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  • D. Maurice Kreis

Hello neighbors and fellow cooperators

Here's a confession: I just started this new web site, www.n1303k.com, as a replacement for my old site, www.kreis.coop, and was pretty much thinking I'd have what is known in the retailing business as a "soft open." But then the latest controversy with the Hanover Co-op brewed up, and the blog on my new site became a convenient way to share my account of what happened at this week's Board meeting. Then Rob Gurwitt of Daybreak was kind enough to link to my post, and the next thing I knew lots of folks were reading and even subscribing. Rob sent a note earlier today that began: "You could consider a second useful life as a reporter on all things Co-op."


That's unlikely. Although, if I did such a thing, it would probably be my fourth or fifth useful life, my others being (a) head of New Hampshire's Office of the Consumer Advocate, see www.oca.nh.gov, (b) advocate for the interests of people with cystic fibrosis, since my 18-year-old daughter Rose has CF, (c) self-appointed architecture critic, since I have always been fascinated by buildings and enjoy writing about the subject, and (d) an actual change agent in the cooperative sector, since I currently chair the board of trustees of WeOwn.It, a nonprofit that is dedicated to empowering members of cooperatives, mainly rural electric co-ops and credit unions.


With respect to the latest developments at the Hanover Co-op, please note that the Board did what it said it would do, which is to post the actual list of 13 conditions submitted by Paul Guidone. You can read Paul's document here: https://coopfoodstore.coop/sites/default/files/Paul-Guidone-Terms.pdf.


My sense of ethics compels me to disclose, for those who don't know, that I have a long history with the Board of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society. I served on the Board from 2003 to 2013, including three years as President and three years as Treasurer. In 2014, the Co-op and its Board became engulfed in controversy, as the result of a decision to fire two popular and long-term Co-op employees. The Co-op's response to the resulting activism was circling the wagons, as opposed to viewing member activism, even of the angry kind, as a positive development for such a democratically run organization. The mess prompted me to seek reelection to the Board, which, after an unsuccessful attempt, saw me return to the ranks of directors in 2017. That year, I was elected to a one-year term. In May 2018, I was elected to a full three-year term but I resigned in July 2018. In essence, I was forced off the Board in circumstances that would have been newsworthy at the time, if only someone from the media had inquired. Now, that particular saga is best consigned to oblivion.


I learned a hard lesson: My useful life as a director of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society had run its course, my deep enthusiasm for cooperativism notwithstanding. I might seek to return to the Board some day, but it would have to be many years from now when I could truly start anew and bring a fresh perspective to the work. I remain convinced that the cooperative form of doing business is the ideal embodiment of what has come to be known as corporate social responsibility. Since the advent of the modern cooperative movement in 1845, every other "ism" out there has managed to drag the economy into the toilet swirl, while co-ops have remained the secret success story of the global marketplace.


These days, my cooperative obsession is credit unions. New Hampshire is actually the birthplace of the U.S. credit union movement; the nation's very first CU, St. Mary's Bank in Manchester, is alive and well to this day. I belong to no fewer than five CUs, spread across New Hampshire and Vermont. But I am convinced that New Hampshire's credit unions are not living up to their potential, especially given the economic dislocation and suffering brought on by the pandemic. In most respects that matter, the CUs I know are very difficult to tell from conventional banks. Moreover, the local CUs tend to regard member democracy -- by which I mean, principally, competitive board elections -- as something to be avoided and repressed.


If you're someone who thinks my typing legitimately qualifies as writing, please note that I have a column on the news web site IndepthNH.org, called "Power to the People," in which I report on my work as New Hampshire's Consumer Advocate, a job that requires me and my staff to advance the interests of residential ratepayers. I'll continue to use my IndepthNH column to share ideas about energy and public utilities. Here at www.N1303K.com, I will wrestle with other topics.


Oh . . . and in case you are wondering what N1303K is: It's the designation for a particular mutation on chromosome 7 that causes cystic fibrosis. I'm heterozygous for N1303K, which means the other half of my chromosome 7 pair lacks that mutation or any other one associated with CF. My daughter was not so fortunate. N1303K is considered a rare CF mutation, even within the population of people with this so-called "orphan" disease. One consequence is that Rose is among the 10 percent of CF people who don't benefit from the latest breakthrough drugs for CF, known as modulators and produced by Vertex Pharmaceuticals. That might be just as well because the newest of the modulators, Trikafta, costs $312,000 a year, per patient! Meanwhile, we await Rose's breakthrough.


Thanks for reading! Keep in touch.


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