LAB members hijack WBAI airwaves
On Thursday 11-14-02 members of the WBAI local advisory board were given some time on the morning show "Wake Up Call" which is hosted by WBAI program director Bernard White. White and and the LAB members on the air that morning are supporters of the constituency model for local station board elections which is strongly opposed by a vast majority of WBAI listeners and staff involved in the Pacifica bylaws revision process. ( petition ) The program was biased in favor of the constituency model. Apparently listeners were not invited to call in.
From: Steffie Brooks
Transcript by Steffie Brooks
Report on the November Local Advisory
Bernard White: .... right now we turn our attention to the local advisory board. We have two members of the local advisory board on with us right now. We have Marion Borenstein and also Gail Golden. What do you have for us? What's happening with the local advisory board?
Marion Borenstein: Well we had a meeting, a monthly meeting, the first Tuesday in November, and basically what we discussed … one of the things we have been trying to do is to really pull together all the members of the lab, as many as possible, to really hunker down and understand this process of what is necessary, what we have to do, in order to pass on and vote on the bylaws that are being promulgated by the national board. And the local advisory board has to understand this information and that's really one of the things we've been trying to do I would say over the last two months.
What we did a week ago was to take a straw poll on the various models. There are two models out there. There is the Spooner model, the one in Berkeley. And we have a constituency model that has come out, the WBAI model here in New York. And we had to take a straw poll. And that was one of our agendas last week. Gail, you want to speak more about that?
Gail Golden: yeah, basically at the last meeting we heard presentations on both models and there was lots of opportunity for questions on details and conception and the straw poll vote indicated that at this moment the majority of the lab is leaning toward the so called constituency model.
MB: and that brought some contention in the listener audience. And that's essentially what we've been doing. And the other thing is we had further discussions on pulling the board together in a meeting over the weekend trying to really begin to understand the complexities of the models. And that's essentially what we have been trying to do. Just really rounding up and trying to get board members to attend the meetings on a regular basis for information.
GG: I wanted to frame some of the concerns of the lab because I have enormous respect for all of the folks in the BAI community who have been working so hard and so diligently to present various election models that would create equity and fairness at the station board level. A lot of us have been thinking very seriously and very carefully and paying a lot of attention to voluminous email.and documents and have being reading outside and conferring with people around the country. Our real concern is how to bring all of the important, often underrepresented voices to the table at WBAI
Some of us are really concerned that the so called democratic elections that we have been watching play out across the country is not necessarily … is the mechanism we are used to but is not necessarily a mechanism that will bring all the people to the table that we need. People are really struggling to think outside the box and to find other ways to ensure equity. And that's really a challenge. Its not an easy job but it is one that we all take very seriously because we care very much about having appropriate representation from prisoners and poor people and folks from all different communities and that's not easy to accomplish.
MB: I would concur with what Gail has just said. The attempt to bring together the unrepresented communities in this city and really across the country … because there is a large segment of the country just in the general election, and we just went through a general election, and really what we had was about 35 to 39 percent of the electorate who really voted. Most of the people in this country do not vote. And that's unfortunate because what we do is give a small section of people who control this country. And what we are going to do in our small way to really dig into the communities and get a much more broader and deeper representation of the community. And were used to having elections. People only understand what they know. We have proportional representation and people understand that I suspect. But there are different ways of carrying out elections.
Also people have a right to self-determination and I suspect that even in our community that there's a problem with self-determination. And I think some of this contention is around that.
BW: I guess there are various lessons that we can learn from what non participation in the process can bring. But could you give our listeners an idea of what could happen if many of them do not participate in this process.
MB: OK, if members and listeners don't participate in this process, we can get, we can have a board that really doesn't have a clue about the Pacifica model, not model but the Pacifica ideas and philosophy. And we could have people elected here and we could have a small oligarchy run this board and turn it into ... we could have the same thing happen that happened before. And we don't want that to happen. We want the broadest amount of representation from the New York area on that board. And we want to send people to the national board that really represent the New York area. The New York area is a multiplicity of people, of ethnic groups, different organizations, people who work in the community who get no thanks for it, and who listen to WBAI. And I'm talking about, not necessarily have the money to send out 25 dollars, 50 dollars there. But who are listeners to this station.
And we have to be very carefully how we structure this thing so that people, many many people, can participate . .. that is women, that is African Americans, that is Latinos, that is disabled, that is the gay community. There are different kinds of gay community, There are different kinds of African Americans.
There are different kinds of women's groups. What kind of women's groups do we want on there. What are we talking about? We could elect a women's group, different groups that don't have a clue as to what the Pacifica Foundation is all about and just get elected and be on that board. We have to be extremely careful that there are people on that board that will carry out the mission and that are looking at a certain structure… This is the progressive community. There are very few stations left in this country that really reflect the broad section of what WBAI and the Pacifica Foundation represents
You can't turn on the television or the radio and hear what you hear on the Pacifica or any of the station or on wbai, of course, because you just wont hear it. I certainly wouldn't have heard what I just heard before we came on the radio to get a view of what's happening to the Palestinian people.
