Some proposed bylaws
Submitted by: Steve Brown WBAI Bylaws Subcommittee
Twelve Additions to the Bylaws Nobody Has Proposed (Yet)
1. Each local station shall “own” the last 5 minutes of every hour.
Explanation: . This would eliminate the frustrating, often humiliating process by which listeners, Local Boards, even Station Managers and Program Directors, are forced to negotiate with (i.e., beg) producers to run important carts or announcements (only to be turned down).
Instead, announcements could be instantly scheduled – not as a”favor,” but “as of right,” and without the need to provide days or weeks of “advance notice”. This would expedite mini-reports to the listeners, as well as carts for demonstrations, public meetings, governance matters, program changes, and community events – not to mention issues of such overwhelming importance (station elections, for example) that need to be repeated on every program, every hour, in order to ensure that virtually no listener will miss them.
2. The National Board shall “own”15-minutes of each day at each station.
Explanation: This 15-minute segment – from 5:45 PM to 6 PM each day – would be used for purposes similar to those described in 1, above.
3. Salaries and job-duties of everyone (everyone!) shall be publicly posted.
Explanation: Yes, privacy is important. But so is transparency – and the prevention of abuse and corruption, which were rampant for many years at both WBAI and the national office.
The listeners who pay the bills are entitled to know where their dollars are going, and to whom they are being paid. The LAB is entitled to know this too – if it ever expects to exercise intelligent budgetary oversight.
Some may ask – Why post everyone’s salary? Why not just the “top” ones – say, over $50,000, as one iPNB member has suggested? That won’t work – Pacifica salaries are so low, that this would exclude virtually everyone, and defeat the purpose of disclosure. Salary-creep, bizarre expense accounts, and featherbed jobs were rife under the old PNB. To prevent their recurrence, we must set up new and intelligent standards of disclosure.
For example, let us say the national office were to list 5 “assistants” at $30,000 each. I would feel much better if I knew – not just their titles – but their names, and exactly what they were (supposed to be) doing. For as bureaucracies grow – indeed, as Pacifica’s national office under Pat Scott and Bessie Wash grew like The Thing From Outer Space – “assistants” tend to multiply, often becoming no more than glorified gofers, car-parkers, and “personal shoppers” for their bosses. Or, worse, their sons, daughters, and brothers-in law.
For a good (or bad) example, check out the NYC Housing Dept. scandal now coming to light. It seems that the incompetent son of Ray Harding, the NY Liberal Party boss, was plunked into a cushy $180,000-a-year sinecure in return for daddy’s support in Giuliani’s election campaign. He then proceeded not only to pad the payroll with his sleep-all-day buddies, but also to shower them – and himself – with luxury sports cars for their own personal use, all-expenses-paid vacation trips to Europe, lavish “department” parties at local strip clubs, etc. – all paid for by taxpayers, out of the department budget. This was possible in large part because no specific breakdowns were required, and no public oversight was in place. Could this happen (again) at Pacifica? Why wait to find out – when we can prevent it in advance?
As for an employee’s right to privacy – that cuts more than one way.
I suppose if I were a man making $40,000 a year – doing at the same job for which the woman sitting next to me was only being paid $30,000 – I would not want this information publicly posted. But the woman certainly would want it posted. So would all the listeners who believe in "equal pay for equal work".
After all, it is no secret that, before the “coup”, WBAI was rife with crony-ism, favoritism, and the awarding of the best jobs, highest salaries, and most coveted air-time to friends of the “in-group”. That situation hasn’t changed. But it must – and the public posting of duties, responsibilities, and salaries – for all staff members, all programmers, all producers – will help end it. And help restore the listeners’ and the staff’s faith in Pacifica as a fair and just employer.
Which brings up a related issue.
Do you know the difference between “paid” and “unpaid” programmers – other than, of course, the fact that one gets paid and the other doesn’t?
I mean, how come WBAI paid Earl Caldwell for hosting his show, but not, say, Mike Feder or Bob Fass for hosting theirs? Or how come WBAI paid Bernard White as the host of Wake-Up Call, but not Fred Hershkowitz as the host of Home Fries, or Janet Coleman for hosting Cat Radio, or Gary Null, or Bob Lederer, or R. Paul Martin, or Max Schmeid?
