WBAI bylaws revisions subcommittee meeting minutes
Of the second public meeting of the WBAI area subcommittee of the Bylaws Revision Committee.
Held in Manhattan, 23rd Street.
IN ATTENDANCE: Marian Bornstein, Janice K. Bryant, Ray Laforest, Leslie Cagan, Andrew Norris, Mimi Rosenberg, Berthold Reimers, Paul Surovell, and approximately 60 other listeners. Ray Laforest and Janice K. Bryant are the chairs of the subcommittee and were acting as co-chairs of this meeting.
MEETING IS CALLED TO ORDER
Ray Laforest hands out a packet containing several documents (Pacifica Mission statement, as stated in the Articles of Incorporation; Carol Spooner's 15 questions; Gregory Wonderwheel's proposal; the KPFA Guidelines; and notes from the April 4th KPFK Bylaws Committee meeting), as well as a timeline detailing important dates in the bylaws revision process, the proposed agenda, and the minutes of the last meeting.
However, this agenda was modified during the course of the meeting (items 1, 7, and 9 were omitted, items 6, 8 and 10 were shifted and Leslie Cagan gave the Introduction, Agenda item #3).
SECOND AGENDA ITEM: Presentation of minutes from 4/11/02 BRC meeting.
Ray Laforest: I am sure these minutes need some corrections here and there.
THIRD AGENDA ITEM: Introduction.
Leslie Cagan: I'd like a show of hands as to who has attended previous Bylaws Committee Meetings. [Many people raise hands.] Since a lot of you have attended these meetings, I will keep this brief. We are in the early stages of the work of the Bylaws Revision Committee based in New York City. We are one of 5 such groupings, one in each listening area. Our work will feed into a national process, as mandated by the out-of-court settlement, to review and revise the bylaws, i.e., the governance structure of the Foundation. [The text of the resolution is available at http://www.pacifica.org/bylaws/index.html .] This process will take several months. We want everyone involved to raise their concerns and ideas. Out of each listening area, these ideas will be collated and put together, and sent to all of the LABs, to the interim National Board, and back to the 5 committees, for further reviews, and that will again be collated into another draft and that will be sent back, to get a significant portion of the Bylaws done by September, in time for the LAB elections.
We are in the process of creating the first, and probably the only, democratically-structured media institution in this country, and maybe anywhere in the world, I don't know. [Editorial note: KQED elects its board]. What we are doing tonight and throughout this process has potential ramifications far beyond Pacifica. We really are breaking ground that hopefully other media outlets will have to take seriously. The bylaws revision process is central to this process.
FOURTH AGENDA ITEM: Janice K. Bryant: We have already missed our first deadline, April 15, when we were supposed to distribute a brief written statement to the 4 other subcommittees. On May 31, the National Committee will produce and circulate one or more rough drafts of the proposed bylaws, a synthesis of the ideas from every listening area. On July 15th, we will produce a revised rough draft and it will be circulated. On August 15, the final draft will be submitted to the LAB and the National Board, and August 31 is the target date for obtaining all required votes of approval. Dec 29 is the date by which LAB elections must be complete. And then a new National Board of Directors will be elected and take office by March 29, 2003.
The local schedule is as follows: April 23rd we will be back at 75 Varick St., 14th floor, DC 1707. The topics of discussion will be the function and power of LABs, election procedures for the LABs in different listening areas, number of LAB members, terms of office, and removal provisions. April 30 we will meet at the Maplewood Main Library in 51 Baker Street, Maplewood New Jersey, 07040. Directions are available at http://snow.prohosting.com/wbailab/. The topic will be the National Board.
FIFTH AGENDA ITEM: Three (3) presentations based on theme: "The Electorate:
a) Listener/Member/Volunteer Model (Berthold Reimers).
Framing of issue
I - The two different vision/version/proposals that I oppose (self-selection model and constituency model).
A- Self-selection model. Listener/listener-sponsor/volunteers should not be allowed to vote. Board members should be selected by current board members.
Rationale supporting the self-selection model: Voting is dangerous and the right wing may take over. If the only requirement for voting was that an individual has to give some money to Pacifica, then a right wing group could take over Pacifica if they came up with some money, say $250,000 - $500,000, and paid their workers or group to vote for their candidate.
Counterarguments against this model:
B- Constituency Model -
Rationale supporting the constituency model: Progressive groups have a proven record and would place progressive activist on the Board. This would minimize the possibility of takeover from the right wing.
Counterarguments against this model:
2. Lobbying - If Labor Union #1199, for example, placed one of their members on the board, that person would act to defend the interests of 1199. That's called lobbying, that's called Enron. The 1199 representative on the WBAI board would be interested in defending and promulgating the interests of 1199 and would become a lobbyist not necessarily aligned with the interest and mission of Pacifica.
II - Listener/Member/Volunteer Model
Definition of listener/Listener-sponsor/volunteer:
2. If anyone can vote, then what is the point of being a WBAI listener? That is a dangerous concept. You are basically saying that 10 million New Yorkers can just decide tomorrow to vote in our elections. That is not going to make it. There has to be some way of determining who cares for WBAI, who listens to WBAI. Those people who contribute should sign a survey of some sort, that tells their income and race. We do not know who exactly our listenership is in terms of race and income level.
- I am very excited, but also worried, about the idea of evaluating the programs to meet the needs of the oppressed communities. I support the idea that the producers should have the freedom to choose their programs and they should listen to input from listeners. What I object to is the idea that we have to change our style or message to interest and attract the youth. I do not think so. Our message is fine. The way we present the message may be a little stale, but we can change that.
