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Minutes of the 6th Meeting of the WBAI Bylaws Revision Subcommittee

Minutes of the 6th Meeting of the WBAI Bylaws Revision Subcommittee
Held in Manhattan, at 75 Varick Street, New York, NY 10013
May 9, 2002
by James Ross, notetaker.


A. Schedule announcements
B. Powers and functions of the LAB, led by Donna Gould
C. The need for airtime for governance (not on the listed agenda, but this is what happened)

We had about 45-50 people in attendance. In attendance were Janice K. Bryant, Ray LaForest, Marian Bornstein (LAB member), Andrew Norris (LABmember) and Lee Kronick (LAB member).


A. Announcements:

Janice K. Bryant presented a timeline for the next few weeks. This had been discussed by Ray, Janice, and Leslie Cagan:

5/14: Role of the National Board and relationship to local board
5/21: Executive Director (amended to: Executive Director and elections)
5/25 or so: get a group to write a draft
5/28: A draft of our work so far will be presented
5/31: First draft is due

Listener: What about a Saturday session?

Ray Laforest: We haven't discussed it officially, but it makes sense.

Ray: 1707 will not be available on 5/14.

Tom Gregg needs a replacement to do minutes!

Listener: How can we fit other presentations into the schedule? Ray answers that tonight's time is scheduled, but perhaps in one of the next meetings.

Listener: When do we talk about elections, in particular issues beyond who votes, which haven't been dealt with yet. Janice amends meeting schedule to include elections on 5/21.


B. Powers and functions of the LAB

Donna Gould ran the main part of the meeting, on the powers and functions of the local board. She consolidated ideas from the WBAI LAB exploratory committee, the By-laws Revision subcommittee (BRC), and the Wonderwheel by-laws and has outlined 27 possbile functions and powers. These are listed on a handout she provided. We actually discuss four:

1) Hire, fire, and supervise/oversee the station manager
2) Hire, fire, and supervise/oversee the program director
3) Amend, adopt, repeal foundation by-laws
4) Develop, approve, and monitor/oversee the station's budget

For each function/power, people made comments, and then a "straw poll" was taken of the attendees. The choices were a) the local board should be solely responsible for said function/power, b) the local board should be responsible along with others, c) the local board should have no part in it, and d) abstain. Participants can only vote once, e.g., one cannot vote solely responsible and partly responsible.

Comments prior to voting were broken into "pro" and "con," which was actually somewhat confusing since there were at least three choices. Some people interpreted "pro" as meaning the board should have sole or shared power, while others interpreted "pro" as meaning the board should have sole power only.

Donna: Some powers would be in Pacifica By-laws, and others in the local board's by-laws.

Listener: It's difficult to vote on these issues without knowing how the local board will be constituted. Donna answers, if you can't vote, abstain.

We discussed the first three before voting on them. Janice kept the list of speakers. Andy Norris kept time. Speakers were allowed one minute.


Speakers on #1: The responsibility to hire, fire, and supervise/oversee the station manager

Listener: As much responsibility for the local board as possible is optimal, as long as it doesn't go into micromanaging. The local board should be solely reponsible for hiring GM. The station manager and Local board should hire program director.

Listener: Local board should not have sole power. National board has to have some power too, in case unforeseen problems arise, e.g. Houston LAB under Ganter.

Listener: Quotes Wonderwheel by-law: station board hires GM, but Executive director can recommend termination of GM, which can be done by 2/3 vote of national board. Local board should appoint station manager in consultation with Executive Director.

Listener: responsibility should be shared, with strong input from national board, listeners

Ray L: Hiring and firing should be done by local board and executive director. Would exclude local board from supervising. Local board should have veto power.

Listener: Local board should fire and hire as they are listener reps, but exec director and national baord should have something to say, as a check. Also, hiring and firing is supervising. But no more supervising beyond that.

Lee Kronic: Title VII makes hiring and firing a "minefield." Cannot be done by by local board, but by a search committee who finds top candidates for executive director. Transparency is difficult.

Janice: Current GM Search committee is similar to Application Review Committees (ARCs), which have existed at WBAI.

Listener: Question for Lee Kronic: How does making process public violate Title VII?

Lee Kronic: It's difficult to make the process public without prejudicing the decision.

Listener: Lab should hire and supervise, but subscribers should have the right of recall.

Listener: suggestion to separate out "supervise" from "hiring and firing," which Donna takes.

Straw poll for Question 1a (hiring and firing GM):
2 vote local board should be solely responsible.
30 Vote local board should be responsible in conjuction with others
0 vote LAB should have no part in it.
7 Abstain

Listener: Need to define "supervise." Local board should oversee, but not supervise in an interfering manner.

Andy Norris: In the past there was an annual evalution by LAB, which can be a form of supervision.

Ray: substitute "oversight" for "supervise."

Straw poll for question 1b: should local board have responsibility of oversight of GM.
1 vote local board should be solely responsible
27 vote local board should be responsible in combination with others
0 vote that the local board have no part in it.
8 Abstain


Speakers for item #2: Hire, oversight, and fire program director (PD):

Listener: Station manager and local board should work together collaboratively in hiring and supervision of PD.