How much was Utrice Leid paid to host Talk-Back? Does Hugh Hamilton get paid to host it now? If so, how much?
And what about Gary Bird? Bernard White (surprise!) has evidently just awarded him a huge chunk of the WBAI programming schedule, without the slightest notice or discussion with anyone – in fact, without even having the courtesy to notify the programmers Bird would be throwing off the air. (They had to read about it in the newspapers – maybe Bernard should have delivered the news to them by telegram at 8 AM in the morning, the way Utrice let him know that he had just been thrown off the air during the Christmas coup. Plus que &ccedi;a change ...) Is Bird being paid? If so, how much? Did Bernard sign a contract with him? Nobody has any idea, not even the LAB. And if we ever decide to cancel Bird, will we suddenly be faced with one of those (surprise again!) secret “golden parachutes” like the infamous severance packages, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, lavished on Bessie Wash, Utrice Leid, Garland Ganter, and Mark Schubb?
The foregoing speculations neither judge nor question the value of any of the abovementioned persons (except maybe Wash, Leid, Ganter, and Schubb) – but seek only to raise the issue of how these things are decided. And by whom.
Can you believe that “600-pound gorilla” of jobs and salaries – so vital to every staffer and every listener, and which is seething constantly beneath the surface at all five stations – has so far never been publicly discussed? Or even privately discussed? Why is that?
My daddy and mommy used to tell me I was too young to discuss family finances – but only while I was still a cute little kiddie. Should WBAI and Pacifica management still be treating the listeners as cute little kiddies?
Posting the duties and salaries (or lack thereof) for all Pacifica personnel – local or national, paid or unpaid, staff or management, producer or volunteer – is the first big step towards an adult discussion of finances. (I mean, let’s remember exactly whose finances they are, anyway.)
4. Limiting large and/or corporate donations.
A. Neither the Pacifica Foundation nor the National Board nor any Local Station shall accept donations or support (either in cash or in kind) from any source other than a living individual or his or her estate, except as noted below. Nor shall such donations or support exceed the value of $50,000 from any one source in any one calendar year, unless agreed to by a 2/3 majority of National Board members and a 3/5 majority of Local Station Boards, and then only after full disclosure and open debate before the listening public.
B. Neither the Pacifica Foundation nor the National Board nor any Local Station shall accept donations or support (either in cash or in kind) from any government agency, public entity, corporation, foundation, or institution, unless agreed to by a 2/3 majority of National Board members and a 3/5 majority of Local Station Boards, and then only after full disclosure and open debate before the listening public.
5. Funding (and restricting the funding) of the National Board.
A. The National Board shall not be empowered to approve its own budget. The operating budget of the National Board, including special projects, shall be submitted to the Local Station Boards for approval, which shall require a 3/5 majority vote of all the members of all the Local Boards voting as individuals.
B. The National Board shall not be empowered to fund or raise money for its own budget. The National Board shall be entirely dependant for its budget and operating funds upon a subsidy remitted from each Local Station. How much of the national budget each station should pay shall be based upon a fair assessment of their respective finances, and shall be decided amongst themselves by a 3/5 majority of all the members of each Local Board voting as individuals.
C. The National Board shall not be empowered to hold or dispose of any funds it may have acquired from outside sources. In some cases, the National Board might be required to serve as the legal conduit for certain funding (e.g., from the CPB, or from some foundation or other donor). In such cases, these monies shall not be placed in the National Board’s “general” account (from which it would presumably fund its normal activities) but in a special “distribution” account, which, although in the Pacifica name, would be administered by a group comprising one member from each Local Station Board. The members of this of this group would hold exclusive signatory power and the right to assign those funds based on a 3/5 vote of the Local Station Boards and a 2/3 vote of the National Board.
*Justification: This bylaw is important for being perhaps the best possible way of ensuring that the National Board cannot run away with itself by procuring funding independent of the stations.
6. Local Station Boards shall not be “self-selecting”.
A. This means no “appointed seats”. Listener seats shall be filled only through direct election by the listener-voters. Staff seats shall be filled only through direct election by the staff-voters.
B. Filling vacancies. If a listener or staff seat fall vacant, it shall be filled only by the next-highest vote-getting candidate in the previous listener or staff election.