There are plenty of progressive young people out there who espouse our ideas. We do not need to go out there and try to seek out the youth who are not involved. We can try to change them, but without changing our content in order to get more listeners. Then we would fall into the Arbitron-rating trap. I urge everyone to read the package that talks about the Pacifica mission. It is important for you, before you decide on anything or vote on anything, to decide what WBAI means to you. It means different things to different people. For me, WBAI is a conduit for progressive, leftist ideas for empowerment. For others it's alternative music. It can be all those different things at the same time. I believe you will choose my proposal, which includes the idea of proportional representation.
Janice K Bryant: We will now take questions from listeners.
Listener: This idea of democracy is wonderful, but dangerous. This is the third meeting I have attended of these committee meetings, and I also attended the meeting at the Socialist Scholars Conference. But I would not be a good voter, because I am not well-informed enough to know who to vote for. We should look at the model of the New England town meeting, although there are problems with that. In ancient Athens, representatives were chosen by the drawing of lots, but I wouldn't recommend that for Pacifica. We should have a transitional process before going to a voting model like what has been presented.
Ray Laforest: Mimi Rosenberg will make the next presentation, on the constituency model.
Mimi Rosenberg: First, I'd like to thank everyone for coming here, for coming out in 92-degree weather. The dialogue we have had has been very enriching and thought-provoking. I will not lay out a model, but a conceptual framework, a political framework, and some ideas. I have also given lots of thought to the question of what it means to "democratize". It was extremely hard to fight for the liberation of WBAI, and it is perhaps even harder now to fight for the "nation-building" time, to reconstruct and strengthen the station. I want to propose a task force to work on the idea of inclusion.
To me, democracy is not merely about participation, but is about extending the franchise, so that an entrenched body does not merely perpetuate itself, perhaps unintentionally. Form follows function. What is the function of WBAI? To enhance, build on, and contemporize the Pacifica mission. The Pacifica mission is not frozen with Lew Hill. Lew Hill's ideas do not satisfy my need to come up with an anticolonialist, antiracist, nonchauvinistic model of restructuring the paradigm of power. That's not what Lew Hill wanted to do.
WBAI is a communication vehicle capable of altering the power paradigm, capable of shifting power to the poor and working-class, the oppressed and disenfranchised. We should be a progressive voise accountable to the unrepresented listeners who are poor, working-class, oppressed and disenfranchised. Our highest priority is to attract as listeners, and become accountable to, the poor, working-class, oppressed and disenfranchised. I find incredible the comment of the previous speaker that the 1199 rank and file is equivalent to the influence of Enron.
The conceptual framework is-- here are some ideas. Numerically, the more powerful majority usually and simply subsume minority references. The majority does NOT represent the minority. When the majority is fixed and permanent, there are no checks on the ability to be overbearing. We have a heterogeneous community in the WBAI listening area. Any faction with total power might subject the minority to caprice and arbitrary decisions of the majority, who will not attend to the needs of the whole community, but will attend, sometimes, to partial and local advantages. The history of struggle against tyrannical majorities is instructive as to the dangers of "winner-take-all" collective decision-making. Majority rule presents an efficient opportunity to determine the public good, but it fails to accomplish the public good when it is not constrained by the need to bargain with minority interests. When majorities are fixed, the minority lacks any mechanism for holding the majority accountable, or even having it listen. When does the "majority rule" concept promote deliberation or consensus? The permanent majority simply has its way; it doesn't have to reach out to or convince anyone else. I believe that the model of KPFA, which dilutes the vote of minorities and various constituency groups, by what it alleges to be a proportional representation, is indeed a perpetuation of the current majority. The franchise gives status to the individual voter, but it derives its vitality from its exercise by a politically cohesive group who elect representatives to promote consideration of group interests in public policy. Equal status as participants in the political sphere is possible only if members of the group are allowed to particiapte, at all stages of the process. A meaningful right to vote contemplates minority participation in post-election policy making, as well as pre-election coalition-building and deliberation, through the participation of another one who is in one's likeness. It is not fair if we engage in the periodic ruitual of elections but only the permanent majority gets to choose who is elected.
Here are some more issues of consideration, and these are just my thoughts:
There is the subscriber model, the "winner-take-all" majority model. In this model, people have proposed that volunteers should also become members, if they work a certain number of hours. But this is prohibitive for people who are working class, and also groups we'd like to reach out to that are not yet involved in our communities of interest. What first comes to mind is the new immigrant communities that are so oppressed and profiled in our society. If not for them, who are we maintaining the station for? Inherent to the subscriber model is representation unconnected to demographics or political representation of the minority. In this model, there is also the problem of special interest groups that cause vote-dilution. Also, this model emphasizes individual interests, rather than group interests, so that even if a person of color is elected, that person may not represent their community's political interests. Are we deleting the prevalent movements that have created social change in our society? There are also other issues.
A promising idea is a "spokescouncil model," which came out of the activities of the anti-globalization movement. Picture a wheel with spokes. Black candidates would bring out black voters. There would be a sense of connectedness to the community. Each group could attend in whatever numbers they wished. So let's say there was a gay/lesbian/transgendered group, a group of immigrants from specific communities, various ethnicities. They could form constituency groups and they could come up with a determination as votes are taken and create representation not just based on color or cultural group, but based on an ideological stance that represents those communities of interests. That's what I think would be enormously helpful. You could call it "interest departments", you could call it "constituency groups", you could call it "spokescouncil model", etc. In effect, you are almost creating a bicameral model where there are 2 governance structures. One structure would be the board proper, and then there are departments set up-- but the structuring of the departments is fluid so that different political interests can be emphasized at different points in time, depending on changes that occur in society as time passes. For example, when there is a war in the Middle East, like now, the representation and interests of the community of people here that are affected by those events becomes more relevant and can be emphasized.
