This document prepared by Mark Sanborne and Mimi Rosenberg, with
input from Bob Lederer seeks to provide a logistical guide to the
accomplishment of and implementation of the model of inclusion or
constituency model. It is a work in progress and its authors welcome
the dialogue it will provoke and your input. Your comments should be
communicated to email@example.com.
IMPLEMENTING A MODEL OF INCLUSION
DEFINING THE MODEL
The model of inclusion, also known as the constituency model, is
designed to broaden and deepen the concept and practice of democracy
in the creation of new governance structures at WBAI and throughout
the Pacifica Radio Network. Those who support the model are motivated
by the conviction that only by mobilizing to include and actively
involve people of color and other oppressed communities in those
structures will Pacifica be able to remain true to its evolving
mission and to protect itself from subversion and attack by its
enemies, both inside and outside the government.
The model aims to expand participation in elections for the local
boards of Pacifica's five stations beyond that envisioned by the
so-called "KPFA model," in which listener-sponsors who contribute
money or volunteer labor, generally during a fund-raising drive vote
for at-large candidates via a system of proportional representation
backed up by certain limited diversity requirements. The inclusion
model would augment that system by embracing anti-racist,
class-conscious, grassroots activist groups from oppressed and
marginalized communities and empower them to choose a designated
number of representatives to the new local station boards.
IDENTIFYING THE COMMUNITIES
It's not difficult to identify those larger communities (as opposed
to various smaller sub-groups) that have borne the brunt of
discrimination and bias-related violence in our society. Here in New
York, a working list of such communities that would be encouraged to
join in the inclusion process falls into two categories. The first is
defined by racism, nationality, ethnicity and/or heritage: African
ancestry, Latino, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Indigenous Peoples.
The second consists of other often-marginalized groups defined by
other life characteristics, orientations, or conditions: women; gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgendered; the disabled; and prisoners.
Other categories are possible, and flexibility should be a hallmark
of the inclusion process. For example, the plight of the immigrant,
Arab and Muslim communities certainly calls out for special attention
in the current atmosphere of wartime repression. In addition, the
number of seats assigned to various categories can be varied to
reflect the individual demographics of Pacifica's signal areas.
The important thing is that board members chosen via this process
will specifically represent, interact with and be answerable to
activist constituents or communities larger than themselves.
Affirmative action and proportional representation are imperative, but
only by allowing oppressed communities the self-determination to
choose their own representatives will the process be truly reflective
of group concerns and issues, both presently and historically, rather
than of any one individual.
If the model is adopted and implemented, the new station boards will
consist of members chosen by the various constituencies, members
chosen in general elections by listeners and subscribers, volunteers,
and members chosen by station staff. Whatever the size of the board
and proportion of seats allotted to the various groups, after the
election process all of the new members will come together to serve on
a unitary board with equal standing and powers. Though the board will
function as a single body, the cross-fertilization that would result
from incorporating the inclusion model with some variant of the KPFA
model could only enhance the democratic nature of Pacifica's new
LISTENERS OR SUBSCRIBERS?
The idea of inclusion must also be extended in the general elections
to listeners for non-constituency seats. The prevailing wisdom seems
to be that voting should be restricted to those who contribute a
certain amount of money or volunteer labor, primarily during the
marathon to the station. A slightly more expansive version would also
allow ballots for people who sign a hardship waiver due to poverty,
disability, imprisonment, etc.
Proponents of this view argue that only by contributing something
materially to the stations does one demonstrate sufficient personal
commitment to Pacifica's mission to be allowed to vote. We would
argue that a reliance on such a monetary and materialist perspective
fails not only philosophically but practically and politically as
THE 10% SOLUTION
The general assumption is that perhaps 10% of the listeners become
paying subscribers. Does that mean they are more committed to
Pacifica than the other 90%, or just that they have more disposable
income? During the coup period at WBAI in 2001, a full two-thirds of
those "committed" subscribers kept paying for their premiums,
effectively supporting the Utricean regime. (Some were unaware of the
issues, some were new listeners, and some were worried about the
station's financial survival.) Nevertheless they ignored the call for
a financial boycott a major tool for driving out the hijackers.
Meanwhile, there were long-time listeners that joined the movement to
save the station even though they had never contributed money (for
whatever reason), but who had already more than demonstrated their
commitment to Pacifica's mission by their lifetime of activist work.
Then there are those people who keep their radios tuned to 99.5 FM
religiously but who don't contribute money or volunteer to come down
and answer phones. These listeners similarly perform a vital service,
indeed the specific purpose for which the station was intended. They
are our life blood and their numbers are registrable. Their radios
serve as recruiting stations, spreading the word to family, friends,
students and coworkers. The listeners assimilate information and
distill it throughout the broader public they interact with, on the
front lines, on the ground . They are ambassadors and help cut the
umbilicall cord for those reliant on the misinformation perpetrated by
the mass media. Our loyal listeners are our strength and without
their attention the network would wither and die. After all it's the
larger pool of listeners, not merely the relatively small number of
financial contributers whose attentiveness provides us with our
vitality. Without the listeners at-large we would wither and die
regardless of the material contributions from a relatively small
percentage of our audience. The listeners are our shield and sword
and their commitment over the years has kept us alive. Every time a
listener demonstrates political activism because they were stimulated
by WBAI they revitalize and protect the station.
THE FOUR QUESTIONS
Any listener who takes the trouble to call or visit the station to
register to vote ahead of time or to request a ballot during the
voting period should be allowed to register and/or receive a ballot.
(Their names would be checked against the subscriber list to prevent
people from receiving more than one ballot.) For those who fear we
would be inundated with stooges dispatched by government agents or
neoliberal Democrats, we propose a simple safeguard. In addition to
giving their name and address, potential voters would have to answer a
few simple questions, either in writing or over the phone:
How long have you been listening to WBAI;
How many hours a week (or day) do you listen and
during what times of the day;
What are your favorite shows and why;
What new shows or perspectives would you like to hear.
