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WBAI bylaws revision subcommitte meeting notes

( Additions in [ ] )

From: jross252
Date: Mon Oct 28, 2002 5:34 pm
Subject: Notes of Bylaws meeting, 10/22/02

Here are my notes, which are not 100% complete. Manijeh read a statement which i don't have. If someone could post it--great.

[ find that statement here]

WBAI Bylaws Revision Subcommittee Meeting

Ray Laforest, chair LAB members attending: Marion Borenstein, Rashida Ismaili Abu-Bakr

About 25 total in attendance

Meeting starts at 7:30


1. Constituency/Inclusion model for election of local board, presentations and questions
2. Proportional Representation/KPFA-type model for election of local boards, presentations and questions
3. Open comment period on election procedures
4. Next week's agenda

1. Presentation of Constituency/Inclusion Model (CM), by Brad Taylor and Muntu Matsimela

Brad: This model will enable something progressive that does not usually happen in elections-guaranteeing representation to groups that need it most. It allows disenfranchised communities to speak for themselves, in other words, self-determination. Election procedures should be geared to people who usually lack a voice. CM stems from the view of the radio station as a vehicle of social change.

Brad describes CM, including membership and the big tent.

Muntu: Governance through caucus is not a new idea. Guaranteeing seats is not anti-democratic. Democracy is not an end but a means.

Informational questions:

Susan Lee: Why is staff only one sixth of the board? A: Goal was not to maintain a certain number of seats for staff, but to empower constituencies. Six seats is still a lot.

Roger Manning: Why do you not like proportional representation (PR)? [ Actually I asked Brad if his criticism of Proportional representation was based on actual statistics or other factual information. It was not. -editor]
A: Under PR a candidate from a constituency would have to get support from more than just his/her own constituency. Under CM the candidates would really be a representative of the constituency. Also, PR does not guarantee seating of groups; CM does.

Romulo Sanchez: Who elects the constituency's leaders? A: This is well defined in the proposal. Romulo: Who counts the votes? A: a neutral elections board. Romulo: Who pays for the election? A: Network/ station.

Mike Beasley: How do you respond to Paul Surovell's critique that CM only guarantees seating of seven people of color? A: Diversity criteria call for 50% people of color, as in KPFA.

2. Presentation of Proportional Representation/KPFA model, Berthold Reimers and Jamie Ross, and questions. Jamie: Presents differences between this and CM, including membership, nomination, manner of election, diversity criteria (also in CM), balloting by mail. Proportional representation using single transferrable voting ensures that minorities above a certain size cannot be denied a seat. "Minorities" in this case does not necessarily along mean racial/ethnic or other identity-based criteria, but any minority voting tendency. Diversity criteria ensure that board not dominated by white men.

Berthold: The best way to define the electorate is subscribers and volunteers. Non-listeners should not be voters. Not all community activists have time for Pacifica, and not all are progressive. It would be preferable to have candidates focus on issues, such as police brutality, rather than identity questions. There should be limits on electioneering and on candidate spending.

Informational questions

Paul Surovell: Is there anything that prevents formation of slates that would include members of identity-based constituencies? A: No, though in single transferrable voting one doesn't really vote by slate.

Mike: How does representation work in at-large election? A: ??

Eve Moser: Can you describe what happens between nomination and voting? A: campaign period and election period. Campaign period features on-air debates

3. Open comment and questions on election procedures

Susan Lee: What is this board going to do? It should not be primarily an outreach or political vehicle.

Brad Taylor: Under PR/KPFA model, what about groups like Native Americans that do not have the numbers to elect someone to the board?

Jamie: They are not guaranteed a seat.

Manijeh: (reads her statement) [also: ...the bylaws sub committee needs to request to make presentations to the LAB since it seems difficult for the LAB members to attend bylaws meeting and they are the ones who will be voting on bylaws. Presentations are to point out , particularly the differing position on different aspects of the bylaws...]

Steve Seltzer: It is a bad idea to foist representation onto groups that do not seek it. Sympathic to the ideas behind CM, but sees it as open to manipulation.