There is also the concept of the supermajority voting, modifying winner-take all majority rule, requiring that something more than a bare majority must approve before action is taken. As a rule, a supermajority process empowers any numerically small but cohesive group of voters. Supermajority remedies inequalities by giving bargaining power to all numerically less-powerful groups, such as women, gays/lesbians/transgenedered, ppl of color etc
"There's other models as well. One, for example, One African-American vote, one person votes, gets two votes, as a model and a remedy for participation. By the way, there's nothing unique about these. We have one of the most backward systems in this country. Governments all over the world use different systems of voting."
Lastly, I want to address the question of takeover, because I witnessed it close-up. Of course we need checks and balances. But the takeover was not a logistical or numerical problem. It was a political problem. It was a problem where most people were not minding the store, they were not immersed in, they were not involved in, they did not care and think about the governance structure, that included both people inside the station and outside the station. The other problem was that there was an issue that took place around race and there was a serious vacuum that was filled. There was a reason that the board gravitated toward people like Mary Frances Berry, because they did not put politics in command, they put reputation in command, based on old activities that had been committed during the civil rights movement, without any understanding of how people had become bourgeois-fied, how they had become opportunists, how they were living out the politics now. But it was a political problem, first and foremost. And Berry filled a vacuum that was out there. It was a moribund board, first and foremost, and it didn't have a political ideology; the network didn't have a political ideology. Berthold identified himself as a member of the Left. This has not been the identity of this station or network, and it needs a clear and firm political identity. And that's the strength we need to resist takeover, because if the government comes to take it, it will not be numerosity that prevents the takeover. It will be based on political philosophy, based on how people look at resistance and government. That will stop a takeover from destroying us. First and foremost, the takeover was based on neoliberal politics. So there are many things to think about. But I really ask that if we want to look different, and we want to be representative, which this body, with its good intentions and its sincerity, is not, that it must think about creating a task force tonight, a task force of inclusion, to reach out to the forces within the society that are the reliable forces for social transformation and new forms of empowerment. [applause]
Listener: could the speakers speak to the point?
Ray Laforest: the speakers are speaking to the point. Next is Paul Surovell.
A MISSION-DRIVEN VOTING MODEL
I want to say that a lot of the thinking behind what I've written comes from Anne Emmerman. By the way, Mimi implied that Pacifica is dominated by the majority. I disagree. The WBAI LAB is an excellent example of diversity and balance. What I propose is a system where we can continue that excellent combination assembled by the WBAI LAB, and improve upon it. The current WBAI LAB has achieved an excellent racial, ethnic and gender mix, in addition to bringing together individuals involved in social change and committed to the Pacifica mission. This must be preserved and improved upon, as LAB Membership Chair Anne Emmerman suggested in her January memo, and my model will do that.
(1) Who will vote, under this plan?
(2) A DETAILED AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PLAN
The experience at KPFA proves that a proportional voting system does not assure that affirmative action goals will be met.
This proposal builds on the KPFA plan, which calls for 50% people of color, 50% female. I would further specify the breakdown of people of color. Currently, the LAB has 8 Caucasians, and 8 people of color (6 Blacks and 2 Latinos), with a 50-50 male-female split. The 16 existing LAB members would be grandfathered. 8 new LAB members would be elected as follows:
50% of these would be women.
The new LAB would have 24 members as follows:
Among the new 8 members, every effort would be made to achieve overlapping representation from various constituencies cited in the Emmerman memo: labor, peace, civil rights, social justice, GLBT, disabled, prisoners' rights and others.
To the extent that constituencies are not represented by the elections process, the newly listener-elected members could appoint non-voting members to assure that the voices of those constituencies are heard. Such appointments would be competitive, with the positions publicly announced and candidates appearing before the public as well as before the LAB members.
It is recommended that the staff elect two additional members in the first election. Their election should come first, and be required to comply with the overall diversity requirements stipulated above [note: this differs from the KPFA model]. After the staff election is completed, the listener-members election will take place, taking into account who has been elected by the staff. So there would actually be 6 listener candidates and two staff candidates in the first election.
(3) We need a rigorous nominations process.
The LAB will establish a Nominations Committee, something like what Mimi was talking about, to recruit candidates who meet the diversity requirements listed above. They would go out into the community inviting people to become candidates. All candidates should be social activists. Once they applied to be nominated, they would go through a rigorous evaluation: questionnaires, interviews, public meetings where they could answer questions, and explain their plans for Pacifica. The LAB would also appoint a larger body, similar to the General Manager search committee. Candiates would thus be evaluated as to their loyalty and committment to the Pacifica mission. At the end of this process, some of the candidates would be nominated by the committee, and that would be indicated on the ballot. Anyone else who wants to run can go through a nomination-by-petition process. This is not instructions on how to vote. This is a way to tell the voters what the people who have been active in the struggle think about the candidates, so it is almost a form of endorsement.
[Note: Paul omitted further discussion of his fourth point regarding one-third of the seats being contested in the first election.]
Voting by Members vs. Voting by Listeners
Whether Members or Listeners vote has nothing to do with whether WBAI will be vulnerable to a hostile takeover attempt. The invaders will either call in for their subscriptions or they will call in for their ballots. There is no way of stopping either. However, limiting the number of seats up for election can block any takeover attempt, as I've described earlier.
