Video from Candidates Forum at Fall Member-Owner Meeting on October 17.
I am an immigration attorney. For the last 20 years I have had my own office in Bethesda MD helping immigrants who are seeking temporary visas and green cards.
I graduated from Brandeis University with a BA in Politics (as well as a program certificate in Peace Studies). I then completed a JD at University of Baltimore School of Law.
I first served on the TPSS Coop Board of Representatives from 1996-2000. During that time, I served as President and was also an active member of the Move Committee. We helped work through City, County and State regulations, and made the move a realityIn 2014, I rejoined the Board and have been serving as Treasurer for about 3 years. In the late 1990s, I served on the City of Takoma Park’s Nuclear Free Committee which oversees implementation of and adherence to the Takoma Park Nuclear Free Zone Act. For the past 4 years I have coordinated donations from breweries for the Takoma Foundation’s annual Nuclear Free Beerfest. I was a founding member of Takoma Attachment Parenting and spent several years as one of the central organizers running meetings and planning other activities. I volunteered for the Takoma Park Folkfest several times since I first moved to Takoma Park in 1993. My first Takoma Park volunteer experience in the early 1990’s was with CASA of Maryland, and I have continued to support that organization. I have also volunteered with CASA of Maryland in the past.
Why are you interested in serving on the Board?
My combined experience from serving on the board for the past six years along with my previous service from 1996-2000 allows me to contribute a unique perspective to the current board. Because of this perspective, I better understand the current issues facing the Co-op, including the proposed development on the City lot, the impact of the current pandemic and the importance of prioritizing racial equity issues. First, in terms of the proposed development on the City lot, the Board has the difficult job of balancing the current needs of the Coop’s members along with enabling the Co-op to effectively plan towards the future. We need to ensure that the Co-op will be able to survive during any potential construction as well as after any new building has been completed. We also need to ensure that the Co-op will take an active role in any city or community discussions related to this development. As I was part of the core team that navigated the move of the Co-op from our small store on Sligo Avenue to its current location, I have concrete experience working with challenging situations that involve dealing with external factors such as the City and the County, as well as internal factors related to expanding the business like hiring staff members and overseeing organizational reconfiguration. Second, regarding the impact of the current pandemic, we need people who have financial experience to help the co-op, and especially the Board, get through this difficult time. Finally, as I have been active in the Board’s adoption of a racial equity framework, I want to continue my tenure with the Board in order to see through the process of effectively implementing this framework and ensuring that it is effectively followed. I strongly believe that the Co-op should be a great place for all to work, to shop and to meet with other members of the community.
Why are co-ops in general and TPSS Co-op in particular important to you?
In general, I feel that cooperatives are a way of running companies which helps benefit society and local communities. In today’s complex world, this focus is extremely important. A regular grocery store, while it may make donations and have some programs to help those in need, does such things only when it makes economic sense (i.e. when it feels it will help bring in more shoppers). Cooperatives do these things, and more, because it is part of their business philosophy. Co-ops are controlled by their members, not by some unknown Board or shareholders - so they allow us to help shape what the Co-op does. TPSS is important to me because of the central role it plays in our community. It has no political power, but it helps all members of our community by providing access to healthy food for all. My child grew up as a member of TPSS and they, along with myself and my spouse, have benefited by being a part of the Co-op community.
What volunteer or professional experiences have you had with other co-operatives or organizations that will help you strengthen the TPSS Co-op Board?
I run my own business so am very familiar with financial statements and economic principles. I have also been the treasurer of TPSS Co-op Board for at least the last 3 years. When I was previously on the Board, I helped the Co-op in its adoption of policy governance in order to make sure that the store could be run successfully while still allowing the Board to make important policies and have oversight of what was happening. In addition, since I oversaw the move of the Co-op from Sligo Avenue to its present location in Takoma Park, I will be able to provide the Board with valuable insights into the process of developing and expanding the store as future circumstances change.
What is your favorite Co-operative Principle and why?
My favorite principle is Concern for the Community. This cooperative principle shows that it is the responsibility of the Co-op not just to make a profit but also to help serve and take care of the community. The TPSS Co-op does this through donations and working with organizations that help those who cannot afford good, healthy food. Importantly he response of the Co-op to the COVID pandemic has shown its commitment to the community we serve. These are the types of activities that draw me to co-ops as a form of governance as well as provide a way for us, as Board Members, to help make a difference in our community.
Describe your experience with financial oversight, particularly of a business or organization's budget and financial performance.
I run my own law firm and I process and monitor all of our financial data. As a result, I am very familiar with accounting principals, how to read financial statements, and maintaining a database. My past work with the Co-op has also given me valuable experience with retail economics and budgeting principals.
Why are diversity and equity important to you, and how do these principles show up in your life?
As an immigration attorney, I am keenly aware of societal inequity and systemic racism. My clients face real issues of discrimination and a lack of equity every day, and I see it up close as I help them navigate through the complex judicial system. As I struggle daily with injustice, I understand that diversity and equity are not just principals but rather components of an essential foundation for any system, business or community; they are essential ideas that NEED to be implemented in all organizations and entities. In my service on the TPSS Board, I have been a strong proponent of the need to adopt a racial equity framework as a lens through which all business operations should be examined. I look forward to helping TPSS in its current process of reviewing its own processes under a diversity and racial equity framework.