Wag the Dog, March 22, 2011

It’s as if co-op law was a barren desert surrounded by the beautiful oasis of American political philosophy and history. We shareholders keep expecting the co-op to act like a representative democracy. Instead it acts like an elected oligarchy. Talk about clash of world views! Most of us grew up with the bedrock belief that in America, governing bodies derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Welcome to New York State corporation law and West Village Houses where, at least as presented by our managing agent and attorney, bedrock principles of democracy don’t necessarily apply. What does seem to apply is “the board decides and the shareholders abide.”
It never occurred to me when WVH evolved from a tenants association to a co-op that we were empowering a tiny group of people to call all of the shots. In fact, I thought that that was exactly what we were trying to get away from by taking control from the investors. I was wrong–a small elite and only that small elite decides everything. Was that what we wanted? From a governance perspective, the only difference between the bad old days and now is that once a year shareholders have a say in who that tiny group of people is. So who’s in charge–the tail or the dog?
Maureen4wvh
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