But allowing all listeners to vote -- which is really allowing anyone to vote
We need to get many more listeners to subscribe. That is a top priority for the survival of WBAI and the survival of Pacifica. A lot of us are giving as much as we can afford, and more. We can't continue this way. We need many more people to give a small amount of money. We need to do everything possible to motivate listeners to subscribe, to persuade them to subscribe. And making membership a requirement for voting in Pacifica elections is one way to do this. "Become a member and vote in the LAB elections in December." That is a strong selling point for membership, and it would be foolish to cast it aside in order to give the vote to the 25 or so non-subscribing listeners out there who might ask for a ballot. If you want to throw out this tool to bring in more listeners, you are doing something very very foolish and counterproductive.
Ray Laforest: Since we are running behind schedule, we may want to omit the question-and-answer period. Let's vote on it. [He gives the alternatives and calls for a show of hands. A small majority wants a question-and-answer period.]
Listener (Liz McLellan): I came from the KPFA signal area before the Coup and found the same horible thing happening here and got involved. My question is about the constituency model. There are differences between the rank and file of a union and their leadership. Take for example the split in the Seattle Coalition [coalition between environmentalists and labor unionists formed during World trade Organization meeting in Seattle], after September 11, 2001, when the leadership of the unions supported George W. Bush and war, but perhaps some rank-and-file members wanted to stay with the Seattle Coalition. When we talk about reserved seats, who do you think will be on these seats but the leadership whose positions and affiliations are with the ruling class?
Mimi: I am talking about communities of interest. I am not talking about a Julian Bond, who was invited to be on the Pacifica National Board (PNB.) The candidates need to be screened or vetted, because there is a political involvement and representation that those individuals should have, and criteria that they should meet. "That, to me, becomes the greater safeguard, so that you don't wind up with a John Murdock, or you don't wind up with the concept of somebody who is there merely by virtue of the actual election, and has only bourgeois politics. Don't forget, many of our subscribers supported the Coupsters." [The Coupsters are Utrice Leid, Clayton Riley, etc.]
Listener (Fred Nguyen): A comment: Another idea is geographical representation, so that, for example, people in Pennsylvania would get representation. This addresses the question of "how do I know who my representative is?" because if the people in Pennsylvania elected a Pennsylvanian, they would know who it is. I'd like to second Mimi's proposal for a Task Force. My question to all the speakers is this: would you be in favor of giving membership to people who fill out a questionnaire or who pay $5?
Berthold: Absolutely. In fact, all members should be asked to fill out a questionnaire. And maybe those who will not be giving their money or time should be required to fill out this questionnarie thoroughly, because otherwise how do we know who they are, and how do we know whether they are lying or not?
Mimi: Some people are poor. There are people who lose their housing for less than $100, so there should be no monetary requirement. It's like a poll tax. In this time of profiling and government information, people should not be required to fill out questionnaires. How do you know? Because you have people who are representative of their communities. Again, I think it's less individuals than people who represent spheres of activism who we are looking for. That's how you know who they are. Those communities will be choosing those people, if we want a representative board. And that doesn't exclude individuals, either.
Paul: I think we should stick with the $25 minimum. I have asked low-income young people, and they say that $25 is not a lot of money. Some smoke, and they pay $5 for a pack of cigarettes; or $50 for a concert.
[Meeting is interrupted at this point and agenda item 6 is carried out: a collection is taken up to pay for the rental of the room, and a signup sheet is passed around the room to get volunteers to go out into the communities and recruit listener-members. It is stated that some people are still not aware that WBAI is back, and that is why outreach is important. A signup sheet is passed around the room for WBAI volunteers to go into the station and help in premium mailings and other work.]
Listener: There has to be some fair way to choose nominees. The nominating committee that Paul mentioned is a good idea. But I have seen organizations taken over by an elite few who get control of the nominating process or the board and then they keep putting up members or friends that they know and then they gain control of the organization. This kind of inside takeover is very insidious and in some ways harder to control than a takeover by outsiders. How do you feel about candidates by petition?
Paul: Candidates by petition are a part of my proposal.
Berthold: I support the idea of a nominating body, but I am against the idea that they will sponsor candidates. Because that will give them the power to perpetuate themselves as well. My version of a nominating body is one that would go into the communities and reach out to people to become candidates. Once the candidates are found, then those candidates should be on their own. Also, every candidate should have equal air time. Any candidate who is given extra air time, for whatever reason, should be disqualified.
Mimi: I don't agree with the concept of a nominating committee; I want to broaden the franchise. I am concerned that a nominating committee would perpetuate entrenched interests. A lot more thought needs to go into it.
Listener (Mitchell Cohen): I agree with Mimi about the role of neoliberalism. The only person at the station that I see organizing the listeners into groups is Gary Null, who has his running group and other health groups, and he has an organized base of people who pay a lot of money and stay active based on, basically, whatever Gary says, and that's a problem and an opportunity. How do we form caucuses and groups that can do somewhat of a similar thing?
Janice K. Bryant : The people who listen to Gary Null, a lot of them don't listen to anything else at WBAI.
Mimi: The station is considering creating a permanent outreach position to bring more listeners in. Another thing was to bring in women to do a day's programming around women. [Note: I think this refers to an all-women day of programming on International Women's Day.] Also, Bernard White has a real constituency. Elombe Brath is considered the informal mayor of Harlem, and has groups that are far greater than Gary Null does in terms of committment. "Amy's got the college campuses, you know, which kind of are prone at her feet." We need to use the airwaves effectively to mobilize people. A certain percentage of people at the April 20 demonstrations in Washington DC will be there as a result of the work that's been done on the Morning Show [publicizing the event]. But this kind of work has to be more self-conscious and intentional. We need to think of our station in an activist context, to inform social activism for social change.
