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A voting model

by Paul Surovell

This model emphasizes four themes:

- LABs will be elected by the membership of WBAI.

- A detailed affirmative action plan will mandate the racial, ethnic and gender composition of the elected LAB.

- A rigorous nominations process will assure a strong field of pro-mission candidates.

- A maximum of one-third of the LAB seats will be contested in the first election, making impossible any "takeover attempt" by hostile forces.


The Membership of WBAI is defined as (a) listener-sponsors (subscribers), (b) volunteers and (b) any individuals wanting to subscribe or volunteer, but finding it impossible to do so. This last category appears to be limited to the prison population. However, to the degree that prisoners are able to subscribe and volunteer, they should certainly be encouraged to do so.


The experience at KPFA proves that a proportional voting system does not assure that affirmative action goals will be met. This proposal builds on the KPFA plan, which calls for 50% people of color, 50% female.

The current WBAI LAB has achieved an excellent racial, ethnic and gender mix, in addition to bringing together individuals involved in social change and committed to the Pacifica mission. This must be preserved and improved upon, as LAB Membership Chair Anne Emmerman suggested in her January memo (see appendix). Currently, the LAB has 8 Caucasians, and 8 people of color (6 Blacks and 2 Latinos), with a 50-50 male-female split. The LAB has 2 representatives from New Jersey, 1 from Rockland and 1 or 2 from Long Island.

This proposal seeks to further diversify the LAB in the first election as follows:

The 16 existing LAB members would be grandfathered. 8 new LAB members would be elected as follows:

4 Latinos
2 Asians
1 Arab-American
1 Native-American

50% of these would be women.

The new LAB would have 24 members as follows:

6 Blacks
6 Latinos
2 Asian
1 Arab-American
1 Native American
8 Caucasian
50% women

The result would very closely approximate the actual population distribution of NY City: 35% Caucasian, 25% Black, 27% Latino, 10% Asian and less than one percent Native American (see Appendix).

Additional Diversity Criteria:

Among the new 8 members every effort would be made to achieve overlapping representation from various constituencies cited in the Emmerman memo – labor, peace, civil rights, social justice, GLBT, disabled, perhaps former prisoners and others.

Appointment of non-voting members to achieve fuller diversity:

To the extent that constituencies are not represented by the elections process, the newly listener-elected members could appoint non-voting members to assure that the voices of those constituencies are heard.

Such appointments would be competitive, with the positions publicly announced and candidates appearing before the public as well as before the LAB members.

Staff Members

It is recommended that the staff elect two additional members in the first election. Their election should come first, and be required to comply with the overall diversity requirements stipulated above. After the staff election is completed, the listener-members election will take place, taking into account who has been elected by the staff.


The LAB will establish a Nominations Committee to recruit candidates who meet the diversity requirements listed above. This Committee should also be open to listeners and staff, with the composition approximating the representative mix being sought currently for the General Manager search committee.

All candidates should be social activists who have demonstrated their commitment to the Pacifica mission, in particular to the struggle to take back WBAI, in addition to the struggles of their constituencies.

Candidates will fill out questionnaires and submit to questioning by the Nominations Committee as well as at public forums prior to their becoming candidates. Anyone who wishes to be a candidate can participate in this process. But the Committee will "nominate" only those who it regards as committed to the Pacifica mission.

Other candidates can be nominated by petition with signatures of WBAI members, similar to KPFA.


For the first election, a maximum of one-third of the seats will be contested. If the entire LAB agrees to be grandfathered, 8 new seats will be contested as indicated above. However, if some existing LAB members want to retire, then fewer than 8 new seats will be contested. For example, if 4 LAB members retire, meaning only 12 would be grandfathered, then 6 new seats wouldl be created, bringing the LAB to 18 members, with one-third (6) being contested in the first election.

Limiting the number of new LAB members in this way provides a necessary safeguard to protect the LAB from a "hostile takeover." It should be noted that at KPFA, it only took 462 votes to assure election in the first round.

In addition to recall provisions, the bylaws should contain provisions to allow for revision of elections procedures in subsequent elections, if it has been determined that a hostile takeover attempt has occurred.


Voting by Members vs. Listeners

Whether Members or Listeners vote has nothing to do with whether WBAI will be vulnerable to a hostile takeover attempt. The invaders will either call in for their subscriptions or they will call in for their ballots. There is no way of stopping either. However, limiting the number of seats up for election can block any takeover attempt, as described above.

But allowing all listeners to vote -- which is really allowing anyone to vote -- would diminish the status and the importance of being a member. We are really not all equal in the context of Pacifica. Some of us are supporters (members) and some of us are not (listeners that have not subscribed). It is easy to downplay the act of subscribing, but in fact it is a significant act, a meaningful act. And it should not be taken for granted.

