corrupt. I like the funds they spent on Hometown Democracy. Best money they ever spent.

I have belonged to a number of environmental groups and each is dysfunctional in its own way. And I would fight with other envrionmental groups too. That Eric Draper at Audubon sucks. I am no longer a Sierra member so it is moot for me.

I think you will see that Florida will suffer for this ...because you all look like a bunch of fools now. Perception is everything. Sierra is greenwashed...the king is dead. Have a Happy Clorox day!

Anonymous said...

A whole bunch of Florida Chapter members and former leaders said things were pretty screwed up in your leadership, folks. If they hadn't, the suspension wouldn't have happened.

Anonymous said...

Members said they were run off the Chapter Excom if they didnt agree with the Excom leaders. There were questions about Susie Caplowe's employment by the chapter. You ain't told the whole entire truth here, folks.

Anonymous said...

The wild claims of "anonymous" are as ridiculous as they are false.

"Anonymous" knows such fabricated statements are libelous if made under his own name.

Geniusofdespair said...

Love the new name for the club: Si-Error. I am posting on Sierra again tomorrow. Thanks karen --