Unknown (Paul Surovell?) : The purpose of the station is to inform. We shouldn't try to convert it into a political party or some sort of organization to organize the people. It's a radio station. One of the greatest needs right now is to get Democracy Now! on in a time slot so that people who work for a living can listen to it.
Berthold: I tend to agree with Mimi. Also, we should try to get these various groups of listeners, like Gary's, Amy's and Elombe's, to listen to other shows and talk to each other.
Listener (Steve Brown): There is too much fear of a right-wing takeover. It is more likely to be a centrist takeover. We can have a nominating committe for the LAB, and nomination by petition. But Bill Clinton or Mark Green, Ed Koch, Al D'Amato, could get nominated by petition and get elected, due to name recognition. How do we stop that?
Paul Surovell: I don't think WBAI subscribers would vote for Mark Green.
Mimi: How else do you do it, Steve, except by having fluidity of interests, debates, discourse, open airings, access to the station airwaves, and by having a developed theoretical and ideological politic, that weeds out any one interest? To me, the best thing would be not to weed out Mark Green, but to have more radical people as candidates.
Steve Brown: If anybody can vote, then they could each get enough people to vote for them. Debates and airwave time is only to make a candidate known to the audience. These people have known personalities, they have fame, and they can get 2 or 3 or 4 or 10,000 people to vote for them.
Mimi: We must have checks and balances, recall, and public discourse, to prevent that, as well as a strong, unionized staff.
Berthold: There is no 100% sure way to prevent a takeover. Look at the Houston example, which was right-wing. When we got rid of most of the right-wingers, the listeners came back in droves and had their most successful fundraiser ever. At KPFA you need to be a listener-voter 90 days before the elections. There are ways we can check where the mass groups are coming from. We also have a percentage of producers on the LAB, and recall. And a statement that each candidate will sign that they are in agreement with the principles of Pacifica.
Janice K. Bryant: Let's try to keep the questions on the topic of membership. We have to deal with this other stuff later.
Listener (man in white t-shirt): Picking board members or programmers on the basis of race or ethnicity is a very, very bad idea. Picking someone on the basis of race doesn't guarantee that they will do a good program, and it doesn't guarantee that they will represent the interests of the group they ostensibly belong to. This is racism. You may call it reverse racism, but it's still racism. You aren't looking at the qualifications of the person, you are simply looking at their skin color. And you dont even know who's black or who's Asian. There is no scientific definition of race. It's silly.
Ray Laforest: If we want to be systematic about this, we should stick to the theme that we have tonight.
Listener (Steve Salko): Putting ballots in supermarkets and union halls would allow anyone who wants to, can have access to a ballot. It occurs to me that we want to encourage people to listen to the station, and over time, those listeners will become subscribers. But by inviting anyone to fill out a ballot and vote for members of the board is iresponsible, because people should only be allowed to vote if they are committed to the station, and just being able to walk into a supermarket or post office and pick up a ballot is not a committment. You don't even know if these people are listening. Only listeners should get to vote.
Mimi: I didn't mention supermarkets, but that might not be a bad idea. Do I think that there are ways of making the voting process accessible to people that vary from the formula that most people here may be familiar with? That make it easier and more expedient for people,as a healthy and progressive thing? Yes. Should it be in the Dominican Center? The House of the Lord Church? The Gay and Lesbian Center? Yes. I would like for the station to become a vehicle for progressive thought, particularly the constituencies that we don't yet represent but who need us desperately and have no other form of representation.
Listener: How will it be decided which groups are included?
Mimi: Through debates like the one we are having here.
Berthold: I am against Mimi's proposal here. You have to earn the right to vote. People should be proud of becoming members.
Paul: We should have fliers about WBAI in the places Mimi mentioned, but not ballots, since you don't know who is going to fill it out and send it in. Having ballots in those places just doesn't make any sense to me.
Ray Laforest: It's late. Should we continue this?
Listener: I don't see why the 3 speakers, who have already had a chance to speak, should all be able to answer each question.
[A vote was taken and it was decided that the question-and-answer period would continue, and we would not break into small groups.]
Listener (Mike Beasley): First, how does your model of governance stop the people, once they are in power, from changing the bylaws, selling access, squandering Pacifica monies, or negatively changing the programming? Second, how do we force a recall, to prevent a situation like Andrea Cisco, who violated the rules and was recalled but refused to leave her position? Third, how do I know who represents me if it's not geographical?
Berthold: We need to give equal airtime to all candidates and we need a lot of forums where candidates can present their views.
Janice K. Bryant: We have 6 people in line now. Let's stop. Nobody else.
Listener: All citizens of the US should be allowed to vote, so more people will get involved in the station. And immigrants too.
Listener (Carolyn Birden): Listeners are not the same as members. How do you distinguish listeners from members? The question of recall is a real issue. It is difficult, with proportional-choice voting, to recall members. We can write into the bylaws a provision that prevents any rogue LAB or PNB board member from voting if they are in the process of being recalled. This would protect us from a rogue member while we were waiting for them to be recalled, which could take a very long time. Also, I firmly believe that a nominating committee should do nothing more than make sure that all the paperwork is in, and make sure that the person has all the necessary signatures. Anything more than that turns it into a politically correct vetting organization. Who would be the members of that committee? I imagine that the people in favor of it would like to be on it themselves.
Leslie Cagan: We need to talk about the role and functions of the LAB. On the question of voting, I disagree with Berthold's idea that you have to earn the right to vote, but I don't think that all potential listeners should have the right to vote. It is a question of trying to involve people, and it's through a person's involvement that he or she gets to vote. That involvement can be money, but it should be a very small amount of money. But also in voluntering, and it should be broad and expansive, so it can be as simple as calling the station and getting 20 copies of the Folio and passing it out to your neighbors. We should think of creative ways to get people involved, and we need to be inclusive, so we don't exclude anyone from the process.