C. Enlarging the Board. If the Board vote to enlarge itself, the new seats shall be filled only through direct election by the listener- or staff-voters (as the case may be) in the next scheduled election or, if necessary, in a special election called for that purpose.
D. Recalling the Local Board. Any Local Board member or members shall be re-callable by the voters who elected them, and shall be replaced by the next-highest vote-getting candidate(s) in the previous listener or staff elections.
7. The National Board shall not be “self-selecting”.
A. This means no “appointed seats”. Instead, National Board seats shall be filled in two ways:
B. Filling vacancies. If a National Board seat fall vacant, it shall be filled only by the Local Board that selected the original member. If an at-large seat fall vacant, it shall be filled only by the next-highest vote-getting candidate in the previous at-large election.
C. Recalling the National Board. Any Local-Board-selected member or members of the National Board shall be re-callable (and replaceable) by the same Local Board that selected them. Any at-large member of the National Board shall be re-callable by the votes who elected him, and shall be replaced by the next-highest vote-getting candidate in the previous National Board at-large election.
8. Definition of a Pacifica “voter”.
Pacifica voters shall be defined as either “grandfathered” or “new”.
“Grandfathered” voters shall be:
A. Anyone who has paid either the regular or special membership fee of $50 or $25, respectively, to his or her local station during the period from January 1998 to 90 days before the date of the Local Station Board elections; or
B. Anyone who has contributed money to, signed an attendance sheet of, or volunteered time for any of the following organizations during the period from December 22, 2000, to 90 days before the date of the Local Station Board elections: [E.G., Concerned Friends, CDP/NY, The Pacifica Campaign, The Listeners Lawsuit, etc.– a full list should be appended.]; or
C. Anyone who has, by standards to be determined, in any other way supported, served or assisted those fighting to remove the former Pacifica National Board majority during the period from January 1998 to 90 days before the date of the Local Station Board elections.
“New” voters shall be:
Anyone who is not a “grandfathered” voter, and who has scored 80% or higher on the “Pacifica Voter Test,” based on the booklet Pacifica's 50-year History & Statement of Principles (attached to the Pacifica Electoral Ballot). The booklet and ballot will be supplied in any language requested, and to anyone who requests them. However, if applicant is not literate in any written language, he or she may receive the above materials, upon request, on cassette, and may take the Voter Test orally, over the phone.
The ballot for “new” voters will include these choices:
a. [Full payment option] I enclose my completed test and ballot, along with the regular annual Pacifica membership fee of $50.
b. [Reduced Payment option] I enclose my completed test and ballot. But I am a student, or age 65 or older, and therefore enclose only the reduced annual membership of $25
c. [Sweat Equity option] I enclose my completed test and ballot. But I am unemployed or for other reasons cannot afford either the regular or reduced annual Pacifica membership fee; therefore in lieu of monetary payment I agree to volunteer 5 hours of time to Pacifica during the coming year, to be given in one block or distributed over the year, according to my schedule. Activities during those 5 hours might include, but will not necessarily be limited to, such things as answering phones at the radio station during a fund drive, handing out leaflets about the station in my building or neighborhood, addressing envelopes in my home, or other activities to be mutually agreed upon between myself and the station.
d. [Waiver of both payment and sweat equity] I enclose my completed test and ballot. But I am neither financially able to afford the regular or reduced annual membership fee, nor physically able to volunteer any time to Pacifica in lieu of payment; therefore I request that all such requirements be waived in my case.
* Justification for using above method of defining “new” voters. Although it would be ideal to know that every Pacifica voter was also a listener, there is clearly no way to accurately determine who does or does not listen to the station. Nor what it is that they may be listening to. After all, even if someone listens regularly to, say, Armand DeMiele (Wise Healer that he is) or to one of our “feel good” shows (no matter how uplifting) , that person may still not be someone who we can count on to protect and support Pacifica as intensely and as wisely as, say, a listener to Democracy Now!
Therefore we should concentrate on getting voters who understand what Pacifica means, and who will fight for it – even if he or she may not actually be a listener. Heresy, right? But consider -- do you really think Noam Chomsky, Ed Herman, Michael Parenti, Ralph Nader, et al, actually have time to listen to Pacifica? Would you then disqualify them from voting in our local board elections (provided they lived in the signal area)?
