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Elections: a few models 11-7-01

[ posted on the message board at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NewPacifica ]

From: impatiens
Date: Wed Nov 7, 2001 12:48 am
Subject: Sure, let's discuss elections

First, does anyone know how the boards of WPKN (Bridgeport, CT) and WFMU (NJ) are elected or selected and how they are structured? Both of these stations started out as being college stations but are now independent. (A particularly lucky thing for WPKN since they were owned by the U of Bridgeport, which was subsequently bought by Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church).

Found the post on various models of director elections by Gregory Wonderwheel interesting. He mentions three specific examples:

First example:
> board of directors of WORT is elected by the "members" who are in
> three classes of working members: "Directors", "Participating"
> Members (volunteers performing at least 5 hours of work in 3
> consecutive months between July 1 and December 31of the year
> preceding the February annual meeting), and "Staff" Members
> (full-time, part-time or temporary paid employees of which there are
> very few). This was done in part with the conscious intent to
> prevent "outsiders" from becoming paying subscribers and taking
> over through an election. The volunteer "participating" members
> elect 5 of themselves to the 9-member board of directors, and they
> also elect 3 of the listener subscribers who, once elected, become
> the "director" members. The paid staff members elect one of
> themselves to the 9 member board of directors.

That's a rather complicated arrangement and I see bunches of dangers inherent in it. Specifically, the category of "volunteers" is a complicated thing in itself. It lumps people doing programs once a week or working in some non-paid but regular fashion in the station with those who may be answering funds at pledge drives. This may not be a bad thing, but then, what happens when people wish to volunteer and their services are refused?

There are people whom one might not want working at an institution even in a minor capacity. When there are no extra "voting rights" attached to volunteer work, the refusal of an institution to use a particular volunteer's offer of labor is not AFAIK a legal issue. I mean, someone might get their feelings hurt, but that's about it. But if you're losing the right to vote in an election in a particular and more empowered class and that is important to you, I see lawsuits cropping up.

(For anyone wondering why anyone would be turned down for even minor volunteer work, the people I'm thinking of are those who are either scary, as in physically threatening or verbally abusive to others or are simply nuts. )

> Another model in multiple classes of membership is used by KDHX.
> There the two classes of membership are the "annual" members who
> are the listeners giving subscriptions and the "associate" members who
> are self-selecting and perpetuating. The board of directors of 14 members
> is elected annually with two-year terms. Of the 7 elected each year, the annual
> members elect 2, the associate members elect 3, and the Board of Directors
> itself elects 2. This structure makes the associate members the most powerful
> anchor or core membership that prevents radical changes while allowing
> listeners to directly elect only a minority of directors.

This model is of course heavily dependent on the trustworthiness of the "associate members". In these contentious times, I doubt any group would be trusted by all to form this core group in Pacifica.

> At the other end of the spectrum, KBOO has a board of directors
> elected directly and entirely by all the listener subscribers. There are
> no intermediaries or separate classes of membership. This is the
> most openly democratic bylaws I have come across.

I'm fond of this model, personally. But I know that some here, like R. Paul, don't trust that this type of system won't be taken over by some outside group with money and willing, unquestioning footsoldiers like the Church of Scientology. And I guess that could be a danger.

However, let me point out that Pacifica has already been taken over without someone having to marshall thousands of bodies and bucks. It was taken over by a very small number of people. So having democracy might not prevent a takeover but it sure as hell will make it more expensive and tedious to execute. And I trust the huddled masses of listeners tons more than the self-selecting boards or in the execrable Dittman model, the chosen few who belong to groups he feels deserve some sort of political equivalent of the Good Housekeeping seal.


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