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Moving Pacifica national office back to Berkeley

[ posted on the message board at: http://goodlight.net/wbai ]

[retyped by Tracy - pls post lists]
Robbie Osman[KPFA] re Debate re Moving National Office
Sat Sep 21 14:45:26 2002

Some Thoughts on the Debate about Moving Pacifica's National Office
By Robbie Osman

Some of the people who oppose the return of Pacifica's National Office to the Bay Area have presented a barrage of "reasons" that the move should not take place or should be delayed. The quantity of arguments does not make any of them valid. And neither does their turning up the level of bile and insult that has been a sad feature of much of their campaign.

The matter must be weighed on its merits. Below please find responses to all of the arguments that we know of; new ones are added as quickly as the old ones are answered so there may be others by the time this paper is circulated.

The Prohibitive Cost of the Move

Executive Director, Dan Coughlin's research demonstrates that Treasurer Zakiya's cost estimate of returning Pacifica's National Office to the Bay Area is far too high and that moving is not only affordable but offers the Foundation an opportunity to save a lot of money.

Difference in Rent: Washington/Bay Area

The cost of keeping the office in Washington is prohibitive. Rent for the National Office presently is $6,163 per month or $73,956 per year. Rent in Northern California would be free. KPFA listeners purchased a building that can again be made available to house Pacifica's National Office.

If the actual cost of the move turns out to match the lower end of Dan's estimate, the expenses would be compensated for by savings in rent within one year. Every year after that, the Foundation would save $74,000. If Dan's highest estimate turns out to be more accurate, the cost will be repaid by these savings in a little over a year and a half. Either way, Pacifica will save a great deal of money by returning the National Office in the Bay Area.

There are two figures in Dan's report that should be reevaluated. He includes lease buy-out costs for the Northern California office in his assessment of costs of the move. Because the building that was built next door to KPFA to house the National Office is presently being rented to a for-profit business, the rate of taxation has gone up from what it had been when the building housed Pacifica's National Office. If the National Office were to return, the tax rate would be lowered again. The increase amounts to just over $300 per month. If the building were returned to its intended use, the tax savings would very closely match any buy-out expense. In effect, there would be no buy-out expense on the California end.

Dan's cost analysis of moving the National Office back to Northern California arrives at a rent differential of $47,000 in favor of the Bay Area that, if true, would still be considerable. But the practical difference is considerably more. Dan arrives at his figure by subtracting from the $74,000 the foundation pays in rent in Washington, the money that it now receives in rent for the former National Office at KPFA. But that building, if not used to house Pacifica's National Office, ought to be returned to the community that bought it and needs it.

The building that housed the National Office was purchased by KPFA listeners. After the usurper board abandoned the office, they refused to allow KPFA to use the space. They rented it to a commercial corporation, forced KPFA to continue to pay the mortgage and taxes, and kept the rent money for National Office use. After our victory over the old Pacifica leadership, KPFA chose to wait before insisting on an immediate redress of this wrong because we understood that the network was in dire financial straits and we were willing to pay "more than our share." We thought of it as a form of self-taxation. But Pacifica is in better shape today, and the time has come to rectify the unjust situation imposed by Bessie Wash. KPFA needs office space and meeting space. KPFA listeners paid for the building next door to the station on the promise that it would be used to house the National Office. If it is not used for that purpose, the use of the building should be returned.

The Office Should Not be Moved Before Pacifica Buys Several More Radio Stations

It has been argued that Pacifica has not bought a radio station in twenty-five years and that the financial office should not be moved until several stations have been purchased. The fact is that Pacifica has never bought a radio station. And may never buy one.

The Pacifica Board has not discussed the purchase of additional radio stations. It has not decided that such purchases are its goal. It is far from clear that such purchases are possible or even desirable. Pacifica may choose to expand through the affiliate program or through internet broadcasting and distribution. Whatever choices are made about expanding our reach, the move of the National Office is not part of the question. This is just another less than honest roadblock that has been thrown in the way because it is clear that the cost-based arguments for staying in Washington have evaporated in light of researched estimates.

California Schemes to Take Control

We have heard the accusation that California is trying to capture control of the network. This amazes us.

