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Notes of WBAI LAB meeting

From: Carolyn Birden [WBAI listener-activist, CdPNY]
Date: Mon Sep 15, 2003 7:40 am
Subject: Report on the WBAI LAB meeting Sept 9th

Following are my notes on the iPNB LAB meeting of Tuesday September 9th. These are my informal notes, and impressions, and we are awaiting the formal minutes. The LAB secretary had to leave early, and Lee Kronick, LAB member, recorded the meeting: any corrections based on the final official minutes will be gladly accepted. The order of my notes may not be the same as the order in which events occurred.

Present: 9 LAB members at varying times, with Rashidah arriving late, Miguel leaving at 7:30 and Andy Norris shortly thereafter at 7:40, Ray arriving at 8:30. Marian Borenstein (chairing), Gail Golden, Mimi Rosenberg, Panama Alba, Anne Emerman, Lee Kronick, Anthony Mackall, Connie Hogart. Madelyn Hoffman was absent, Jonanthan Cohen was on speakerphone.

Listeners and staff in attendance included Patty Heffly, Mitchel Cohen, Romulo Sanchez, Min Koo, Sheila Hamanaka, Shawn Rhodes, Mike Beasley, Joshua, Steve, Steve Bernhaut, Bob Lederer, Susan Lee, and others.

Listeners were not given copies of the agendabut other actions included:

LAB agreed to form a committee to handle logistics for housing and the LAB party at the station. Two of the three original committee members backed out (Miguel and Ceci) leaving Marian chair of a committee of two: a listener, Anne, volunteered to help her. Steve Bernhaut, who came late, offered to coordinate housing for visiting members.

Waivers: Gail Golden is head of a committee to set procedure to "deal with" waivers, wants 2-3 people to develop a proposal.

Motion: Gail moved that (1) there be a hospitality committee and (2) Muntu and Cagan should coordinate the antiracism hour or workshop or whatever they decide can be fitted into the schedule and (3) since no more than an hour can probably be used at the iPNB meeting, there should be a future workshop set up by Muntu. (More on this below)

The main item was a copy of the RESOLUTION OF THE WBAI LOCAL ADVISORY BOARD, September 9, 2003, which is copied here:

WHEREAS,the WBAI Local Advisory Board (hereinafter "LAB") recognizes that the court ordered Settlement Agreement (hereinafter "Agreement") of December 12, 2001, mandates the revision of and adoption of new bylaws,; and

WHEREAS, the LAB recognizes that the new bylaws will prescribe the number of seats available, the procedure for candidate selection, the organization of and timetable for elections and the induction of successor local boardmembers; and

WHEREAS, the matter of whether new bylaws are in effect or the manner by which the few remaining bylaw proposals will be resolved and new bylaws ratified is currently pending before California Superior Court Judge Sabraw;

BE IT RESOLVED, tht the WBAI LAB shall not change its membership by adding any new or removing from that body any of its existing members, until such time as the new bylaws are enacted and under the terms and conditions that permit for the election of and seating of successor members; further

BE IT RESOLVED, that the WBAI LAB votes its confidence in and reaffirms the invaluable contributions of station staff Errol Maitland and Mimi Rosenberg, who among other things have worked diligently to implement a meaningful, mandatory affirmative action plan for the elected governance structurs of the Pacifica network. Dated: September 9, 2003

This motion was a prelude to the main event, a vote to meet to discuss removing Miguel as chair (see below).

Miguel had been in Massachusetts, because of a death in the family, and had not returned until Monday or so. I arrived late, but evidently the agenda, which took a while to set, included an item about defining the chair's duties and the relationship between the chair and the members.

Jonathan Cohen was on the speakerphone. Ray was not, came in later. Miguel objected to this attendance by phone, which was getting to be quite a common occurrence by various parties (at the last meeting we had waited several hours for Ray to come on line, but he never did, appearing at the station around 9:30 after the meeting had adjourned). Miguel was loudly berated for objecting to this, as not everyone could be there, etc.

Miguel, in response to comments by Panama, said he saw two items; the conflict resolution issue, and the differing perceptions of what happened in Chicago. There is, Miguel said, a conspiracy among some people against Pacifica: he sees some people in New York fighting for power. (General uproar here: no one wanted to discuss this issue, Miguel was shouted down.) Gail moved to reconstitute the committee to deal with the board meeting: some discussion followed.

There was a question about Muntu Matsimela (who had been invited by Anthony to sit at the table with the LAB at the last meeting) being asked to coordinate/set up the antiracism workshop for the station - all agreed that there would not be enough time to do a long workshop at the national meeting, so Muntu was supposed to set this up for a later date, with an hour-long presentation by Gail's experts sometime during the iPNB.

