DAILY REPORTS and Documents | iPNB D.C. meeting info
Petition and documents calling for for unified voting and mission savvy candidates and members
Presented at the iPNB meeting in Washington D.C, October 13 - 14, 2002
Documents Accompanying Petitions
(with 217 signatures)
Presented to the Interim Pacifica National Board
October 14, 2002
by the WBAI Committee for a Unified Membership
(1) Statement to the Pacifica Interim Board in Opposition to the Unity Caucus Elections Model by the WBAI Committee for a Unified Membership
(2) The Unity Caucus Proposal by Hetty Rosenstein
(3) Statement by Beresford Jones
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Statement to the Pacifica Interim Board in Opposition to
the Unity Caucus Elections Model
We are submitting to you today signatures of more than 217 WBAI listeners and staff on a petition that has been circulated for only the last six days.
The petition asks the Pacifica Interim Board and the WBAI Local Advisory Board to approve Bylaws provisions that would:
(1) Require racial / ethnic and gender equity on local Pacifca station boards
(2) Define Pacifica members as those individuals who demonstrate support for the Pacifica mission as listener donors, volunteers and staff.
(3) Enable the membership to vote in local station board elections as a unified body and prohibit any scheme to divide member voters along racial, ethnic, gender, age, abilities and other identity criteria.The petition campaign is motivated by our concern over provisions of the Unity Caucus bylaws proposal that would undermine principles two and three of the petition.
We are especially concerned that the Unity Caucus now hopes to win adoption of its model in New York by convincing the Board to allow local rules for elections procedures and membership. We believe, on the contrary, that Pacifica should have one set of rules for elections and membership, throughout the network.
We want the Board and the WBAI LAB to be fully aware that although the Unity Caucus is based in New York, there is widespread opposition to the Unity Caucus proposal in the WBAI listening area. The signatures we are submitting today are the first manifestation of that widespread opposition.
We have prepared a critique of the Unity Caucus model that is divided into Issues of Principle and Issues of Practicality. Following this critique, we have attached individual statements by labor organizer Hetty Rosenstein and educator and author Beresford Jones.
A Critique of the Unity Caucus Model
Part 1. Issues of Principle.
We are WBAI listeners, volunteers and staff who believe in, and support racial / ethnic and gender equity requirements for Pacifica's local station boards.
We also believe that Pacifica's local station boards should be elected by those who understand and have shown support for the Pacifica Mission as listener donors, volunteers and station staff (allowing waivers for hardship, disability and incarceration).
We oppose, however, the Unity Caucus's proposal that bestows membership and voting rights in Pacifica to anyone who identifies him/herself as a member of one of 13 constituencies based on racial, ethnic, gender, sexual identity, abilities, age and other criteria.
We also oppose the Unity Caucus's proposal that requires voters in Pacifica local board elections to register in 2 of 18 constituencies and to vote only for candidates who belong to the same two constituencies.
We believe that the vast majority of WBAI listeners, volunteers and staff also opposes these two Unity Caucus proposals.
Every organization must have a defined membership, which has a responsibility to support the organization. It is not enough to identify oneself as merely belonging to a constituency or having an opinion, to be a member, as the Constituency Model proposes. Furthermore, it is self-evident that Pacifica must build its membership if it is to survive and grow. But a model that bestows membership without responsibility does not have a plan to build real membership and therefore cannot be a model to build Pacifica.
There is no doubt that Pacifica can better serve its mission of promoting peace, social justice and racial/ethnic harmony through a growing membership. But the mission is carried out through programming and the connections made with listeners, grass roots organizing efforts, and like minded institutions. And we should not lose sight of the fact that the most important measure of inclusion is whether national and local programming reflects the socio-economic, political and cultural issues effecting the disadvantaged communities of the US and the world.
The Unity Caucus proposal to require voters to self-identify with two of 18 constituencies and then to vote for only two candidates in those constituencies is an affront to a fundamental basis of the Pacifica network:
Pacifica's members have already identified their constituency. It is the constituency of progressive people who are diverse in every way possible but who are united in their support for the Pacifica mission. This is the PACIFICA MISSION CONSTITUENCY. It is a constituency that has struggled together and that continues to struggle together. And it is a constituency that should vote together as a unified body, as occurs every day in labor unions and other people's organizations.
