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Minutes of the WBAI bylaws revision subcommittee

MINUTES Of the eighth public meeting of the WBAI area subcommittee of the Bylaws Revision Committee.
Held at DC 1707, on Varick Street in Manhattan, on May 21.
by Thomas R. Gregg, notetaker
[Please note: This is not a verbatim account. Please do not quote it as if you were quoting people's exact words. Speakers are indicated by the name or description of the speaker and a colon. Also note that there is a small group of people who attends nearly all these meetings and these people tend to speak the most.]

PNB- Pacifica National Board
iPNB- interim Pacifica National Board
LAB- Local Advisory Board
LGB- Local Governing Board
SB- Station Board
SGB- Station Governing Board
[Note that LAB, LGB, SGB, and SB are parallel.]
GM- General Manager of the station
CPB- Corporation for Public Broadcasting
ED-- Exeutive Director of the Pacifica Foundation


IN ATTENDANCE: Ray Laforest and Janice K. Bryant, members of the interim Pacifica National Board, who are the chairs of this subcommittee; Lee Kronick, Andy Norris, and Anthony McCall, LAB members. Approximately 30-40 people were in attendance.


MEETING IS CALLED TO ORDER. A page was handed out with the following information:

1) Welcome, introductions. (10 min)
2) Presentation of proposed bylaws ideas by Steve Brown
3) Presentation by Roger Manning
4) Presentation by Jim Dingeman
5) Presentation by Anthony Mackall


FIRST AGENDA ITEM: Welcome, introductions.


SECOND AGENDA ITEM: Steve Brown's presentation.

Steve: I have several proposals to take straw polls on. The first one is:

1) "Each local station board shall 'own' the last 5 minutes of each program." The reason is that it is difficult to get announcements played on the air. This bylaw would allow the station board's announcements to be played every hour. The Station Boards would not be required to use this time, but they would have access to it when they needed it.

Two listeners expressed the opinion that if the Station Board used the 5 minutes, it would disrupt the programming, and this would run counter to the idea that WBAI is supposed to be "good radio".

Janice K. Bryant expressed the opinion that anytime someone wants to get an announcement on the air, they get it on the air, and the perception that people are being "locked out" is totally incorrect.

Steve said that if this were in the bylaws, any "hijacked" National Board would be forced to give air time to the Station Boards. In response to this, Janice K. Bryant expressed the opinion that the Pacifica hijackers of 2001 would have disregarded this type of bylaw; therefore, this bylaw will not prevent any future hijackers from doing whatever they want to. Steve countered by saying that the filing of the lawsuits against the hijacked National Board (which resulted in the settlement that got rid of most of the hijackers) was only possible because the hijackers violated the old Pacifica bylaws.

A straw poll was taken. 15 in favor, 8 opposed, 2 abstentions.

2. "The National Board shall have the option of using 15 minutes of each day at each station." Straw poll results: 14 in favor, 9 opposed, 2 abstentions.

3. "Salaries and job-duties of everyone in the Pacifica Foundation shall be publicly posted." This bylaw is necessary because one of the matches that set off the Christmas Coup was the personal feuds between people who felt that they had been unfairly denied a chance to get certain positions. And also there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the way that it is decided who is paid and who is not paid. We should have the right to see all the jobs that are offered, all salaries involved, and what the duties are, and this should be posted on the website of every station and the website of the national board.

Janice K. Bryant: Steve, I have to correct you, because I know more about this issue than you do. There were outside forces that were working towards the Coup. They took advantage of the internal disagreements among the people at the station. The salaries were not the reason for the coup. No. It was [pause] something that opportunists took advantage of. That is the nicest way that I can put it. And a lot of the "unrest" at the station is probably due to jealousy and the internal things that people have when they are at work.

Listener: I agree with Janice that jealousy plays a part in what goes on at the station. Steve's bylaw suggestion seems to be a good idea, if it is legally possible. But we cannot forget another issue: the fifteen hundred dollars to this person, the two thousand to that person, etc., that goes on and went on all the time, for years, and people getting preference over other people, just because of the way people act, the way human beings are. We are not talking about formal salary structure here, we are talking about $1500 to somebody to write a 4-page letter. We are talking about another couple thousand dollars to somebody so that person will raise money on the air. It is pure favoritism. There is no posting of the competition for a job like that.

