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Motion For Direct Election Of At-Large Members To The Pacifica National Board

Presented at the iPNB meeting in Washington D.C, December 6 - 8, 2002

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Letter to the Members of the Interim Pacifica National Board and Local Advisory Boards from Howard Brandstein (sosny@mindspring.com), December 8, 2002

While most of the discussion this weekend will undoubtedly focus on the structure of local station boards, I want to bring to your attention a very serious question that has yet to be adequately addressed in the bylaws proposals debated thus far. That is, will Pacifica devolve over time as a federation of five separate station areas or remain unified as a national organization and network?

With local station boards likely emerging from the bylaws process with significant governance authority- a development I largely AGREE with- it becomes all the more necessary to balance these new "power centers" with the collective voice of all the listeners and staff nationally. (I think everyone would agree that legal ownership of the five station licenses by the Pacifica Foundation is a necessary, but not sufficient condition to ensure political unity). Yet all the various bylaws proposals under considerations share a serious flaw: the ENTIRE Pacifica Board is elected solely by LOCAL interests. (It is immaterial to my point whether these Pacifica Board members are elected directly by the listeners and staff in their respective station areas or elected by their seated station boards). This Pacifica Board in turn appoints the "at-large" members foreclosing any possibility of a broader collective voice that will SOLIDIFY PACIFICA AS A NATIONAL ORGANIZATION.

Now I agree that local station areas should control the majority of seats on the Pacifica Board. But the absence of a national voice through the direct election of at-large members will result, over time, in an insular and insulated Board of Directors. Such a Board will invariably give far more emphasis to local concerns (which of course may well be legitimate) and less to national needs and goals including expansion of the network.

Look at it this way. There are about 85,000 Pacifica listener members and staff and of these only about 100 will elect the national Board. Add in another say 500 listeners and staff who will be active in integrated national Board/Station area committees and that leaves about 84,000 Pacifica members with no political connection to the national organization whatsoever. No voting for national candidates, no national election debates, and no necessity for cross-station political development means the vast majority of members will experience Pacifica as solely a local entity. Of course members will continue to hear national programming (which is incredibly valuable in building Pacifica's culture) but I'm talking here about a concrete connection with Pacifica's GOVERNANCE that can offset the real potential for balkanization.

The tendency of future Pacifica Board members to support their respective local interests over the national organization will be further magnified in times of conflict. Who STRUCTURALLY will represent the interests of the national organization at such times? At-large directors appointed by the national board can of course serve in this role. But they are far more effective and carry more independence and political authority when they are elected by the national membership. Structurally these directors represent the interests of the national organization and do not owe an allegiance to any particular station area or Board members. This voice of all the listeners and staff will be critical for resolving conflicts and solidifying our free speech radio trust.

Finally, I would point out that there would be little or no expense in elections for at-large Board members if these elections are held concurrently with those for station board members. Ballots would be counted locally by each station board's election committee with results forwarded to the national office for tallying. At-large candidates would be nominated in accordance with rules already supported by the iPNB for appointed at-large seats. "Petition candidates" who secure a specified number of signatures from more than one station area might also be considered as a means to enlarge direct membership participation. Staggered elections and recall provisions for at-large members would also be implemented to preclude abuses.

I hope you will consider the issue above in your further deliberations this weekend. Much of this analysis derives from my experience in the community land trust movement which has long grappled with very similar organizational dynamics. Any thoughts you have are much appreciated.

"At-large members of the Pacifica National Board shall be elected directly by the listener-members and staff across the network's five station areas. At-large members so elected shall constitute no more than 1/3 of total Pacifica Board membership".

The above proposed motion was presented with 20 endorsers to the Interim Pacifica National Board and LABS at the December 6-8, 2002 Board meeting in Washington D.C.

Note that the proposed motion in no way precludes the appointment of affiliate representatives or others to the Pacifica Board by its seated members.

Dec. 6 - 8 iPNB meeting

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