The need for our unity becomes all the more apparent in the face of the growing attack on our civil, constitutional and human rights, and the impending imperial invasion of Iraq.
The Unity Caucus proposals for open membership and divisions among voters imposes upon Pacifica an ideologically-driven experiment in identity-politics that defies Pacifica values, and has very little support, if any, among listeners, volunteers and staff.
We are a community united in our thirst for variety of information woefully absent in the mainstream media. We are a community united in our support for Pacifica's peace and justice message. We need to cherish and nurture that unity as one of Pacifica's greatest achievements.
We should not make Pacifica, nor any of its stations, the subject of political experiments, especially those that conflict with Pacifica's interests, Pacifica's values, and the views of the listeners, volunteers and staffs.
Part 2. Issues of Practicality.
We have argued thus far that the electoral process of the Unity Caucus model be rejected on matters of principle. However, on a practical level, the UC model is so replete with logistical and structural problems that it should be rejected on these grounds as well.
Here are a number of key logistical and structural problems in the Unity Caucus model:
(1) In-Person Voting at Multiple Polling Sites. This requirement would discourage many voters from taking part in the elections, because of the great expenditure of time and possibly money necessary to travel to and from the polling site. This especially would discourage voting by those marginalized and disadvantaged groups that the UC claims it wants to engage in the process.
(2) Registration in Constituencies. The UC model fails to provide any verification mechanism. Hence, there is no way to verify whether a person is actually part of the constituency s/he claims to be.
Many people will resent having to self-identify and register as a member of two constituencies.
Furthermore, many people will resent having to reduce themselves to pieces and then pick and choose their parts. Some will be discouraged from voting, others may decide to not renew their subscriptions. Besides, why should Pacifica go back to a reductionist model that has long been criticized by holistic thinkers and practitioners for its objectificaion of humans by reducing them to their parts?
(3) Ballot complexity. The model requires 18 separate ballots to cover each constituency. This is an administrative nightmare in many ways. Some include managing the polling places, the number of persons required to administer voting, transporting and counting the ballots, to name a few.
(4) Minimum Votes to Validate a Constituency Election. The provision of a minimum of 50 votes to validate a constituency election reveals the hollowness of the model's claims to achieve "self-determination." Clearly no community in any of the Pacifica signal area will be represented by 50 votes.
(5) Security of Ballots. The UC proposes multiple polling sites with lock boxes throughout the listening areas. This would constitute a major security problem that will require major human power and financial resources that we don't have.
(6) Security of Registration Lists. In-person polling depends on a complete list of registered voters at each site, with the voter being checked off when he/she votes. Security of the lists and the accuracy of the check-off is a huge undertaking.
(7) Affirmative Action through At-Large Candidates. Only 7 seats of 30 are assured to be people of color, yet the model calls for 50% to be achieved by moving up candidates of color from the At-Large Constituency. But on what basis can it be assumed that enough people of color will be candidates in the At-Large Constituency?
The affirmative action mechanism also contradicts the model's claim that constituencies will elect their own candidates. The At-Large constituency will likely be fully mixed body of voters.
(8) Bias Against People of Color. Only 7 of 30 non-staff seats are designated for people of color. Furthermore, under the assumptions of the UC, people of color will vote within their constituencies, leaving them to cast their one remaining vote among the remaining 23 seats. However, Caucasians will have two votes to cast among the remaining 23 seats, giving them disproportionate influence in 23 of the 30 seats.
(9) On-Air Debates. The Unity Caucus model calls for only 1 on-air debate for each constituency. This becomes necessary because there will be 18 separate elections. There will be 18 separate on-air debates and so it will be difficult for the voter to determine when her/his constituent candidates will be on the air. This undermines the ability to use airtime as the primary tool of voter education.
(10) Big Tent Convention. This provision by emphasizing a single event ends up discriminating against those who can't attend. It is ironic that Unity Caucus documents criticize the subscriber model for providing the volunteer option as an alternative to a monetary donation. But the volunteer option of 3 hours involves far less time than the Big Tent convention and the travel time to in-person polling sites.