Listener: Steve has already mentioned that consultant fees would be an item in the budget which would be subject to transparency.

Ray LaForest: I think it is more important to have something in the bylaws saying that people's salaries can't be raised or changed without a formal process.

Listener: I really think that consultant fees have to be put in the wording of this bylaw proposal, because over the past ten years, thousands of dollars were spent during national board retreats, Giovannini and all the rest of these guys. We have no idea of how much money was actually spent, and it was always covered in the budgets.

Steve Brown: My intention is that we should know all about all the money being paid to everyone, and for what purpose that money is being spent.

Straw poll results: 19 in favor, 9 opposed, 6 abstentions.

4. "Pacifica shall not accept donations from governemnt agencies, public entities, corporations, foundations, or isntitutions, unless agreed upon by 2/3 of the National Board and 3/5 of the Station Boards, and then only after full disclosure and open debate before the listening public."

Listener: I am doing fundraising for Pacifica. I am trying to ask a certain foundation for $100,000. If there were full disclosure and open debate on this proposed contribution, this foundation would certainly not agree to grant the money, because they do not want that kind of publicity for themselves. So please do not include foundations in this bylaws suggestion.

Jim Dingeman: I agree with the previous speaker. We need more foundation money. Amy Goodman gets money from a certain foundation. If this bylaw passed, would she have to stop accepting that money?

Bob Lederer: I agree with the two previous speakers. If we pass this bylaw, it would mean that anyone who wants to make a grant proposal would have to wait until the next National Board meeting to get it approved. that is too long to wait. We need to encourage people to write grant proposals, not discourage them.

Janice K. Bryant: What about matching funds?

Listener: I am against the part in Steve's proposal where it says we should not take government money. The government money is ours, because we are the taxpayers.

Steve Brown: I withdraw this proposal. We will not take a straw poll on it. Bob Lederer's proposal will probably cover this topic better.


THIRD AGENDA ITEM: Roger Manning's proposal for the establishment of a General Meeting Bylaw.

Roger: This proposal has been widely distributed, so I will only briefly cover it. This proposed bylaw formalizes town hall meetings. The intention is to insure, in writing, regular Pacifica listener/staff participation in the preservartion and health of the foundation as well as to promore conenctivity between Pacifica management, staff, station boards and listeners.

Regular General Meetings would also relieve much of the burdern put on local and national board meetings, though those meetings would remain poublic.

What is new in this, the third version of this proposed bylaw, is section B. I have made it so the chair of the Station Board is responsible for scheduling the meetings. And these meetings would happen before the National Board meeting, so the outcome of the meeting can be taken to the National Board meeting. And no binding votes can be taken at these meetings.

Listener: I think this bylaw is unnecessary, because listeners can have meetings on their own. Why do we need a bylaw to allow us to have meetings?

Listener: We don't need a bylaw to allow us to have meetings. Roger has forgotten to mention that his bylaw calls for these General meetings to be announced on the air and broadcast on the air.

Listener: I want to remind everyone that in the past, a union contract mandated that meetings would be held, and the WBAI management did not hold these meetings and thereby violated the union contract. I am talking about the meetings that pertain to the staff. There were literally months that went by while no meetings were held.

Straw poll results: 29 (twenty-nine) in favor, 2 (two) opposed, 4 abstentions.


FOURTH AGENDA ITEM: Jim Dingeman's proposals

1. Program Councils should be elected, not appointed.
2. "Report from the Listeners" on the air every week for at least 2 hours, with a great deal of listener involvement, and no censorship by the station administration.
3. "Free Speech show" every month, where opinions on Pacifica policies can be expressed with no censorship or fear of retaliation.
4. Ombudsman committee, responsible for handling complaints from listeners about the station
5. Independent election commission to run elections, so that the station boards will not supervise their own elections. Purpose: to ensure honest elections, above suspicion of any tampering. The funding should be drawn partially from the budget of the National Board.
6. Every four years there should be a "Convention" where bylaws shgould be considered for revision, deletion, and additions.
7. Every station should have a Folio that includes a ballot. If we were to send out the ballot with the Folio, it would save time and money.
8. We used to own our studios. But through incompetence, this studio space was lost, and now we have to rent studios at a high cost. Each station ought to own property, to insure independence. This would also save money.
9. We need a committment to digitalization.
10. We need to mandate that the stations carry bylaws discussions and discussions of the elections. We need to mandate that the stations must carry these broadcasts, because we are at such a crucial point right now. We need to get many more people involved. We need a dramatic change of how this is being handled.