Listener: Local board should not hire PD. GM should. Local board should influence PD indirectly through GM.

Listener: Picking PD should be Local board's responsibility.

Listener: What are duties of PD and GM? Janice answers that GM does administrative running of station, but has nothing to do with programming, which is PD's job.

Listener: Since the main purpose of the station is programming, the local board along with GM should hire and fire the PD. Thus both GM and local board will have indirect influence into programming.

Listener: Now the staff votes for search committee for PD. Perhaps listeners should have input into this committee as well.

Listener: Local board should not be involved in PD hiring and firing. It could set up destructive dynamic between PD and GM. GM should do it. Perhaps other bodies such as program council can provide input into programming from listeners.

Listener: Overseeeing GM and PD would be too much work for local board.

Listener: There should be division between managing and programming station. Perhaps an advisory board (CAB) as mandated by CPB, not the local (governing) board, is the one that should participate search committee for the PD.

Listener: The local board should not hire the PD, but the GM should do it, with the help of a search committee.

Straw Poll on item #2: hiring, firing, oversight of PD
0 vote that Local board should have sole responsibility
20 vote that local board should be responsible with others
11 vote that local board should have no part
5 abstain

Listener: The straw poll may be problematic because some may think the local board should have a role in oversight but not in hiring and firing. Donna declines to separate out hiring, firing, and oversight into three separate votes.


Speakers on Item #3 Adopting, Amending, Repealing Foundation By-laws

Listener: Local board should amend by-laws, because if not, only National board will have that power, and they will only be indirectly responsible to listeners.

Listener: Local board should not be solely responsible, since that could lead to abuse of power.

Listener: The local board should not be solely responsible-need checks and balances.

Listener: Asks for clarification. Donna clarifies, reads from Wonderwheel by-laws, which states that foundation by-laws can be amended by 2/3 vote of "executive members," which includes local board members. National board by itself can only propose.

Listener: Local boards should have sole power, since they are elected by listeners, though he would prefer that listeners have this power.

Listener: Executive members can propose by-laws, but must be ratified by listener members. Also listener-members should be able to propose by-law changes. Ratification could be done by mail.

Donna adds listener-member ratification to the list of choices in straw poll.

Listener: Some parts of by-laws should be almost impossible to change

Listener: Reads from Fred Ngyuen's questionnaire that there is a proposal that by-laws can be changed by 2/3 of national board, with approval of 3/5 of local boards. Also, there is a provision for a listener referendum to cancel by-law changes, which can be initiated by a petition of 10% of the listeners in 3 of 5 signal areas.

Listener: Supports the listener ratification idea.

Straw poll for #3: Amend, adopt, repeal by-laws

There some discussion about the clarity of wording.

0 vote that the local board should be solely responsible
6 vote that the local board should be responsible with others
25 vote that listeners should ratify all by-law changes
0 vote that local board should have no part
3 abstain


Item #4: Develop budget, approve budget, oversee/monitor station expenditures.

Listener: suggests that this one should be broken out into its three individual components. Donna accepts this suggestion.

Nan Goldin explains how budgeting is done now (or in recent past). WBAI uses Zero-based budgeting. The station manager develops the budget, without input from staff (Nan thinks staff should have input). Current guidelines say you can only make budget based on income from previous year. The LAB has not been involved in developing budget. The LAB has monitored station expenditures at one time when the station has been in financial trouble at the request of the national board. The national board is the one who approves the station budget. Everyone wanted the staff to be involved, but it hasn't happened that way. "It was not a rational procedure." The LAB did develop a budget for the station move.

Listener: In recent years one could never get an accurate accounting from the national board of what was being spent.

Speakers on item 4a) developing a budget

Listener: Local board and GM should both be involved in developing a budget.

Listener: Local board are not necessarily have expertise to budget.

Listener: local board should be involved

Listener: GM should develop budget. Also, national finance committee will be involved, because there is a national Pacifica budget.

Listener: Checks and balances would require that local board be involved. Since budget reflects organizational priorities, local baord should be involved.

Listener: Reviewing of budgets should be done at local level.

Listener: Return control of finances to local level. Local board should have responsibility. Also, local board should be involved in political aspects of developing budget, e.g., making a decision to lay off some paid staff to pay form more equipment; in other words, .ocal board should set priorities.

Listener: Should have an expectation that GM and Local board should interact successfully. Both should be involved.

Listener: Developing budget is job of staff and GM. It's an operational issue.

Listener: Question to Nan Goldin: How to reconcile the idea that the GM and staff should develop budget with listener's point that local baord should set priorities. Nan responds that of course there will be interaction. Budgeting for running the station needs to come from staff. Discussion of priorities could go outside staff.