Berthold: I would say that calling the station to get copies of the Folio is enough to earn the right to vote.
Unknown (Paul Surovell?): Members should be allowed to vote, and you should be allowed to vote if you participate.
Listener (Tom Gregg): I have a question for Paul Surovell or anyone else. Affirmative Action is necessary in the United States as an equalizing force to counter the racial oppression that has existed. But is it required in an elections process? The only country I know of where Affirmative Action plays a part in their elections process is in Lebanon, where there is a sort of Affirmative Action for Christians. Why should we have Affirmative Action in the elections process at WBAI?
Listener (Anthony): I have a question for Mimi. Can you please refocus your proposal back to us, of the Task Force on outreach, and just what you envision that task force to be? Excuse me, this is a comment. Your proposal seemded most critically to addresss the concerns that I have, and that my colleagues in the communities of color have, about the paradigm we use in formulating how we choose our representative. It is questionable whether the Task Force, as currently structured, will get a lot of participation from historically oppressed communities, people who are structurally kept out of the main stream of power, and whose interests politically, on the local national and international areas, we seem to have more unity with. How do these people begin to be addressed as an important element in Pacifica? I think we need a new paradigm. We can't figure it out in one meeting. Perhaps we need widespread distribution in supermarkets or perhaps we need consistent, repeated community outreach meetings in a variety of neighborhoods. Some group of us ought to focus on how we can get some form to follow the function that Leslie Cagan has mentioned.
Paul: In answer to the quesiton on Affirmative Action, my main motivation for Affirmative Action in my proposal is that I saw this as being a continuation of what the LAB has already done. The LAB consciously implemented Affirmative Action in recruiting its membership, and so I see that this is something that must be mandated to continue. Look at KPFA. Just through proportional voting alone, they were not able to elect 50% people of color. They had to use their Affirmative Action provision to trump and bypass the voting. If you want to get that type of composition in the LAB, it seems as though it's probably necessary to mandate it.
Mimi: In response to the question about Affirmative Action, and the earlier comment by the gentleman in the white t-shirt. It is of utmost importance to me to address the historic problem of the Left community, of the historic racial bias that exists, and the denial of that bias. It takes more than Affirmative Action, and more than the KPFA model. That is why I mentioned the supermajority, etc. But I know that the body here is unprepared and unequal to the task, not because of lack of intentions, but because it does not represent those communities of oppressed people and can't make those determinations for them. We must bring oppressed people into our sphere of involvement in pre-election stages, so they can determine how the station will eventually service better those communities. I go to Anthony's proposal, and I think it's virtually a motion, and really request that if people would like to formalize it, that there be a task force created with the goal of addressing better ways to represent underrepresented bodies which were addressed somewhat by Samori Marksman, and which the Listener's Movement never really did; and also to take into account some of the creative thinking that I think Leslie brought to the question of what constitutes involvement in the station and creative ways of seeking people's involvement, based on who they are and where they're coming from, income-wise, physically, intellectually, and so on. So I hope we can turn Anthony's motion into a legitimate motion of creating a task force tonight, so we can be more inclusive.
Listener: As a lover of bureaucracy, I am licking my chops looking forward to the bureaucratic battle over where we can distribute ballots and where we won't. I don't know that ballots should be a recruiting method and a method that enables voting by people who don't listen. I am also looking forward to the battle over who is going to evaluate the responses to the proposed questionnaires that people will be required to fill out properly in order to become a member.
Berthold: Nobody will be denied or accepted as a member based on their answers to the questionnaire. It is only a tool to gather information about the listenership.
Listener (Miguel?): I want to address the issue brought up by Mitchell Cohen. The only way to deal with a takeover is by power. The takeover of Pacifica went so far because the LAB had no power and didn't have a real constituency. At the station, at the present time, some decisions are still being made in the same way that they were being made 15 months ago. We don't have power to affect anything. I would like to see in these proposals something that gives the LAB power. The power will come from the listener-members.
This brings me to the question of who is entitled to vote? Do you think that you are going to call a meeting in any area, of 200 people, and say, "we have a meeting of 200 people, those people are entitled to vote". Come on, are you kidding me? Are you gonna call all your friends and all your friends' friends, and create an emergency meeting, where you beg your friends, saying "Look, we're gonna have cappucino and all that, come to this meeting, " and then you're going to vote? Without questioning that person, to see if they really care and really believe in what Pacifica is all about? We should be careful about that. Let's create a better WBAI by bringing in new members...
I won't support-- You know what's going on here. During the struggle I have had a chance to know some people. And they are our brothers and sisters, etc., etc. But they play some weird games sometimes. If you think this is an open-armed welcoming, where these people are saying, "no, no, come here, you're entitled to run--" Do you think there is no kind of trick here, to trick all of us? Some of the people in this movement, they have a lot of experience, I mean, they've been screwing people for long, long, long time. They know how to do it. So we should be careful. So I want the people just to think a little bit about that. And the key word here is power.