Listener: We need to talk more about the mission of Pacifica, and we need to scrutinize the bylaws proposals to see if they really help to advance the mission. Also, perhaps the model of "one listener, one vote" is too unwieldy, if we are forced to make all these amendments and rules in order to prevent bad things from happening. Maybe we need to rethink who should be allowed to vote.

Listener: Jim, the problem is that the listeners do not care about this stuff. Before you attempt to advocate for this model, why don't you try to find out whether the listeners want to be involved? Before the listeners can get interested in this stuff, they need to be educated about it.

Listener: We should be careful of how many controls we try to place on Pacifica. It might come back to haunt us. Because the next hijacking might be worse.

Steve Brown: I keep hearing people at this meeting accusing us of wanting to control the radio station. A good analogy is the NY Police Department. The NYPD says to the public, "leave us alone and let us do our job. What do you people know about good policing?" And then they commit police brutality. And I am hearing people at this meeting say "what do you people know about good radio? You just want to control us." And I hear the police department saying the same thing. This is wrong. We listeners deserve to have a voice in the governance of Pacifica.

Listener: When you empower someone, you are restricting someone else. When you restrict someone, you are empowering someone else. So just remember that.

Listener: The greatest achievement of WBAI is that Amy Goodman is in East Timor right now; a new nation is being born. And if we had had a democratically elected programming council, this would not have happened, because most people don't care about East Timor.

Listener: If we elect the Programming council, it adds another elected body to the mix. If we have too many elected bodies, they will be in conflict with each other. It sounds like a lot of people at this meeting have an agenda and they want to control the programming, and not let the programmers do their job. You will have checkmated them. You can't have a committee on every doggone thing.

Jim Dingeman: I am not trying to over-bureaucratize the station. I just want to prevent the kind of abuse of power we saw in the past. I want the airwaves to be open to dissidents who see abuses of power at Pacifica. This will help to make Pacifica a better network.

Mimi Rosenberg: First, we are in the process of forming unions at the station, and that is as important as anything that is going on in this meeting. Secondly, I want to say that sometimes the minimalist approach is the best, when drawing up a contract. You need to specify the intent, but sometimes it is harmful to try to specify all the details. Third, you need to think about the workers at the station.

Listener: There are lots of day-to-day, moment-to-moment things that need to be done at the station, where nobody sees you, where nobody knows that you are doing it. What we are doing now, in this meeting, is, in many ways, counterproductive. The presumption that someone enunciated earlier, that if someone is not here, he is not interested, is not true. There are many people who are very interested but who are not at this particular meeting, but are contributing to WBAI in other ways. The same people come to these meetings and the same people say the same things, and there's a way in which people get "turned off." And that needs to be talked about, as a part of human dynamics. You turn people off. You turn people off because you know the history of certain groups and certain people and the things that they say, and we read these. We're turned off by that. We ought to find a way to participate, without it being turned into a control and power issue, and instead, speak to the day-to-day, invisible tasks that need to take place in the station. Control and minutiae kinds of bylaws is not the way. And there is a tendency in this room by some people to be very opinionated and polarized. And people need to stop speaking behind people's backs. There are two things going on: 1) people are being disrespectful and 2) people are assuming that what they think or know is superior to someone else's experience. That is really offensive. I don't know if you are using this as a strategy to try to turn people off and discourage them from coming to these meetings, but if you are, it is working. People don't like to be put down. People like to feel that they are a part of something. If you make it inhospitable, then this is the kind of participation that you will get. And if this is what you want, it may appear that you are winning. But I am telling you, there are many more listeners who are very concerned about the station, who are going to fight for that station, that you don't see and that you don't know. And from the way I see it, I'm not sure if you want to know.

Listener: We must have, in the bylaws, a prohibition of any gag rule in the bylaws (a gag rule regarding Foundation and network business.) And we must have a recall provision in the bylaws. And we have to have staggered elections. These are the important things. Some people at this meeting tonight have advocated things like a General Meeting Bylaw. We could do that, as a community, on our own. We don't need that in the bylaws.


FIFTH AGENDA ITEM: Anthony Mackall's presentation of the position of the "Community for Progressive Radio (CPR)"

Anthony Mackall:

We see the constituency model as holding true for both the national and local levels.