Straw poll for 4a) Developing a budget

1 votes for local board to be solely responsible
19 vote for local board to be responsible with others
17 vote for no part
2 abstain

Speakers on 4b: Approving the budget

Listener: Local board should have the responsibility together with GM

Listener: Local board should exercise its authority in approving the budget

Listener: Local board should not have sole responsibility-how to develop national shows, intiatives. So you need national input.

Listener: Agrees with previous speaker. Need national input.

Mike: Local board should approve the budget.

Listener: GM and executive director will be involved

Listener: The budget must be approved by local board.

Berthold: Need Local board and GM work together, and possibly national office.

Straw poll on #4b: approeing the budget

4 vote local board should be solely responsible.
27 vote local board should be responsible with others.
0 vote local board should have no part.
2 abstain.

Speakers on #4c, should local board be involved in oversight/monitoring budget

Listener: Subscribers need to know that their money is being used as it's supposed to.

Listener: If local board has power to approve it needs to be able monitor.

Listener: Need more than local board to monitor

Listener: Monitoring is part of transparency. Stations are responsible to listeners through station boards.

Listener: Also need is a national accounting system and national finance director.

Listener: Without oversight, the power to approve is useless.

Straw poll on 4c, the power to monitor/oversee budget:

0 vote that local board should have solely responsible
All vote that local board should be responsible with others (about 40?)
0 vote that local board should have no part
0 abstain

Applause for Donna! She suggests that someone organizes next meeting as she did this one.

Ray Laforest reports that software is being used now that allows local stations and national office to be continously up-to-date with each other.

Listener: Who are the "others" listed in Donna's straw polls? Answers are that it could be PNB, staff, independent monitors, exec director, treasurer, etc.


C. Air time for governance and related matters

Listener: Asks attendees to push Bernard to broadcast Pacifica Matters.

Listener: How to get more people to get involved in governance process? Offers to have Larry do a governance perfomance to bring other listeners up to speed.

Listener: Most people won't get into governance. Wants to hear Pacifica Matters before it goes on the air. Main issue for most people is programming.

Ray Laforest: The Dred Scot Keyes community/listener forums have gotten a good response from listeners.

Listener: Pacifica Matters excited a lot of interest from KPFT listeners during and after it's recent broadcast there. There will be another conference call Sunday 5/12.

Listener: Would like to hear Pacifica Matters to hear people from other stations. There needs to be other means for people to give input into governance, besides BRC meetings, e.g. email, phone, etc.

Ray: People can email Carol Spooner.

Listener: What about a treasurer for the local board?

Listener: Pacifica Crisis and democratization is a big story. WBAI should treat it as hot news. (applause) Pacifica Matters is good, but could be edited down.

Listener: Could governance shows be announced in advance?

Listener: Need to make link between governance and threat to stations on air to get more people interested in governance.

Listener: Need more announcements of these meetings. Without more air time we won't get many voters.

Listener: There is strong need for dialog about the Pacifica's mission.

Ray: Next meeting is Tuesday 5/14. 75 Varick will not be available.

Listener: Why can't there be governance radio on the weekends or other times when people can listen.

Listener: Perhaps Democracy Now could deal with governance/history.

Janice: Do people want listerer-run shows as well as producer-run shows on governance?

Listener: Yes. Listeners' perspective is different.

Ray: Favors programming on governance during fund drive. He will explore this idea with Bernard.

Listener: Suggests that at 5/14 meeting we could make concrete suggestions for Ray to take to Bernard.

Listener: Need 5-6 hours/week on governance on air.

Listener: Could easily link fund drive to governance/history programming. It's an obvious connection. People who will give money will likely be interested in other means to help the station survive.

Listener: Schism between listeners and producers is a problem. Need to involve producers. Need to communicate that BRC has consensus that there must be more air time for governance.

Janice: Producers can feel unwelcome at listener functions, based on comments of some listeners

Listener: Let's invite the producers and sell them on the idea of air time for governance, in a friendly manner.

Listener: Producers absence from these meetings, listservs, etc. is one thing that frustrates listeners. More availability on their part would help communication.

Listener: Pacifica Matters is working towards a national simulcast at all five stations.

Listener: Current producers should carry the ball on governance broadcasting. They know their job best.

Ray Laforest: Listeners should contact producers, perhaps by email, and urge them to get involved in the process of making new bylaws. Many producers believe that the crowd at these meetings is hostile to them, so they do not want to come. So we can provide them with speakers and literature, so they do not have to come to the meetings.

Listener: Habte Selassie was taken off the air after he allowed his show to be used for discussion of these matters. We should guarantee that other prodcuers won't be taken off the air for participating.

Ray: Habte would have been taken off anyway. It had nothing to do with that show.

Listener: What about Barbara Nimri Aziz? Why was she told at the last moment that (inaudible)

Listener: I'm from Harlem and I think we really have to get the community more involved. People see this as something that is not a part of them. The producers should be here at this meeting. We need more dialogue between producers and listeners. It's apalling what's happening, and the lack of access about housing on WBAI.

Listener: Community Bulletin Board program at WBAI can be used for short announcements, with two weeks advance notice.

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