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The Unity Caucus Proposal
by Hetty Rosenstein, Labor Organizer
I continue to be concerned about proposals which allow people to vote just by saying that they want to. We need to require that voters are listener supporters of Pacifica. There are a number of reasons for this:
First, we should be encouraging people to be responsible for their local station. It isn't enough to have an opinion and want to direct the network's policies and politics. Listeners should not only be heard - they should be responsible and maintain their stations and networks. If one does not care enough to make a contribution, financial or as a volunteer, one should not be able to direct the network by voting.
Secondly, if there is recognition that the station or network has a responsibility toward a given group and it is that which makes that group a constituency, then there must also be recognition that the constituency has a return responsibility to the station and/or network -that the consituency is a patron and a sponsor of the station and/or network. The very word constituency implies mutuality.
Third - We cheapen the contribution of those who will pay for the stations and will fight for them, if all one need do is state that one is a member of some constituency and then they can vote. The cost of membership could be relatively low, for the purposes of voting - $15 or $25 and volunteering in lieu of payment should still be available - and scholarships could be made available to those in need who for other reasons cannot volunteer. But if we want people to care enough about these stations, we must say that they are worth supporting - they are worth giving $15 or $25 or $100 to a year, or they are worth giving 4 hours of volunteer time to. Anyone who thinks that right wing constituencies would not gather up their members to claim constituencies in Pacifica in order to take over stations is naive. Fundamentalists are very organized and extremely committed. If all one need do is identify oneself as a member of a given constituency in order to vote, we tempt fate and our enemies.
I want to be part of something that represents political power. I think we want a Pacifica that represents the politically silenced, that represents the voice of the fight for social and economic justice and the voice of peace. One way to do that is to have 500,000 members across the country. If we have a membership base, as well as a place on the airways, our voice is much louder, clearer and powerful. A model that does not provide for membership, as opposed to self-identification as a member of a constituency, does not have a plan to build membershiip, grow and build political power.
There is another part of this plan that deeply disturbs me. The idea that one identifies oneself as part of up to two constituencies and then can only vote for candidates of the same constituency is a bad idea and is contrary to the fundamental basis of Pacifica radio.
We want a board that is diverse and that represents the broad range of listeners and brings a variety of perspectives to governance. For that reason, there is legitimacy to having affirmative action requirements on the board and to having clear representation from particular areas of the population. But to identify members only in terms of which of the groups they belong to and to only permit them to vote for members of their groups is nothing less than identity politics run wild. If there are to be 30 seats for listeners, to limit a member to voting only for 2 makes their voice meaningless. And to think that one only has an interest in who represents listeners only based upon their own pre-defined constituency is simplistic at best.
I am interested in having my political voice heard in the governance of Pacifica. I want to make my choice based upon who represents my politics, not who represents my gender or race. The Board as a whole needs to represents a variety of types of people, but I don't need to make my individual choices based upon two narrowly defined groupings. I want to make my choice based upon politics. This system doesn't allow me to do so.
It is also entirely contradictory to put people into constituencies, require that they run and vote within those constituencies, and then suggest that someone could legitimately be seated as a representative of that constituency with fewer than 50 votes. Who do they represent? What base of support do they have? They don't even have 50 votes.
None of these models is perfect and none of them ever will be. More important than the model, I think, is the building of membership and the opportunity of members to take responsibility for and have a voice at the station. The reason that we need that voice is not polemical - it is practical. It is because we want to be able to use that voice to build political power in fighting for the cause of social and economic justice and world peace. In determining the right course of action, we should consider three things - does this proposal divide us or unify us? Does this proposal strengthen Pacifica or weaken it? Does this proposal help us build political power to advance our greater goals of social and economic justice and world peace? This proposals divides us rather than unifies us. It does not build membership and does not broaden the base of real support. it does not help us to build political power or to represent real constituencies of power so that we might advance our greater goals.