I Definitions. "Constituencies" are groups, or communities, consistent with the people mentioned in the Pacifica Mission. Oppressed people. Underrepresented people. People under attack. African, Asian, Latino, Native, Arab, Muslim. "Constituent representation." We look at the elements of the WBAI audience, and how they match up with the constituent groupings that I have just talked about: communities of color, people under attack, underrepresented. There would be people who are voted in by those groups to represent their interests, as well as representing those things that are the interests of us all. We believe that we should actually help the empowerment, that is, the decision-making and policy-making ability of those groups who are typically oppressed and underrepresented. Also, WBAI and APcifica should "practice what it preaches". If we propose certain remedies for societal injustice, then we should be prepared to practice it within our own organization.

The composition of the Pacifica struggle has been mostly white, with a significant component of people of color. But we seek a representation that is much more representative of the population, not just the activists who are participating. This is a stand on principle. Please reconsider your lack of interest in this proposal.

There are two models. One is geographical, because oppressed communities exist within certain neighborhoods in the WBAI listening area. The other model is different. It maintains the context of oppressed communities. However, the representation would be signal-area-wide rather than geographical. There are 10 categories and 19 groupings in our proposal.

1. Oppressed communities
 a. African
 b. Asian
 c. Latino
 d. Native/Indigenous
 e. Immigrant (esp. Arab and Muslim)
2. Staff
 a. paid
 b. unpaid
3. Rank-and-file labor
4. Youth
5. Women
6. Artists
7. Disabled
8. Imprisoned
9. Lesbian, gay, transgender
10. Signal area listeners
 a. NYC
 b. New Jersey
 c. Long Island
 d. Upstate/Connecticut
 e. At-large (Fiscal, legal, technical, development, organizational)

There would be 1 or 2 representatives per category.

We are not sure how these representatives would be elected. We have several models. The basic idea is that every person would only be able to vote as a member of one constituency.

There are two critical aspects of pre-election outreach: People organized around WBAI, and community-based organizations. There could be town-hall meetings, before the election, at which groups would be solicited to participate in the elections process. For example, there could be cooperative meetings in Washington Heights with the full participation of community groups. And there is a benefit to having a full-time organizer involved, like in the Pacifica Campaign. And there should be regularly scheduled publicity-- meetings would be announced well in advance.

If we support such a mission, we would see a large change in the composition of the electorate as well as the nature of the representation.

The next steps are as follows: CPR intends to do outreach with community leaders. We think the people of these communities have the answers of how they would participate and what the burning issues are. We hope to organize the involvement of the communitiies. We also want to get our Task Force suported and we want to collaborate with the Bylaws Committee. We would also like to get support for discussion with the national office and iPNB. Now I will take questions and comments.

Listener: Proportional voting could handle all these concerns.

Listener: Proportional-choice voting cannot be more diverse than the field of candidates who are running. So in itself, it is not the solution.

Listener: I ask everybody here to listen to Anthony's model and pay attention. I know that some of you have visions that may not include a lot of these folks in the constituency groups, but unless we include these folks, we will lose the real WBAI.

Listener: I have been listening to these things that Patty and others have said. Those postures are reflective of why a constituency model is required. See, there's an assumption, when people have this arrogant posture that they have this inherent right to something. They miss the point. They need to look at the mission statement. In fact, the mission statement of Pacifica would negate 90% of this room. The mission statement was geared toward the oppressed, powerless, minorities. This sniveling, contemptuous posture that suggests that I'm right and you're wrong, and to Hell with you-- that needs to be addressed! Because it is pervasive among progressives and leftists and activists. And these things, the same way half of this group here wants to mandate how to control and ensure that the democratic process no longer is the democratic process, because that's what you do. You become what you say you are fightting against. These things have to be dealt with. And when you really, seriously mean it, what you actually are talking about is power-sharing. You're talking about giving up some of your inherent power for people who normally may not have access to it. And the problem is that most people are not willing to give up any of their power...People say that you have to listen to WBAI or you have to give some money in order to be represented. But the truth of the matter is, we're helping people who may not even know that BAI exists. And if we don't deal with it from that perspective, then we're talking shit. Excuse my language. Those people in East Timor are not BAI listeners. But the work of WBAI ended up helping them in a big way. Earlier a gentleman said [omitted from minutes] that if a little green man came from Mars and wanted to vote in the elections, then we shouldn't let him. But I reply that if this little green man is oppressed, then that is exactly who we should be serving. You don't have to have a prerequisite that that little green man listen to WBAI. The people of the community have to be represented on the governing boards. The old kind of thinking has kept this movement a bourgeois, white-guy movement, which is what keeps the people of color away from it, because when they come in, they have to deal with attitudes and mentalities like that, so they don't want to come. You purport to be fair and just and to want to do the right thing. I don't care what the people purport to do, until they say "we want to do the right thing". And once you do that, you open up the arena to doing other things that may be a nasty taste in your mouth.

