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Report on Oct. 24, 2004 WBAI Town Hall Meeting

To the WBAI LSB, Outreach, Membership and Fundraising Committee, and everyone,

The first WBAI Town Hall Meeting held by the first elected WBAI Local Station Board took place on Sunday October 24th at the Musician's Union on West 48th Street in midtown Manhattan. Despite a last minute shift of venue and confusion stemming from efforts to cancel the meeting, around 60 persons attended and were heard by WBAI General Manager Don Rojas, Arts Director Janet Coleman, Outreach Director Bok-keem Nyerere, and various local and national board members. LSB members Mariana Gaston (vice chair) and Miguel Maldonado served as moderators. Larger meetings are expected in the future.

The meeting was advertised as discussing "The role of The Arts at WBAI During Wartime and any other topics raised." The meeting agenda included a segment for attendees to identify WBAI related topics that they would like to discuss. These included: disability issues, inclusion issues, consistency of program related announcements, budget issues, programming policy, access to producers, ecology/vegetarianism, policy on who gets paid, pre-emption policy, and arts/poetry programming.

Don Rojas was very supportive of this event in helping to get publicity out at the last minute, attending despite health issues and graciously fielding questions from an inquisitive public. Janet Coleman's account of the role of the arts at WBAI during wartime touched on historic and recent arts programming sparking an inspired dialogue.

One of the key elements in the design of the meeting was providing for ample social/interaction time and this proved key in adding to the enjoyment and value of the meeting. There was time at the beginning, middle and end of the meeting with free flowing conversation, potluck snacks and upbeat music from Jeannie Hoppers' Liquid Sound Lounge mix CDs. (hope for live WBAI djs at future events).

The town hall meeting provision in the Pacifica bylaws originated from right here in NYC - written and sponsored by myself and widely supported by people from all factions. Of course the final version that made it to the bylaws was much stripped down from the original, but the essence is still there:

Pacifica Bylaws - Article 7, Section 3, [Local Station Board Specific Powers and Duties] H. To conduct "Town Hall" style meetings at least twice a year, devoted to hearing listeners views, needs and concerns.
The intent is to provide forums specifically for listeners and staff to express themselves to the board, management and each other - the primary focus of regular board and other meetings is on other buisiness. Hopefully this provides an opportunity for increased community, - a key element in establishing support for the station and improved service to the listening area. Another intent is to recruit volunteers for the station and participants for LSB committees.

The feedback received on the meeting was very positive. There was excitement among those who knew that this has been a long time in coming. Of course there is much room for improvement, especially regarding participation in planning and execution. But, despite confusion and controversy around forging ahead with the LSB approved October 24th date, it ended up being a very good beginning. The long dormant WBAI LSB Outreach, Membership and Fundraising committee has been reactivated and is planning the next Town Hall Meeting for early December.

A few key observations regarding this first WBAI town hall meeting:

- The social event element greatly added to the value of the meeting. Jeannie Hopper's CD of dance music mixes during the breaks set up a great atmosphere.
- Potluck refreshments very successful - not too involved, no cost to station, makes long meeting more enjoyable - Station management and board members need to be there to answer questions.
- Local board needs to make note of concerns epressed - opportunity to assess some community needs.
- A confident, patient, yet firm moderator extremely important. Co-moderators works well.
- Keep reports and presentations to a bare minimum. The purpose of these meetings is for the public to speak, not to be lectured.
- Flexibility important. Three minutes was recommended for each listener comment (turns at mike not limited) and 2 minutes for a management/board responses, but there was flexibility. The planned agenda worked because it was designed in broad stokes and allowed the meeting to take on it's own flow and yet still have structure. The main departure from the original plan was that the brief reports ended up combining with the general public comment. This was primarily due to attendees' interest in pursuing the topics arising out of the reports - though people were free to discuss other things.

The planned agenda and outline of what actually took place follows.


WBAI Town Hall Meeting Agenda [planned]
October, 24, 2004 2:00 - 6:00pm

The Role of the Arts at WBAI During Wartime and any other topics chosen by the attendees.

1) Meet and greet :25
2) Introduction and orientation by meeting facilitators :5
3) Announcements - upcoming meetings and events :10 4) Proposing of discussion topics by members of the public :10
5) Brief reports from management/staff/board :20 (5 min or less each)
6) General public comment and questions :50 - staff and LSB
replies limited to 2 minutes
7) Break :10
8) General public comment and questions part 2 :50
9) Chairs steer people to LSB committees and station volunteer groups corresponding with interests expressed :5
10) Additional announcements - upcoming meetings and events :5
11) Social time (recorded music, potluck refreshments) until closing


WBAI Town Hall Meeting Agenda [approximately what happened ]

People slowly arrived. Everything pushed back 30 minutes.

1) Meet and greet :55
2) Introduction and orientation by meeting facilitators :5
3) Announcements - upcoming meetings and events :10
4) Proposing of discussion topics by members of the public :10
5) Brief reports / 6) General public comment and questions
Reports and general comment combined. Two reports. Arts director first. GM arrived later, reported briefly and then participated in questions, answers and discussion of issues.
7) Break :40(?) - the longer social time was planned for the end
of the meeting, but it ended up taking place here where the number of attendees peaked. 8) General public comment and questions part 2 :50
9) Chairs steer people to committees etc/ 10) Additional announcements
The moderator wisely folded this last bit of housekeeping into the final public comment period
11) Social time (recorded music, potluck refreshments) until closing
- roughly an hour behind the planned schedule, but we still had 30 minutes for discussions , snacks and music while folding up the chairs etc.


The total cost of the meeting was $300 which included 5 hours room use at $25 and hour and $35 per hour for building labor. The cost was off set by $148 donated by attendees. Sound was included with the room - eliminating the cost of the station having to supply sound equipment and labor. Having meetings on weekends can be costly when a building needs to be opened. The original space was free until they cancelled their own internal event and it would of cost many more hundreds of dollars to open that building for us. We also would have had to supply part of the sound at that location. Wheelchair accessibility is necessary for any location, including restrooms.

Thanks to:
Shawn Rhodes recording the on-air announcements and to WBAI producers for announcing the meeting; Chis Z for sound mixing, the WBAI LSB and others for bringing snacks; Evan Tobias and Chis Farrell (of the Outreach, Membership and Fundraising committee), Patty Heffley, Italian Stallion and others for setup help; Major Little and the Musicians' Union; Mariana and Miguel for moderating; and Don Rojas, Janet Coleman and all others who participated.

Audio of the meeting is to be posted on http://kpftx.org

Roger Manning


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