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By Beresford Jones
WBAI Committee for a Unified Membership
This paper focuses upon the Unity Caucus Proposal which was prepared by a New York based group. It is presented to the Pacifica Interim National Board at the October 13th, 2002 Meeting in Washington, D.C. for its consideration, and for the use of LAB members and other interested parties.
I am a retired university professor and administrator residing in New Jersey. I am a member of New Jersey Peace Action, American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, Amnesty International, The United Nations Association of USA, and numerous other social action, justice and environmental organizations.
As to my credentials for making the following analysis, I bring to bear a wealth of experience in organizational management over the past forty years, in which I have had to deal with rules and regulations, as well as the creation of bylaws, in one case, as chairman of the Program Committee of the Board of Trustees of a nonprofit foundation, and in another, as President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of a city wide organization that was writing a new constitution and bylaws.
It is because of my background and experience in this area that I was asked to present this statement.
The future of Pacifica will be affected by what we do regarding the new Pacifica bylaws. It bears upon the structure of the national organization and the relationship to the member stations. It relates to the purpose and the functions of the Foundation and the local station boards. And it may well affect the survival of the Foundation in a form that will enable it to perform effectively and pursue its stated mission.
There are several bylaws proposals on the grid from different parts of the country. I am focusing my comments mainly on the proposal from New York because I believe it poses a threat to the Pacifica Foundation and its local stations if it, or certain of its key provisions, are adopted. In my opinion, the Unity Caucus Proposal is a seriously flawed document which would create problems instead of achieving a positive result. It will open the Foundation to abuses as well as negative external influence.
I refer first to the section under the heading, "CONSTITUENCIES."
"The Pacifica Foundation has three basic constituencies:
The next paragraph reads:
"Collectively, these constituencies are Pacifica. . .they are each entitled to membership and representation in the Foundation. They each must play an active role in all aspects of the new, more democratic Pacifica."
The next section is headed, "MEMBERSHIP AND VOTER REGISTRATION."
"Membership in the Pacifica Foundation and voter eligibility is granted to anyone who falls into one of Pacifica's three categories of constituencies and registers to vote."
The first of the three categories is a broad category that is tantamount to the groups the Pacifica Foundation and its stations serve. This category is problematic for a number of reasons, especially in view of the empowerment factor.
The groups the Foundation seeks to serve, inform or educate is one thing. Surely the "exploited, oppressed and marginalized peoples" are Pacifica's concern. But this is not grounds to say those in this category, along with the other two mentioned categories, are Pacifica. There is no valid reason to bring in members of category one (1) to be participants in the electoral process of the local Pacifica stations without some other qualification, like making a contribution to a member station in some form, such as monetary or volunteering.
The second of the three groups, "Listeners," is less problematic, but nonetheless, not completely clear. Does the paragraph mean, the listeners who connect with a program in some way constitute the constituency, or those who connect and support the existence of the station? But what does support of the existence of the station mean? Speaking in favor of a station? Or does it mean supporting by donating money?
The third constituency group, which consists of paid staff and volunteers presents no problem. It is clear.
Let me explain wherein the problem exists in the constituency theory or model, structurally, and then outline the dangers or threats inherent.
The last paragraph under CONSTITUENCIES reads:
"Collectively, these constituencies are Pacifica ...they are each entitled to membership and representation in the Foundation. They each must also play an active role in all aspects of the new, more democratic Pacifica."
Let me examine this in detail:
"Collectively, these constituencies are Pacifica."
This is a rhetorical statement, not a factual one. It might represent an ideal of the framers of the Unity Caucus Model, but it does not identify concrete entities as part of a concrete organization. People who work for the radio stations or volunteers, Constituency (3), is concrete. People who donate money, to the extent they are included under those who "support the existence of the station" in Constituency (2) is concrete and only to that extent.
Constituency category (1) is not and cannot be made concrete by any stretch of the imagination. Hence, it is logically of a different kind than category (3) and than category (2) as delimited herein. Category one is an amorphous, unspecified group that includes who knows what or whom.
To say that "each must also play an active role in all aspects" of the new Pacifica is also nonsensical. An amorphous group must play an active role? Members of this group should be given an opportunity to play an active role, but to mandate it? Rationally, there should be a means to determine who should play an active role. Those who Pacifica ostensibly supports and serves are not sufficient criteria.