Jim Dingeman: I dont know if an Arbitron or Audiographic has been taken of the station listenership lately, and of course they may not be accurate, but in the past, if I recall, 45 to 50% of the listeners were African-American, 10-15% was Latino, small numbers of Asians, and 35-40% whites. Who decides which groups are right and which groups are wrong? What about the 15,000 people who actually pay, or the 5,000 who are hardcore contributors? Or the 175,000 listeners? The problem with your proposal, Anthony, is that I could have heard Pat Scott say exactly the same thing as you are saying 6 or 7 years ago, and then look what she did later. These kinds of things have to be debated on the air fully, so lots of people get exposed and understand these issues. Scott and the National Board used this kind of argument to empower themselves and push through their strategy.

Anthony: The reason that we came to the Bylaws subcommittee is that this is the center of gravity in this struggle now. In the future, it may not continue to be the center of gravity, if other groups become more active .

We have made a political decision that members of oppressed groups can best represent the targeted groups. Their right and capacity to make decisions is best translated by representatives that they vote for in the first place.

White male listener: I want to do the right thing, but I oppose the constituency model. The constituency model runs the risk that I don't think we should take. It runs the risk that the radio station will not be controlled or responsi-- no, I don't want the word "controlled"--

Laughter and voices from audience: Yes you do, yes you do, tell it like it is.

Listener continues: I do not want the radio station controlled by a small group of listeners who self-select. I believe that democracy is crucial.

Listener: Let's say there is a person who is black, disabled, and lesbian. Does that person get to vote as a member of 3 constituency groups?

Anthony: There would be collaboration.

Anthony: With respect to the question of, "would only white peoiple vote for white people?" All of you in the room could probably answer that, because there was no category in our model for white people. I don't know whether there would be any white people as candidates. I don't presume that there would be whites in the Asian constituency...

Listener: Would only women elect women?

Anthony: Yes.

Listener: I don't feel comfortable with that model, because although the intention is to ensure diversity, I think 1) it would be hard to work out a good electoral system that would prevent people from voting however many times they wanted to; 2) I fear that rather than bringing us together to discuss the issues, we would be divided by our identities, and we would talk too much about filling appropriate slots 3) Who chooses the organizations? The League of Women Voters is a women's organization, but it is very mainstream, so we would never choose them to be our representatives for the womens' constituency. Who can decide this? 4) who sets up the meetings in these different communtities? So for a station governing board, the constituency model is not appropriate, but in terms of a programming council, this constituency model makes a lot of sense.

Listener: 1) The people inside the station like things the way they are, and don't want anyone interfering. The people outside the station want a little bit of checks and balances and something to say. That's the power struggle that I am seeing. 2) In the constituency model, the people selecting the candidates are self-selected. Unelected, unaccountable, self-selecting people are going to choose the groups that are going to be, all of a sudden, running our network. So it's no different than the way it was before. And there are many Asian subgroups. How do you decide which ethnic group is representative of all Asians? It is the same for all the arbitrary groupings you have made. It is unworkable. How many kinds of women are there? How many gay groups, how many youth groups are there? I'll tell you what would happen. These conflicts would be resolved very simply and autocratically, by some unelected person in charge, making a decision about who would be the representative.

Anthony: Some people have suggested that the constituency model is somewhat flawed if a Latino representative that doesn't come from their neighborhood represents all Latinos in the listening area. We are not trying to oversimplify the complexity of any community. But they are better represented by a person from any one subgroup of that constituency, because that person will understand the complexities and nuances of the situation. And please, this is a difficult process. We do not have all the details worked out, but we can resolve these issues.

Bob Lederer: I am handing out my proposal now, for discussion next week.


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