Brad: Interprets this suspicion as a suspicion against a group of individuals.

Romulo: Unity Caucus proposal (CM) divides people. Unity Caucus is allied with the current station management. This model will weed out people who don't support the station management.

Roger: People on the board need to know and care about the station. Advantage of PR is that one needs to reach out to various communities -this will help build consensus on the board.

Donna Gould: Does not like that voting is restricted by constituency. Proposes that everyone be able to vote in every constituency.

Harald Wacker: Supports diversity, but not control. Is opposed to collecting of information for elections. Predetermining the number of representatives for each group will lead to divisiveness.

Muntu: The fact that it was hard to mobilize the larger community to protect the station shows the need for outreach. We can expand the station by having organic relationship with communities. To say that constituencies only care about their own issues is racist.

Paul Surovell: Unity Caucus proposal (CM) divides the listenership. Also it's a misuse of the word "community."

Mike Beasley: Is not in favor of elections. Proportional representation is based on parties, not appropriate for organizations. In KPFA elections only 15% eligible vote.

[Mike - I said I am against "membership" elections in Pacifica, since I do not believe they will empower the "membership" or prevent another "coup".

I also clarified that "STV" form of Proportional Voting system was only used in "limited" form in only 3 of the 30+ countries in the world. The most common form of PR is list/slate voting systems.

I also pointed out that the PR system used in NYC during the 30's was also based upon a group/party affiliation (Socialist, Communist, etc.) and that the NYC Community School Boards uses "STV" PR System.

At-large elections based on the "STV" PR system seem to be too complex for voters based upon the drop in the two KPFA elections from 25% to 15% on a expanded membership base, and the 1.5%-3% turnout in NYC School Board Elections. ]

Ray Laforest: ( in response to Berthold's comment): There are indeed leaders in Haitian community that are progressive and represent the community.

James Bryan: Ideologically likes CM, but practically prefers a more transparent voting model.

Eve Moser: STV is a voting mechanism, not a means to ensure diversity. Diversity is ensured before voting begins, during outreach and nomination of candidates. Candidates should speak to their interpreation of the mission and what skills they can bring to the board.

Jamie: One problem with CM is that there is no one-person-one-vote. E.g., Long Island voters have much more voting power per person that New Jersey voters. This kind of unfairness will turn off listeners from participating. We need listener participation to protect the station.

Steffie Brooks: The job of the local board that we are electing is not to determine programming, but adherence to mission, etc. Having one person from each group does not make much sense for this type of board. It makes more sense for a LAB whose main purpose is programming.

David Combs: Doesn't like that CM forbids voting for people in other constituencies. E.g., he won't be able to vote for some black candidates. CM ignores things we all have in common.

Brad: Is interested in ideas regarding voting models and is willing to work on a more usable model.

Berthold: Outreach is key. Also, a survey of listeners is important.

Rashida: (missed this comment-sorry)

Bob Lederer: In 1972 he was opposed to quotas, but has since learned they are a good idea and are now commonly used. It's narrow and condescending to say that the main interest in oppressed people in being on the board is programming. People from oppressed groups have experiences in organizations that they can bring to the local board.

Jamie: It's incorrect to say that PR is not appropriate for organizations-many organizations use it, including unions, Amnesty International (in England). Another flaw in CM is that representatives can only be recalled by their constituency. This means that it might be difficult to remove a non-mission board member. Asks Unity Caucus to explain why they are willing to give up a practical and fair election procedure in order to guarantee seating of all identity-based groups.

Romulo: Who will pay for the elections?

4. Next week's agenda

We discuss this question. Ray hopes that more LAB will come than came this week. Manijeh and Donna suggest that we go to the LAB meeting rather than getting them to come to the bylaws meeting. It's not clear what is decided.

Susan Lee suggests discussing skills and abilities needed in board members next week, which some others support.

[ Mike Beasley suggested that we review the iPNB Bylaws Straw Poll votes - Oct. 13-14, so we can prepare for the next iPNB Bylaws special meeting in Houston. ]

Meeting adjourned 10 p.m.

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