Such a survey would weed out all but the most well-briefed stooges; it
would be much easier for our enemies to spend a relatively few
thousand dollars to purchase many hundreds of $25 subscriptions. In
fact, to rule out such an outcome, and in the interest of treating all
voters equally, paid subscribers should be required to fill out the
same survey and return it with their ballot in order for their vote to
count. That would be far more effective than signing a pledge to the
Pacifica Mission, and not coincidentally would also serve as an
extremely useful outreach and market research tool for the station.
THE IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS
Above is a summary of our previous writings on the constituency or
inclusion model that went into greater depth about the history and
rationale behind the concept. Below we offer a more specific outline
on how to actually implement the model, including some possible
variations. It is a work in progress, and further input from and
engagement by the community will be necessary if the model is to
1. Seats on the local board will be elected via three processes:
A. general listeners will vote for general listener's seats;
B. members of designated communities will vote for constituency
C. staff (both paid and unpaid) will vote for staff seats.
An election board (selection process to be determined) will be
convened to solely to facilitate and supervise the election process,
making use of all the resources of the station and its listenership,
2. Two weeks before the opening of the nomination/election process
the station will begin broadcasting, via both live and pre-recorded
announcements, an open call to activist groups in all the designated
communities to begin a dialogue with each other to discuss:
A. who they might want to encourage to nominate themselves;
B. what issues they think would be important for any
candidates to address;
C. the best locations, dates and times to convene large, inclusive
assemblies at geographically diverse locations throughout the
listening area to choose their representatives.
3. The on-air announcements will include a phone number for the
election board, which will serve as a clearinghouse and coordinator
with the different constituencies about their plans for dates, times,
and venues for the meetings, and how the station can facilitate them.
Responsibility for actually convening these assemblies would rest with
community groups themselves, but they would be strongly encouraged to
make the process as collective as possible.
4. On the opening day of the nomination/elections process, a program
(at least one hour) will be aired with the election board to explain
the process. The program will encourage interested and qualified
listeners to nominate themselves to run for either one of the general
seats or the constituency seats, if they are members of one of the
designated communities. It will also announce the times and locations
of the meetings to choose the constituency members, which will be
spread over the following three weeks.
FILLING THE SEATS:
5. Each community will be required to hold at least one assembly for
each of the seats the constituency has been designated to fill. For
example, if the Latino community has been designated three seats, they
will have to hold at least that many meetings, with each one choosing
one representative. If they wish to hold more meetings than there are
seats to fill in order to seek greater participation, they will have
to subsequently caucus among themselves to make their final choices.
6. In keeping with the principals of self-determination and direct
democracy, the precise methodology of electing each representative
will be determined by the designated communities themselves. They
might choose a majority-vote method, whether by public or secret
ballot, or they might employ a consensus process or some other method
in keeping with the practices of their community and the expressed
desires of those who have assembled.
7. The election board and station staff will work with the various
groups to record as many of the constituent assemblies as practical so
that portions of the deliberations can be broadcast, possibly live but
more realistically on tape.
AN ALTERNATIVE MODEL
The model described above is the one we would like to see implemented
because it embodies the concepts of inclusion, democracy and
transparency. For the purpose of discussion we will now outline an
alternative model that relies on more centralized and "traditional"
Western-style voting mechanisms.
Sections 1 through 5 above still apply, except that the constituent
assemblies, rather than actually choosing representatives, would be
forums for previously nominated candidates to engage in debate. The
election board would play a more direct role in coordinating these
gatherings, and would designate one of the debates for each
constituency that will be broadcast either live or on tape. During
each debate, candidates will have equal time to make their case, and
the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions.
The nominations will be submitted via regular mail, e-mail, or in
person at the station in the three-week period following the opening
day of the nomination/election process outlined in Section 3. Those
seeking to nominate themselves would obtain a form (either from the
station, its web site, or from other designated locations) that would
include space for a personal description, commitment to Pacifica, and
any other statement.
After nominations have closed, the election board will prepare and
print a constituency voter guide, containing the statements submitted
by all candidates, which will be made widely available. (The board
will prepare a similar guide for candidates in the general election,
and will organize debates for those candidates as well.)
The election board will set up polling places, staffed by volunteers,
at a designated number of locations throughout the listening area, for
at least one full weekday and one full weekend day. To receive a
ballot, each person must give their name and address and fill out the
survey detailed above. They will also be given a copy of the Pacifica
mission statement, as well as a solicitation to become a subscriber
and/or volunteer. If they wish to identify with more than one
constituency, they may cast votes for more seats as well.
Any subscriber or volunteer who cannot go to a polling place will
have the option to call the station and request a ballot be mailed to
them for as many constituencies as they wish to identify with. (Their
status as subscriber-volunteers will be checked against the master
A BIG TENT?
Another possible option would be for the election board to use all
the resources of the station and its listenership to organize a giant,
one- or two-day nominating convention for both the general elections
and the constituency elections. If they decided their attendance at
the convention was large and diverse enough, a constituency might
complete the process of choosing their representatives to the new
station board. More likely, perhaps, they would use the opportunity
to network, begin the nomination process, and organize more individual
assemblies in the weeks ahead.
Such an event would be a lively, entertaining and an informative
public display of democracy that could be covered on-air by WBAI in
the manner of a national political convention. It would bring
together the entire listener community, and help stimulate the kind of
debate, exchanges, and connections between people that are at the
heart of the Pacifica mission. And the Big Tent would represent a
good symbol of what the model of inclusion is aiming to achieve.