Listener (Patty Heffley): How the takeover happened was that there was no accountability whatsoever. There was a gag rule. There was no revolt by the producers or LAB to let the listener-sponsors (the people who paid for this whole network all this time) know that there was a takeover. It was well known since 1995 or 96, here. People at the table were fighting it and didn't speak out on the air [note: I think she is referring to the people sitting at the table at the head of the room, perhaps including the co-chairs of the committee.] We have a serious problem tonight with people wanting to choose third-party members to care about our station. They want to bring in these constituency groups that don't listen. But I think that if they're not a listener, they don't care! They don't deserve to have a part in our network, that we care about, because they will care about how they will get their agenda placed on here. Yes, Pacifica's use has changed over the years. I think culture should come back to Pacifica. I think meetings like our meeting tonight are very interesting. But the 2-hour show on WBAI last week [that was supposed to discuss Pacifica issues] just included people talking about how they could get a show about what they were interested in, instead of talking about issues of politics. I agree with the previous speaker. The issue is power. The producers have the power, they control the airwaves, they have no accountability. The Program Council is the same old people. We need the LAB to be accountable to the listeners. We need the LAB to have some influence in the station. Why aren't the producers and management of WBAI here tonight? Because they don't care as much as we do, because they already have the power [scattered applause] and what can we do? I say that any governance must come from people that care about the network
Call me racist, but I don't care what color the board is in the beginning. Maybe the first board will be predominantly white people. I prefer to have people that care about the network, that will develop outreach to communites. As the years go by, there will be more people of diversity. But to just put them in in the first place is what the National Board was, and everything else. Yes, we have to be inclusive. But where is everybody? They're not here, and they're not listening. Where is everybody? There are a lot of issues to discuss. But it is about power. It's about people having power to have influence over the station. And not just third-party groups that someone thinks should have power. Because someone is controlling those groups, and it's not us [scattered applause].
Janice K. Bryant: I think there are three issues we need to decide on: 1) who is a listener 2) the question of the task force to involve communities that are not represented here 3) I agree with what Miguel said and what Patty said: defining the powers of the LAB and National Board is very important. But we must start getting something down on paper, first defining the electorate, and then defining the process of voting. I'd like us to break up into groups and come back next week with concrete proposals. We must move this process along.
[Ray Laforest conducts a vote on the question of whether the group wants to break into small groups or not. The vote is 16-13 in favor of not doing so.]
Listener (Mitchell Cohen): I'd like to suggest that each of the 3 people make final comments on their proposals.
Listener: I have a comment about Mimi's proposed task force. I do not want such a task force to have the power to make the decision that non-listeners should be voters. It is okay if they make a proposal to that effect, however.
Listener: First, in the next meeting, we should break into small groups. Second, if we have a task force on inclusion, why not other task forces? I propose a task force to discuss the KPFA model, since it is the model that the settlement argued for. A task force of inclusion is problematic because the people on the task force might choose their favorite groups to be the constituency groups, and thus unintentionally create a different power structure.
Listener: on Monday April 29th at 6:30, at 75 Varick Street [14th flooor, DC 1707, I think], Concerned Friends of WBAI will elect a representative from their ranks to serve on the search committee for WBAI General Manager. [Note: this was Agenda item #8.]
Listener: The idea of grandfathering the LAB, mentioned earlier, is not democratic. We have to start fresh. Also, these issues must be discussed on the air. Also, there are a diverse group of people concerned about WBAI, as shown by the diversity of the people who came out to the meeting after the Christmas Coup. We here in this room may not be that diverse now, but we can build the movement toward that state again.
Listener (Larry Romsted): I think we should write down proposals for bylaws, bring them to the next meeting, and put them up for a vote. I also think that the next meeting should be devoted to the topic of the role of the LAB.
Listener: I would like to ask the 3 presenters to sum up their agreements and disagreements on the answers to the question, "Who is a member?"
[Berthold repeats the relevant portion of his proposal.]
Berthold: I think we all agree that paid subscribers to WBAI should be members. I think that former staff who reside in the WBAI area should be members, but Paul Surovell has a problem with this. I suppose since former staff can subscribe, we do not have to extend membership automatically to former staff. I think that membership should be extended to low-income, disabled and other individuals who are listeners but unable to contribute. But this is a sticky issue. The major sticking point is whether we require some proof or effort on the part of people to prove that they are listeners and care about the station. We disagree on this. And that's about it.
Mimi: There's another big issue. We need to consider these things carefully. We should act expeditiously but not precipitously. We must include constituencies from groups not represented here, and this inclusion must begin at the inception of this process. These groups were also not represented at the meeting at 32BJ, which had less than 1500 people. If you do not include these people, you will come up with a process that is exclusionary, that is hierarchical, and will have a racial component which some of us think will continue to divide the movement for political empowerment of the oppressed, the disenfranchised, and the impoverished. We must include them now; we cannot do it after the fact. Certainly we have some areas of agreement tonight. But some people base subscribership on this "poll tax", and if we are only basing our decisions on the people who came to this meeting tonight, without taking more steps to include other people, then we are excluding prisoners groups, impoverished groups, and political-activist groups. These groups must have a voice if this station is going to be relevant and not merely replicative of PRI or NPR. You have to create it before the fact, not after the fact. And again, I would call for a task force, and a halt on deciding who our voting membership is, until we begin to figure out how we are going to become a diverse representative body, through means like a supermajority, cumulative voting, or proportional representation. We are not there yet. And it is precipitous, and it is biased to take this group as the leadership in making this determination, and that is the fundamental point of disagreement here.
Female Listener: Do we have the time to do this?
Mimi: I think we have time. People can begin tonight and, by next week, come up with talking points about how we are going to make this approach real for our station, to be much more legitimate than the sham that currently operates at KPFA.
Paul: My concept of a nominations committee is similar to Mimi's ideas. My idea is that nomination committees will go out into the communities to seek out candidates. You [Mimi] are talking about seeking out people to become voters, but a nominations committee would be focused on seeking out candidates, so that these constituencies could become members of the LAB ultimately, through elections. I think these candidates would have to have demonstrated a committment to the struggle to retake Pacifica, and they would be listeners. How many social activists are there in New York City who are not listeners?