We need to get many more listeners to subscribe. That is a top priority for the survival of WBAI and the survival of Pacifica. We need to do everything possible to motivate listeners to subscribe, to persuade them to subscribe. And making membership a requirement for voting in Pacifica elections is one way to do this. "Become a member and vote in the LAB elections in December." That is a strong selling point for membership, and it would be foolish to cast it aside in order to give the vote to the 25 or so non-subscribing listeners out there who might ask for a ballot.

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Hyperlink to NY City population statistics:


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To: WBAI/LAB Exploratory Committee
From: Anne Emerman, Chair LAB Membership Committee
Re: Requirements and Recommendations (for discussion and consideration)

The iPNB will be writing new PF by-laws. They will be determining democratizing the Foundation from the bottom up and grappling with ways to include a diverse representation of the presently and potential listening communities. Some of these groups will represent marginalized, oppressed, isolated, people living in poverty and possibly homeless, jobless, etc. -- exactly the people to whom WBAI/LAB wants to give voice and access to having their issues on the airwaves for purposes of getting out information, to organize, strategize and plan actions.

Currently, the PF and WBAI by-laws require 12 to 24 members. Half are to be persons of color and half women. The LAB requires geographical representation preferably from the signal area: all 5 NYC boroughs, NJ, Westchester, Rockland and beyond, CT, LI, etc. The Board needs persons with specific skills: a lawyer, preferably a public interest lawyer - one who advocates for poor persons and their issues; a person experienced with finance, budgets, operations, auditing; grassroots organizers -- labor, peace, social justice, environmental, civil rights, etc; and someone with radio and technology expertise.

Representation should include persons from the diverse city & signal area ethnic groups: Asian, African American, Hispanic, Arab-Muslim and civil rights movements, immigrants, GLBT, people with disabilities, prisoners, homeless, youth, etc. The LAB should also include a WBAI paid and unpaid staff member.

Perhaps in preparation the LAB should be working with CBOs to set up community meetings, encourage community groups to recommend/elect potential candidates to the LAB who will, with the input of other stakeholders, put together a "balanced ticket" to listeners for a vote.



jim dingeman
First impressions on Paul Surovell's proposals
Wed Apr 17 18:33:14 2002

Last night Paul introduced a well thought out proposal for what a LAB electorate and voting system should look like. Mimi gave a more conceptual analysis whcih I will post notes on in the next few days.

1- Paul referred to the census stats of NYC for his demographic picture of what a WBAI LAB should look like. Below is the link he referred to. This is the hyperlink to the NYC Planning stats on NYC demographics http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/popstart.html

A problem with simply basing a LAB composition on the five boroughs is that the signal area is 50 miles in a circle from the Empire State Building where the transmitter is located...those stats would give a very different ethnic,racial and demographic composition to the potential listener mix.

I also recall from the past that a very large % of subscribers were from Brooklyn area codes.

So whatever catchment area you calculate the listenership to be drawn from you can reinforce different arguements you want to make...especially if you have strong assumptions of the need for diversity.

I agree with the need for diversity which is why I support the KPFA model,

The most peniciousd aspect of his proposal is the need for a purification nomination committee from a theoretically racially and ethnically balanced board. The idea that a small group of people would decide as opposed to clash and clamor of debate is where I draw the line on his proposal...it starts with an assumption that literally tens of thousands of listeners cannot make up their minds without pre-selection processes from the annointed few.

But here [above] is his proposal to analyze...Mimi's is more intriguing.


From: Jim Krivo
Date: Wed Apr 17, 2002 7:37 am
Subject: Re: [WBAIBylaws] A Mission-Driven Voting Model

Dear Paul and Friends, Below is a part of the mission proposal and a significant correction that I believe should be considered.. Jim Krivo

"The current WBAI LAB has achieved an excellent racial, ethnic and gender mix, in addition to bringing together individuals involved in social change and committed to the Pacifica mission. This must be preserved and improved upon, as LAB Membership Chair Anne Emmerman suggested in her January memo (see appendix). Currently, the LAB has 8 Caucasians, and 8 people of color (6 Blacks and 2 Latinos), with a 50-50 male-female split. The LAB has 2 representatives from New Jersey, 1 from Rockland and 1 or 2 from Long Island. "
Paul, this statement is incorrect. There is no one on the LAB from Long Island, Nassau or Suffolks Counties. Long Island has never been represented on the WBAI LAB. The members of the LAB in the past have never been connected to the progressive organizations on Long Island such as the Long Island Progressive Coalition, Long Island Alliance, PeaceSmiths, So Country Peaqce Group, PAX Christ/ LOng Island and PeaceAction/ Great Neck. This is why many of the progressive folks on Long Island have not become listeners, and those of us who are part of the struggle have done so in spite of this lack of representation of our local issues. Another location which has no representative is Connecticut. Westchester, dosen't have a representative, but I think the Rockland representative is also well known in Westchester.

I think that getting the different georaphic areas conected with the LAB should be a priority and one that will include all ethnic and racial groups. When it comes to elections, each geographic area will know the local people because they live close to eachother.
Jim Krivo

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