BW: any idea when these elections might take place.
Mb: we really don't know. It has to be pushed, it might have to pushed up, there's still a lot of work of agreeing on a model, on elections procedure. Were not really sure. There's a lot of talk, a lot of contention.
GG. a lot of this also has to be approved at the Pacifica national level
MB: at the national board.
They have to approve and whatever that the national level… and there has to be 3 boards out of the family (there are 5 stations). Three of those stations have to approve. We just approve it. We don't .. we have to approve an elections process and the bylaws. After we do that, and it has to be 3 boards. The national board, it has to be two thirds of the national board approving the elections process and the bylaws. At this point none of that … and there are differences among the five stations about how to go about this. But it has to be 3 boards out of the 5 stations to approve the procedure. Those three boards. That's what we are looking at.
And again we have been focusing on just trying to bring as many board members to these meetings, on the phone, the emails, back and forth discussing these problems.
And again there is contention. And you expect that.
BW. Gail Golden, you're up in Rockland County which is like on the periphery of our signal. What kind of interest is there in Rockland County?
GG: Essentially I don't find most of the very enthusiastic wbai listeners up here are following the issues around upcoming elections. And again this is one of the concerns that I have. It would be possible for a very small group of people with the time, energy, and perhaps even money to coopt an election process but I think if we make it clear to folks that there is a model in which a place at the table is already reserved for members of various communities and the folks can really have a say in electing representatives who will be accountable to them, I think it will be possible to generate more interest. But I would say from gauging things up here that this is a very, very important and hot issue to a small group of folks. But its not what most folks up here are paying attention to in terms of BAI.
MB: Let me just tell you something. In New York we have had attendance at the bylaws committee meetings. There are people who come to the bylaws committee meetings and that's all they do. They come there. And they are able to focus on …people have other commitments. And it is not attended by the communities in depth as you would like them to, like having a broad section of the communities come out. But that is one of the things that has to be worked on. To bring more of the composition of the New York community out to bylaws committee meetings.
We can expect certain people will come to these meetings. That's a given. But the communities who we really want … and we have to go into these communities. Because people are struggling to survive. They don't necessarily have the luxury to attend these meetings over and over and over again. That's one of the complexities of living in New York and trying to survive. That is one of the things that I would like to see is more and more people get involved in this mix. Cause involvement and trying to find out.…There's a lot of information out there on these various models. People should read them. There are positive aspects of both of these models. But one of these models, the key point here is which one will involve the broadest representation of the New York area community. And that's what's important here. And I think it is very important to read some of Lani Guinier's work on voting and what democracy is.
And I would suggest that people, if they can, I'm not suggesting that people go out and get that book of Lani Guinier and read all of it, because you don't have to. But there are certain sections of that book that really talks about democracy and elections and how people have been disenfranchised. And my feeling is that a lot of people in this country are really disenfranchised. We had an experience here about a week ago.
BW: OK. We have been talking to Marion Borenstein who is the cochair of the WBAI Local Advisory Board and also board member Gail Golden. I know for many of us this is very … I guess it would be very confusing because they are not voting on any other radio stations. One of the unique aspects of Pacifica is that is trying to return back to its policy of building from the bottom up. That the lab members who represent local communities wind up going on the national board which allows the voice from the local radio station to get an airing on a national forum. I guess it is kind of tedious but hopefully we can develop some kind of excitement around the time that the elections will be taking place. So that we can get as many people who love and are interested in this radio station….
MB: One of the things I am hoping is that people who choose to run, which ever model is approved of, that they will get involved so we can have the broadest cross-section of a board elected. Not only multifaceted, multiracial diversity but there is an element of this that is never looked at and that is the class composition of these boards. That we just don't have a certain class on that board. That we have a cross-section of the people in this …working people, the working poor, people who work for a living, who listen to the news (you know when I grew up we listened to the news, we had radio, we didn't have all these distractions of the television and the computer and all that). So we want a real cross-section of the population represented on these boards. And even this board, we have … I think the board, even though it is selfselected as they like to say ..is really a cross-section of the New York population.
If you get past that and look at where some of the people come from, that includes black and white, they may come from a certain section of class. Labor unions have to be represented. We have been able to have somebody on the board who comes from the labor movement.
But we want to guarantee that when we have elections that that happens and that various communities are represented: The arab community, the asian community, the latino community, the African American community, the white community, various communities have to be on that board. And within that board you also have to have various ideas of what it means to work for a living. You just cant have a certain section, class on that board. Like we have today, that's one of the problems that we have in this country today. And let them represent their own interests, like we have today. That's one of the problems we have today
GG: the last piece that is so critical is that the ultimate aim of all this is to constitute the pacifica national board with folks who are devoted to the mission of BAI so we will never again have the horrifying situation that we had at the time of the coup, with a national board that was completely dissociated from the local communities and the five stations and the listenership.
MB: we have to comply with this court decision and that's what we are trying to comply with. it certainly won't be done by the end of December, I am almost certain that it will be pushed up to next year. And as long as we are trying to comply with this I don't think there will be a major problem. That's what were doing and I think the national board is working on this But we also want to get it right.