Listener (Patty Heffley, interrupting): A whole bunch!
Listener (Mike Beasley): I'm losing something here. First, if we want to reach out to people, what are we going to reach out with, and second, what do we expect to get back from them? Just a vote? Because the KPFA model, the problem was that they reached out to a subscriber base, and the people said "we don't wanna vote!" Twice. They had no interest in voting. Nobody went out to them in the first place and asked them if they wanted to vote on these things. So I'm mixed up here. I have a question. What is the responsibilities of this membership that we are reaching out for? First, what are they going to do in return for their membership? Are they going to be a suffering poor, bow-legged, brokenhearted person, or are they going to contribute to the airwaves, to the programming, to the expression of the station?
Paul: I am talking about recruiting candidates to run for the lab
Mike Beasley: Let's talk about the voters before we talk about the candidates.
Listener: We have here one central disagreement here. The question is whether we would include voters who are not listeners or members or subscribers. If we resolve just that one point, we can perhaps move forward.
Listener (Anthony): We can't come to a decision tonight about how to be more inclusive. Let's work on this. It seemed to me that there was a sharp difference between the proposals that talked about listener-subscribers and the constituency model. The difference wasn't so much in the functioning, as in the premise that underlies these two models. Can we agree to talk about Mimi's idea of a task force between now and the next meeting?
[Scattered "no"s from the audience.]
Listener (Anthony): Okay, since we can't do that, I am forced to make the comment that the people in this room still, as a group, don't seem to get it. I am not trying to insult folk; it is based on concrete statements. What I have heard tonight is that it is some "other" that we are trying to bring in, and that is absolutely not what, politically, I am trying to do. The people that wish to [unintelligible] are not an other. They are not a third party. They are, in fact, the people that on a day-to-day basis some of us engage in our activity, in our work, as we struggle for self-determination, as we struggle for better rights on a whole host of issues. It is not something that's comforting for people in this room, who are saying, "at least I know if everybody I know in this room, and those who I think are the listener-subscribers, can make a decision to vote, then I will be comfortable with who they pick." What we are saying is, you have to go beyond who you already know, who you visualize when you think of a listener-subscriber. I don't have the answer, but we have to ask this question. I'm asking that we don't misunderstand the contradictions that we are discussing right now. I want to actually get some people to move on the question of representation and find practical ways to translate a notion that we are not inclusive (not on purpose, not by choice, but structurally because this is the system that we live in). I am asking for you to break on the rather narrow approaches that we have envisioned to this point, to at least make some practical translation of this question of constituent groups and how that could actually be manifested in some practical way (scattered applause).
Listener (Carolyn Birden): I think the LAB and Bylaws Committee needs to make a stand here. If a Task Force is created, I would like this group to decide tonight that we will not sign people up as members. I am getting very concerned about who is becoming a member. Are we just going out and signing up anybody who's interested as a member? We have a rpoblem in terms of a Task Force. Are we signing up people willy-nilly, or are we finding listeners and recruiting them? I know it's a fine line, but we've got to make the distinction.
Ray Laforest: This was a position from Mimi, and maybe this is why it didn't move. Maybe the climate is not right here tonight, but it is a very valid issue worth discussing. Mitch?
Listener (Mitchell Cohen): There was a sort of a motion or idea put out, that the question for the week should be, should we only have listeners voting, or should it reach out beyond listeners? Why don't we designate this as the question for the week at WBAI? So, for example, Bernard White could put it on his show (hopefully he would want to put this on his show) and have a call-in time devoted to the question. He could say "Call in and tell me how you would vote on this question. We want you involved, on this question. We want you to leave your names" and build up a constituency around that. We could have the other stations make this the question of the week also. We could do this every week with a different question that the board is going to address. So we build up a constituency from among the interested listeners in a more formal way, rather than this ad hoc way that we have been doing it, and it pulls people in.
Mimi: Can I say that, given the time, which is just about to end, people who are interested, on an ad hoc basis, in working on a task force, fleshing out more the issues of quality representation, as determined by the groups who are not, again, outsiders, but who are listeners and are the communities we reach-- could we meet in the back and we will try to proceed and try to flesh this out?
Listener: I agree with Mimi. This group needs to be a more representative group before voting on anything. This needs to be a first order of business. We should lose no time in moving on that. If people are worried about the purview of this task force, whether it assumes some sort of power, they should come to that and make sure that it stays within whatever--
Ray Laforest: We are here tonight to discuss who can vote. But in spite of what it looks like, the theme tonight was not chosen by imperial decision, but by a fairly large group who felt that this is what we should discuss.
Listener: There is a very strong feeling here tonight that no one should be deprived of a benefit because he's too poor to pay for it. There's a mistake here. The benefit of the station is what goes out on the air, not the ability to vote for it. The voting is what gets you the benefit. Anyone in the community can listen to the God damn station for free. It doesn't mean they should vote. This is confusion. THey are not being deprived of anything. If they listen to the staion and dont like what they hear, then they can come to a meeting of COncerned Friends, of Bylaws COmmittee, make their thoughts known, and they will be a listener, they will get a vote. We should not pre-judge them as being eligible to vote withoutthem coming forward at least. So as long as they can listen for free, I'm not worried about what depriving them or what Mimi called a "poll tax." There is no poll tax to listen to the radio. Don't be confused.
Ray Laforest: Our next meeting is on April 23. Questions and comments can be
sent to the bylaws listserv.
top of page | bylaws revisions process info page | governance proposals | bylaws etc | home