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How radical is Pacifica bylaws draft B?

From: neil maclean
Date: Thu Aug 22, 2002 4:55 pm
Subject: Are 90 members too many?

Many people's first response to the by-laws plan that calls for ninety participants [ draft B ] is that ninety is too many. One of the tragedies of life in the US is how little chance we have to experience democracy: the mainstream is so hierarchical and the left controls so little. We tend to think of Pacifica in terms that are familiar to us, as if a structure appropriate to a neighborhood food coop, run by a few people who know each other, could work for a nationwide network with many hundreds of staff, hundreds more organizations depending on us, and hundreds of thousands of listeners supporting us. I'll wager that Pacifica is the most complicated institution any of us have experience with, much less an effective chance to consider how it should be governed. So we really need to think creatively about what is appropriate and not rely on smaller models that don't fit.

I have been lucky enough to experience one large democratic institution in my life, the Hoedad's Reforestation Cooperative. Hoedads included three hundred workers organized into twenty-five work crews that elected representatives to governing and bidding councils. These councils met weekly. The crews were spread out from central Montana to Alaska to Northern California. The crew governing and bidding representatives commuted back to Eugene, Oregon, at least twice a month. The business grossed three million dollars a year. The entire membership held three day general assemblies three times a year. This structure grew up in response to the democratic demands of the coop members. The General Assemblies were often attended by two thirds of the membership: two hundred people. Over many years, thousands of people learned to use parliamentary procedure, to understand the concept of delegation, to attend to budgets, and to reward service to the group.

The coop became the backbone of Eugene Oregon's alternative community, philanthropically and democratically. We funded the community's non-profit building, we helped start over thirty independent forestry coops, founded a forestry association that helped to ban herbicides and challenge clear-cut policies. Hoedads became the main theorists and activists who organized challenges to corporate domination in Oregon through funding and staffing municipal power campaigns, worker buy-outs of closing mills, and campaigns for governor on a platform of citizen initiatives that proposed to create a cooperative commonwealth with a state bank and insurance company.

On the other hand, Hoedads could have been run by a centralized board of fifteen people efficiently and economically making business decisions. If its founders had decided to hold power centrally, to model the organization along corporate lines, none of this movement building would have occurred. Hoedads would probably have broken up into several smaller units.

The small model, plan A, seems less risky, more normal. But that's because normal for the left is small. We've never had the chance to build a structure appropriate to the Pacifica network before. The task asks us to think large, to call on our deeper understanding, to admit the innate failure of the cobbled together structure we've inherited.

Neil MacLean


From: Patty Heffley
Date: Thu Aug 22, 2002 10:41 pm
Subject: Re: Bylaws Are 90 members too many?

the amount of directors 90, is deceiving. it is really no different than it is now with the labs meeting as labs. now they would be committees with power instead, still meeting monthly doing the work at the local stations.

the national committee of 15 could come together like the old nationa board meeting once or twice a year and the rest of the work could be done by videoconference, teleconference and technology like irc chat.

the money saved by not having them 3 or 4 times a year could be used to meet the once a year or the committees meeting or anything like that.

a convention once a year could be really fun and people could meet each other and see the network as a whole. it would also keep the people to come face to face once a year.

right now there are probably at least 90 lab members and 15 board members. and there is little communication between everyone and so it is easier for a station to run amok. the stations are autonomous because there is no oversight to them. the power is in the paid staff and management or the people that make up the clique and no one shall pass. this cultural thing would change with the empowered boards and in a few years the network might be healthier and more open.

it must be scary to everyone whose life revolves around the stations as they are, to think of moving aside. myself, a listener, never insider (actually despised by those in control) can hardly remember what i used to do before this. nevertheless this kind of posession can't go on forever. it is unhealthy.


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