Three of the four lawsuits against the old Pacifica originated in California. As a result, the negotiating team that settled the suits was heavily weighted towards California. Folks who take the claim that California activists are positioning themselves to control the network seriously should take a look at the results agreed to by that heavily California bargaining group. Despite the fact that 56% of Pacifica's subscribers live in California and listen to KPFA or KPFK, four out of five members of the iPNB come from elsewhere. Two out of three of the Foundation's officers, the Chair and the Treasurer, are from the East Coast; so are both the Executive Director and the Deputy Executive Director. At no time in the process of negotiating these arrangements did California activists press to be better represented or complain about regional unbalance. KPFA's staff and activists did not consider KPFA's parochial interests when we agreed to pay the whole bill for Free Speech Radio News, not only throughout the entire struggle, but also during the months between the victory in January and now. And we did not raise regional concerns when the National Office asked us to help with cash flow problems that were occurring elsewhere. We sought no quid pro quo. The truth is, it didn't cross our minds.

We saw it as our responsibility to act in solidarity with others in the struggle, and we believed that those others would do the same. It may be that we were wrong. Be that as it may, those who accuse Californians of plotting to take control of the network should be asked for evidence. The record, it seems to us, indicates otherwise.

Accountant's Reservations/Disruption of Network's Accounting Operations

This seems to be the substantial issue. Ross Wisdom has expressed reservations about possible disruption to the network's ability to make financial decisions that might be caused by a move. Mr. Wisdom's perspective ought to be taken seriously. But his statement should be read carefully and without bias. It is possible to continue with planning and preparation for the move without disregarding Mr. Wisdom's advice.

It should also be admitted that this is a period of transition for Pacifica. We have in the past few months replace four of five station managers. We have fired one Executive Director and hired another. We are rewriting our by-laws. We are changing our programming to meet the demands of Pacifica's social mission. This is a time when we have to do the things that need to be done to heal old wounds, to restructure, revitalize, and reposition the network. None of that will occur without effort. None of that happens without any disruption whatsoever. We need to cooperate and to be honest and understanding with each other if we expect to stabilize the network. The financial office can be moved without undue disruption to its function of the well being of the foundation. There is nothing in Ross Wisdom's statement that says otherwise.

Berkeley as Center of Evil/Washington as the Appropriate Location for the National Office

In a letter circulated on the e-mail lists, Rob Robinson offered an incredible litany of damage that has descended upon the network originating from Northern California. Pat Scott, David Salniker, Lynn Chadwick, and all of the plagues they unleashed on Pacifica are blamed on the Bay Area. Not only are we blamed for our home grown malefactors, Rob holds us responsible for Mary Frances Berry and Bessie Wash (they're from DC) because they were "recruited" by the above-mentioned Berkeleyites. Most incredibly, the Bay Area is blamed for the firing of KPFA's treasured former manager, Nicole Sawaya (because Lynn Chadwick did the deed).

Rob's real adversaries, the actual targets of his attacks, are the very people who threw themselves heart and soul into defending Nicole Sawaya and defeating Scott and Berry and Chadwick. We are not the advocates of their philosophy of leadership. We are the people who first rose in massive numbers to the defense of Pacifica's Mission. On the other hand, all of the Mary Frances Berry/Lynn Chadwick/Bessie Wash holdover Board Members, the very individuals who threatened to sue the iPNB, all support Rob's effort to keep the National Office where their group put it. What's real here?

Although the ideas that became the Healthy Station Project and which are at the heart of the pull towards the NPRization of Pacifica Radio did not originate in the Bay Area, it is true that several of the principle movers who spearheaded the effort to take Pacifica down the wrong track came from here and struck KPFA first. The hijackers moved to centralize power in the network. They used stealth and force and dishonesty to impose their aims on an unwilling listenership. Pat Scott actively and publicly disdained Berkeley's political culture, and she soon moved the center of her effort to hijack Pacifica to an environment where she could find more support for her plans.

It is important to have Pacifcia's National Office someplace "outside the Washington D.C. beltway." My web version of Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary offers this definition for "beltway":

"a highway skirting an urban area - often used to refer specifically to the beltway around Washington D.C., especially as delimiting what is seen as an insular political and social world".

Webster does not have anything against the citizens of Washington D.C. But the dictionary recognizes an important aspect of that city's culture and perspective. Washington can boast the planet's densest concentration of seekers after political power, power watchers, power brokers, corporate lawyers, spies, agents, lobbyists, pundits, military planners, spin doctors, movers, shakers and ambitious wannabes of every imaginable stripe and description. DC is also home to the people who sell all of those other folks groceries and who fix their cars as well as to some of our most brilliant movement activists and advocates but the "inside the beltway" mentality is a real and relevant phenomena, and we should be reluctant to house Pacifica's National Office in its midst.