MB: by the way there is no guarantee. Man is very smart. You can't plug in all the loopholes in terms of bylaws to prevent this that and the other. We have to do the best that we can. There could be a loophole that we don't even see. And we wont find out about it until it happens. We need to get the bylaws through, look at what we have, tighten up, but there's no guarantee that were going to tighten up on every little thing. As many as we can we should do. But the man is very smart and can figure out, he will find some loophole.
BW: Is there a number where people can call if they are interested
MB: WBAI has a voice mail. I think it is 209-2919, that's our boards mail, for the lab. when you call there, leave your name and your number and someone will call you back. I know the person who is in charge of it does a very good job of tracking that.
The other thing that I want to say to people is, I know it can be tiring but you really should come to the bylaws meetings. Which takes place on Tuesday at 6:30. Hopefully well get started by 7:00. Ray Laforest who is our national interim board member is the chairman of that committee.
And we have meetings generally every Tuesday. And if theres not there will be an announcement. But they take place. What were asking various people to do, various community organizations, who listen to wbai and are concerned with the issues I would like them to come to the bylaws meeting and then come to the Local advisory board meeting which is held the first Tuesday of the month. I cant say where it will be. Generally we have it at 1707 Varick St. However, it could be at the station at 120 Wall Street. You have to listen to hear where it will be held. Come to the lab meeting which is the first Tuesday of the month. We have a voice mail we have a mailbox which is Colonial Park Station 139, that's our post office box. If you want to send mail, you can write mail and send it there or else call the voice mail box. But key: bylaws meetings every Tuesday, unless stated differently that's when they meet, and LAB meeting the first Tuesday of the month.
BW : OK Gail Golden, Marion Borenstein I want to thank you very much. Once again the phone number is 209-2919......
[ From the message board at:goodlight.net/wbai ]
This morning's Wake-Up Call was an infomercial for the
it were allowed on the air to spew their fearmongering. The whining went something like this, and I'm paraphrasing: "If we don't go out and get poor people and underrepresented working people on the board, then we'll end up with people with backgrounds we don't know about who could hijack Pacifica again."
Why wasn't anyone supporting the KPFA model on the air? Were they called at the last minute or something? You would expect a one-sided hatchet-job like that to be heard on an Infinity station, not Pacifica.
"I think this Board...is really a cross-section"
Borenstein calls BAI's "No-'out'-LGBTs-Allowed--LAB"
She then went on to list a classic M.F. Berry-style "short list" of minorities represented on the board, while systematically ignoring the other half of the listening area's diversity.
She started with "the arab community, and um um um. um, the Asian community (Have trouble remembering the name of the world's biggest continent, Marion??? This was the only group she named that she stumbled over -- I didn't know whether to laugh or cry), the white community (?)...." .....but even after all these years on the WBAI LAB, Borenstein couldn't remember the name of "the largest minority" (which is about 18% of the listening area according to the 2000 Census) even though BAI just had a hour-long special / (maybe to be a permanent show; apparently the 2nd hour isn't even scheduled yet) reinforcing that fact to educate not-yet-disabled people right in it's name....
.... and she couldn't remember LGBT people, who are easily 15% of the listening area (why admit teh board's falling short of it's explicit diversity promises?) ....
.... and she couldn't even remember to mention "class" diversity (ironic since it was on the news yesterday that even wishy-washy-liberal Al Gore has signed on to supporting Universal / Single-Payer Health Care (!!!), implicitly recognising that over 40 million working poor or not-quite-poor-enough-for Medicaid people do exist.... making Gore now seem "to the political left" of Borenstien)
To fill in the "..." in that quote: "I think this Board, though it's 'self-selected' like they like to say, IS really a cross-section...."
--Marion Borenstein, Thursday 11-14-2002 being interviewed with Gail ______ by Bernard White
Today's LAB report
First: I don't believe there was an invitation for call-ins.
Second: You don't even have to be a listener to vote, as I understand the constituency model(I don't think Marion mentioned that..maybe that's why no callers were expected..)
Third: the final insult was not even to mention the web sites where other sides of information could be reviewed.
Marion Borenstein on WUC wants "broadest representation"
I heard about the last 15 minutes of this, with LAB Vice Chair, Marion Borenstein worrying much about wanting "broadest representation" on elected LAB... "We must be very careful...." about who represents listeners, etc... she wants listeners to "get involved" in the bylaws process and gives a partial snailmail address and the LAB(?) voicemail # (212-209-2919). Not easy to stay calm listening to this kind of gratuitousness... wherein she leaves unmentioned that virtually all emails to email@example.com are ignored / not responded to (except by Andy Norris)...
LAB member Gail Golden (Westchester?) was also speaking.
BTW, we should start planning an anniversary celebration for Mimi Rosenberg, who has been on LAB since December, 1995. Now there is a dedicated people's representative for you - and even after she expressed relief a year ago that she would soon be leaving her seat...
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