Gail Golden said she would talk with Cagan and Muntu would arrange the workshop: Miguel asked if this was on behalf of the LAB. Gail said no, Muntu was doing this himself, in which case, Miguel said, why couldn't he talk with Cagan himself? Miguel asked for clarification as to Muntu's status, and an explanation of what he was doing, that the LAB was entitled to know what he was proposing if it were going to involve the LAB, as he acted as if he were a member of the LAB. There were many protests and, not for the first time that evening, people jumped on Miguel, this time for questioning Muntu's status, carping, etc. Miguel countered with the fact that there was a problem with the LAB and that the members were not facing it, which brought out another storm of complaints that he was not sticking to the issue. Miguel was evidently under a lot of stress, and said that he was not feeling up to continuing a meeting when he was under attack, had to deal with a death in the family and returning the body of his relative to his home country, and had to leave.

His departure was the beginning of lots of talk about how Miguel had always refused to engage on these issues, would not talk with them, etc. There were complaints about the current state of the relationship, and discussion of whether to go into those in detail or not. Much talk about not wanting to do that in public (after which they went into it in public), and then they decided to hold a personnel meeting over dinner (Rashida supplying the apartment and dinner, Anne Emerman offering to bring her own portable ramp for the wheelchair), and invite Miguel, to deal with this problem. Two dates were chosen, 9/17 and 9/15 as the backup in case he could not make it, and he was called at 8:47 to apprise him of the decision ("invitation").

LAB members agreed that if Miguel did not show up they would remove him from the chairmanship anyway, as they did not want him to represent them at the iPNB meeting, but of course he would still be in the LAB. (see the RESOLUTION above) The main complaint seemed to be that he differs from their position and went to The Coast to persuade people to change their votes, and that he does not represent the positions of those on the LAB, although at least one member made a formal statement that it was not his ideology that the LAB found objectionable, nor that he differed from the opinion of the LAB. (This seemed to be said for the record, and this explanation was contradicted by other statements made during the course of the meeting. )

Ray LaForest came in at 8:30, voted with the rest to remove Miguel.

More comments for the record (from Anthony and Panama) that this is not because of his ideology but because of his behavior as LAB chair: cannot be reached, does not consult with the LAB, does not strategize with them, does not set agendas before the meeting, etc. (All this was presented not as a problem to be solved but with a good deal of hostility, as a list of grievances presented to justify the action.) Panama made a motion, restraining Miguel from acting as chair pending this discussion of him: I'm not sure what happened to that part of the motion.

Vote: 7 people for 9/17, 4 for 9/15, 4 for 9/16, and 5 for 9/18. It was agreed that 9/17 is the date of the dinner party at Rashidah's, called an executive session.

Ray gave a long report on the iPNB teleconference and the success of his motion.

Ray reported the vote to use Finck: Rob proposed him, Ray and one other abstained from the vote. Ray is looking for a MALDEF or Puerto Rican Defense Fund attorney. Mimi made many, lengthy objections, and a promise to make this an issue at the iPNB. Finck has a history of bias, no expertise in the field, very controversial stands on some issues, etc., and charges money, like $310 an hour (she was corrected: his fee is $285.) Of course in the long list of people whom she recommends as pro bono and of color and with acceptable political background is Michael Lubell. Mimi blamed one 15-hour conference call on Finck's position on affirmative action.

Motion: that issues of diversity be included in the mediation sessions. (Mimi and Gail and Rashida were summoned from the hall to make a quorum.) Passed.

Motion: to reconsider Finck and express distinct interest in people of less expense and greater experience. (Perhaps there was also wording about their political orientation, but I missed the exact wording.) Passed

Four people were selected to represent the Lab on the Report to the Listener on WBAI, although Cerene did not know which program, or on which day or time, this would occur.

Just before the meeting adjourned I asked Ray how many people he was proposing that the Foundation pay for to come to the iPNB for a "mediation" session, and he said, eight (8).

Marian was chairing and refused to let listeners speak after each agenda item (the usual procedure),until Steve, a long-time listener, made a real fuss and then the members reverted to the pre-coup practice of allowing listener comment only after all the LAB business was completed, and then for 2 minutes only. I made the statement that there was a great deal of hypocrisy in not wanting Miguel to represent the LAB, yet Mimi was persisting in keeping her position on the LAB despite the fact that the unpaid staff had voted in large numbers to remove her. I pointed out that Miguel, whom the LAB complained did not represent them, represented the listeners, who had voted 800 to 20 in favor of the position he held, and that the LAB members represented absolutely no one but themselves. I pointed out that waivers were the function of the new station governing boards, not this LAB, so any move to grant waivers was out of order. Sheila and Gail left together, but not before Sheila came up to me and, raising her voice, rudely challenged my statement that Gail Golden did not represent anyone in Rockland County, told me to come up to Rockland and see, etc. Several people told her to be quiet - she was quite hostile, and loud, disrupting the meeting, and only after I and several LAB members told her to be quiet did she desist, and exit stage right.

After the meeting, Mitchel Cohen, Patty Heffley, and I remained to discuss issues with Ray Laforest, and especially his continued defense of the Unity Caucus and its demand for appointed seats. There was no agreement, but certainly we understood each other's positions better, and Ray has no doubt that there is much anger among listeners at his failure to carry the straw votes to the national board, and over his overt support of the anti-elections faction, among other actions. Septebmer 14, 2003

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