Think for a moment about the rationale for automobile driving tests. We don't simply hand over the keys to a valuable and dangerous 4,000-pound piece of machinery without first making the potential driver spend 12 hours in driving school, and then pass a driving test to demonstrate both competence and intelligence in motor vehicle operation. Similarly, those who seek U.S. Citizenship have to go to school and learn about America and its ideals (at least in principle) before we give them citizenship and the right to vote in our elections. Or consider the “Bar Mitzvah Boy”, who is accepted as a full member of the Jewish community at age 13 – but only after taking long courses in Torah and Jewish secular and religious history.
We should require no less for Pacifica voters. If applicants can pass a test based on Pacifica’s history and principles, its struggles and achievements – we know they will be informed and alert. Even if they were part of a right wing fifth column, at least we would have a chance of converting them. (“Gee, before I read your booklet, I thought you were just a gang of fetus-killing, Commie-loving, America-hating creeps .”) As for dishonest people who may try to join without paying, I am confident that few if any who can look at themselves in the mirror will check the no-payment options.
Because no one is excluded (anyone may request a ballot and vote – if he can pass the test), the above way of defining a voter should satisfy almost everyone. No “poll tax” of money or labor would be required – although they would be welcomed and encouraged as always. Yet we would still be confident that each voter had indeed committed himself to learning and mastering the history and principles of Pacifica. What more could we ask?
Note that everyone will have to take the test, even those who pay or volunteer time. Which brings up the next bylaw suggestion.
9. All National and Local Station personnel (paid or unpaid, staff or management) must read Pacifica's 50-year History & Statement of Principles and score 80% or better on the “Pacifica Voter Test” – as a condition of present or future employment.
10. Definition of a Pacifica “member” (not the same as a Pacifica “voter”).
A Pacifica member shall be any member of the Pacifica National Board, and any member of the local station board of one of the five Pacifica stations. [To make every listener subscriber a “member” would render impossibly large the minimum number of registered and consenting member signatures required to institute a lawsuit against the foundation; whereas limiting “membership”, as above, to approximately 115-130 local and national board members means that even in times when “most” of the boards could conceivably be corrupted, it would still be possible to find 5-7 “honest” board members nationally or locally -- i.e. the 5% needed to legally challenge the foundation in court.]
11. Why create a “shadow” LAB?
If we wish to continue to accept CPB funding (at least until we are solvent) we must comply with their regulations by creating a proper LAB.
Therefore, after the voters elect Local Governing Boards (LGBs), the members of each LGB shall then create, and appoint the members of, an entity named “Local Advisory Board” (LAB). The sole purpose of the new LAB would be to comply with any FCC or CPB regulations, as far as we can understand them, so that, if desired, Pacifica can continue to qualify for CPB grants. The new LAB will possess no power or governance functions, but will be limited solely to gathering input from the community on issues of interest and/or concern, which will then be presented, on an advisory basis only, to the management of the station for its consideration.
12. Creating National (and Local) Ombudspersons.
A. The ombudsperson shall the power (like an Inspector General) to investigate any grievance or complaint that could not be handled by local or national management – due to conflict of interest, or insufficient “distance”. Ombudspersons shall not be chosen by or through any of the local governing boards or the national board, but rather through direct election by the listeners – since they may very well find themselves representing the listeners' interests “against” those of the station managements, or their staffs or producers, or the national board and/or its staff.
For example, KPFT’s “Buzzanco affair” might have been better handled by a neutral ombudsperson, instead of being fought out by a series of escalating charges hurled between two opposing camps, each with its own bias and agenda.
B. An ombudsperson might also help when it is charged that the mission is being subverted. It might prove a less costly and disruptive “intermediate” step – before resorting to the painful remedy of recalling a board member, or an entire board. Since mission “perversion” can only be committed by station personnel or by a local governing board – or the national board itself – it is therefore something only the listeners can correct -- by recall, if necessary, but much more easily through an ombudsperson.
Of course, rulings by an ombudsman should, be subject to appeal – by some as yet undetermined procedure, perhaps a Pacifica “Supreme Court”.
Stephen M. Brown
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