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Choosing Your Tenant Council’s Structure
There are many types of ways to structure your tenant council, and each has its individual advantages and disadvantages. Following are some of the typical ways that tenant councils are structured. Keep in mind that these are not set in stone, and that a mixture of any or all of these ways can be used. And of course, new ideas that you come up with of running a tenant council can also be used!
In a parliamentary tenant council, there is usually an elected President, Vice-President, and a Secretary-Treasurer. The President is considered to be the head of the organization, and has the most authority. The Vice-President fills in for the President when needed, and carries out tasks delegated by the President. The Secretary-Treasurer keeps meeting minutes, records and maintains a bank account and a ledger of the tenant council’s finances. Sometimes rather than electing a one-person President and Vice-President, a Steering Committee of 5 or 10 people is elected instead. The President usually writes the agenda of the meeting, but this task could be rotated. The officers sometimes make decisions without the other members.
In the committee-secretary model, there is no President or Vice-President that lead the group. Instead, the entire membership leads by direct democracy, and all members have equal voice and vote on all matters. Committees are formed and dissolved as needed to carry out tasks, and an elected Secretary-Treasurer keeps meeting minutes, records and maintains a bank account (if the group decides it wants one) and a ledger of the resident council’s finances. At the end of each meeting, a Chairperson for the next meeting is elected to write up an agenda.
The non-organized model is what usually exists before choosing one of the first two models. However, some tenants prefer to keep this model for the long term as well. In this model, there is no central keeper of records,committees are not formed to carry out tasks, and there is no accountability. Instead, individuals volunteer to do things and sometimes follow through, and sometimes don’t. If the tenant council were to fall apart, the records of the resident council would be lost, and things would fall apart at the building as well. In this model, an unelected, defacto president often writes the agenda.