We can explore this further when we examine the section MEMBERSHIP AND VOTER REGISTRATION, which will help to clarify the issues and prove why this proposal is seriously flawed.
The opening paragraph reads:
"Membership in the Pacifica Foundation and voter eligibility is granted to anyone who falls into one of Pacifica's three categories of constituencies and registers to vote."
First of all, those in category (1) are not of the same logical type as category (2) or (3), and hence are not eligible for the reasons those in category (2) and (3) are eligible.
Secondly, members of category (1) may never have listened to a Pacifica station, or even heard of Pacifica or any of its stations but they must be granted membership if they register to vote. So if they learn of elections in some way, not necessarily through listening to one of the radio stations, and manage to register to vote, that person from category (1) who knows nothing of Pacifica or its mission must be granted membership and furthermore (from the last sentence under CONSTITUENCIES) ... "must also play an active role in all aspects of the new, more democratic, Pacifica." The flaws in the model and the fallacies should now be clearer.
Any group of people who never listened to the station (and may care less about its programming, its message or "mission" – such as super patriotic, flag-waving supporters of the Bush war machine) could be collected off the street by someone who seeks to get elected, or who wishes to insure that a particular person gets elected or gets defeated, brought in to register, become members and be able to vote.
This scenario clearly indicates that the constituency and membership model opens the electoral process to wide abuses. This type of electoral abuse is neither imaginary nor speculative since it has occurred in the national electoral process numerous times.
Furthermore, it must be considered that there are those who are opposed to the mission, and indeed, to the very existence of Pacifica radio. Exposing government and corporate corruption, and support of peace activism and environmental programs places Pacifica on the enemy list of many, such as the war mongers, the polluters, the corruptors and the exploiters of every ilk. These people play hardball. Karen Silkwood did not die accidentally, she was murdered to silence her. The enemies of peace and justice will do anything to maintain their positions of power and to undermine, destroy and in any way render ineffective those they consider enemies. Pacifica has undoubtedly been a target for decades. Free speech radio is an anathema in a nation dominated by corporate media. Ultra conservative groups, like the religious right and hate groups, all have reasons to want Pacifica closed down.
One example of how the government has dealt with an undesirable organization is the case of the destruction of the Panther organization. The FBI had sought to get rid of the Black Panthers in the 1960s. How did they go about doing it? The leaders of the Panther organization had been careful not to provoke the Justice Department, or give the local police cause to come down on them. The government strategy was relatively simple. The FBI infiltrated local chapters and committees, to the extent that some chapters and committees had more than fifty percent of the members being government agents. This meant, in practice, that the government agents had a voting majority in some of the democratically run local organizations. All of this came out in the Panther trials before the Supreme Court. The trials also revealed that it was the government infiltrators, the agents provocateur, who came up with the ideas to bomb public buildings, bridges and tunnels, etc., not the true Panthers. In those units in which the government agents held a voting majority, agents could recommend and carry by majority vote illegal and deadly proposals that would give the government legal grounds to raid the organizations national offices, and local organizations, and jail all the members. Those they didn't want to go to trial, for whatever reason, they got rid of them, like in the Hampton and Clark case in Chicago some years ago, where the two Panther leaders were drugged and shot to death in their beds.
The government does not want Pacifica educating the public, or informing the world of corruption and nefarious deeds. It doesn't want its improper dealings exposed. It wants the masses to remain blind. It will do everything in its power to achieve this end.
This is not a farfetched scenario. The government can collect a group of people from anywhere, homeless people, middle class types, give the one bread or a few bucks, bribe the other in a different way, register them, and get them to vote for the government's candidate, whose job, before and after the election, is to undermine Pacifica and help destroy it from within.
Any number of extremist or power structure organizations can do the same thing.
Enough! I believe the point is made. The Constituency Model is not only flawed and illogical, it puts Pacifica and its mission at risk. It behooves us, the organization and those alert enough to the threats, to protect Pacifica and to develop safeguards against possible and potential abuses and attacks.
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