Washington is a Predominantly African-American City and Berkeley Isn't

But Oakland is. And the San Francisco Bay Area is home to immigrants and citizens of African, Asian, Pacific Island, Native American, South American, Central American, and Caribbean, as well as European descent.

Moving Will Result in Washingtonians Losing Their Jobs

There will never be a better time to move the office. There are three people who will be compensated with severance packages if the move gets back on track now. Because the move had been authorized, temporary staff have been doing some of the work in Washington. If the move is delayed again, other permanent staff may have to be hired and the disruption caused by a move will be greater, the cost to the network will be greater and the difficulty will be greater.

The Argument to Return the Office is Too Emotional

It has been said that our demand that the office be returned is emotional and that it originates from an inappropriate sense of entitlement on the part of Bay Area activists. The demand for the move does not come from the Bay Area alone. At iPNB meetings in New York and Los Angeles, there was an undeniable and overwhelming demand for returning the office to the Bay Area from activists from every signal area.

Still, we cannot deny an emotional component to our desire to return the office.

Solidarity is at its core an emotional commitment. "An injury to one is an injury to all" is a slogan which cannot stake its claim to validity on a Machiavellian calculation of interests and rights. But without solidarity, the powerless will almost certainly remain powerless.

The ten thousand Northern Californians who marched to defend Pacifica's Mission against the plans of the usurpers know that it was that very show of strength which inspired Mary Frances Berry and Lynn Chadwick to pack up the National Office literally in the dead of night and move it to Washington D.C.. The removal of the office was a statement. It was intended to teach us all something about power. It said, "Your unity is useless". In fact, those who hold positions of power can and will punish you for it. It said, "We do not have to be effected by the fact that thousands of Pacifica supporters have shown up at our doorstep - we have the ability to take that doorstep someplace safer." It said, "The officers and board of Pacifica are more powerful than the listeners, no matter how many people you organize." Those of us who were deep in the struggle then (it would be a year and a half before the Christmas Coup woke so many others up) set our hearts to the task of proving that symbolic statement wrong. And we worked to reverse the move which embodied Mary Frances Berry's statement. It is painful to learn that some of our allies will not understand that that commitment has been every bit as close to our hearts as WBAI activists' demand that the fired and banned be returned to the status quo ante was to the hearts of WBAI-based activists. We say that hearts matter too. If you choose to dismiss the validity of the emotional component of the demand that the office be returned, then you will. But you will be rejecting an important aspect of every peoples' struggle of the past and undermining the strength of potential future struggles. Solidarity may be "only" emotional, but it is every bit as necessary as money.

Opponents are Only Asking for a Short Delay

It has been claimed that the opponents of the move do not oppose the move in principle but are only seeking to delay it to a more opportune time. If the move is delayed much longer, it will become harder, much more expensive, and much more disruptive. Some who call for delay know this and actually hope to make the move impossible.

The Financial Office and the General Office Need Not be Together

It has been argued that because in the past the Finance Office and the National Office have been in separate cities they can be separated again. That is probably true. But the question is "should they be?" The fact that we had an inefficient and awkward system in the past doesn't mean that it should always be so. The Foundation's financial staff should be where its executive staff is. It should be easy and natural for the Executive Director to walk over to the desk of one of the Foundation's financial staffers and talk. That's just good business sense.

In Conclusion: Irresponsible Charges, Unsupported Statistics, False Conclusions

Finally, this must be said. The effort to derail the return of Pacifica's National Office to the Bay Area has been accompanied by a barrage of false and reckless charges against hard working board members and activists. Opponents of the move have not hesitated to use innuendo, misinformation, and ad hominem attack to push their agenda. They have intentionally stoked the fires of suspicion and division. They have misrepresented the arguments of the move's proponents and "supported" their own arguments with inaccurate facts and figures. Theirs has been an assault on innocent individuals, but it has also been an assault on Pacifica's institutional culture. Those who lead this diverse and irreplaceable institution have to set a standard for the way it conducts internal discussion. It will be unfortunate if the destructive tactics of those who would derail the move are rewarded. At the very least, careful effort must be exerted to peer through the haze of charges, innuendo, misrepresentation, and misinformation and to act with as much respect for truth and fairness as possible.

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