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LAB exploratory committee minutes and notes

LAB exploratory notes index

From:  t gregg
Date:  Sat Feb 23, 2002  10:09 pm
Subject:  Minutes: WBAI LAB Exploratory Committee, 2/20

Minutes of the Exploratory Committee of
the WBAI Local
Advisory Board (LAB).

From the meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 20,
2002, from 7pm to around 9. These minutes have not
yet been approved by the Committee, but I expect
they will serve as the official record.

The meeting was run in a fair way which
allowed everyone present to be heard. A "stack"
of names was kept and each person took his or her
turn being recognized by the chairman.

There was a lot of discussion of the history of the
Pacifica Foundation at the meeting. However, the goal
of the meeting was to provide a list of ideas for
submission to the LAB. In order to both report the
discussion that took place and provide the list of
ideas, I have used a narrative style in relating the
history discussion, and when a suggestion was made in
the midst of the discussion, I have numbered the
suggestions with Arabic numerals (1,2,3...).

What follows is the list of suggestions offered by
participants in the discussion. Some items were
controversial, and inclusion on this list does not
imply endorsement by the WBAI LAB or by the
Exploratory Committee. These are just the ideas that
were stated in the brainstorming session on Feb 20. 
We do not all agree on them.

In attendance and facilitating the meeting:
Lee Kronick (LAB Member, Exploratory Committee member,
acting as chair of this meeting)
Marian Bornstein (LAB Member)
Fred Nguyen (Facilitator, flip chart writer)

I. Meeting was called to order.

II. Announcement: next meeting of the Exploratory
Committee will take place Monday, Feb. 25, 6:30 pm, at
WBAI, 120 Wall Street, 10th floor.
The featured speaker will be Valerie Van Isler and it
is expected that she will take questions from the

III. Chair announces that minutes of previous meeting
of Feb. 13 will not be read, since they are too
lengthy. They are available on the Internet, at
http://www.wbai.net/gov_lab_expl2-13-02.html (this is
the address to type into the address bar of your Web
browser, be it Netscape, AOL, or Internet Explorer.) 
Comments on the previous minutes will be taken at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/wbaiexploratory/ or at
phone number 973-378-5516, or fax 973-378-5516, or may
be emailed to WBAIexploratory@y... The
WBAI Local Advisory Board also has a post office box
for comments, whose address will be announced soon.

IV. Chair announces that the topic for tonight's
brainstorming session will be "Structure and
composition of Local Advisory Board (i.e., Station

Discussion begins with a discussion of the number of
members that should be on the LAB. It is noted that
according to one policy, between 12 and 24 members can
be seated, of which 1 should be paid staff and 1
unpaid staff. KPFA's Station Board has 22 members, of
which 8 are staff. Currently, 16 members sit on the

Discussion ensues of the history of the WBAI LAB
bylaws. In brief, the WBAI LAB last made its own
bylaws in 1991. However, the Pacifica National Board
did not recognize these bylaws as binding. The
National Board handed down 2 sets of guidelines for
the LAB in 1997 and 1998, progressively weakening the
power of the LAB. Among other things, these
guidelines stated that the staff members on the LABs
had to be non-voting members. The WBAI LAB did not
accept these guidelines. In 1999, the KPFA LAB,
ignoring the National Board's guidelines, made its own
bylaws, stating that 8 staff members should be voting
members of the LAB. At KPFK, there are 4 staff seats.

1. At this point, an idea was proposed: we should
eliminate the idea that there should be no staff
members on the LAB

2. Marian Bornstein suggested that in the future,
there may be a conflict of interest if paid staff
members are on the LAB.

3. The chair suggested that perhaps we could increase
the number of staff members on the board.

There was a discussion of the issue of funding from
the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, centered
around the issue of the difference between the CPB's
"Community Advisory Board" (CAB) and the Pacifica
"Local Advisory Board" or "Station Board". The upshot
was that CABs are powerless but Station Boards may
have power to influence decisions at the network. Any
station receiving CBP funding is required to have a
CAB as well as 5 and 1/2 paid staff (this appears to
mean 5 full-time staffers and one half-time staffer). 
The opinion was advanced that the function of CPB is
to destroy community broadcasting.

4. WBAI can be a "mission-driven" station. That is,
WBAI's programming may be shaped so as to further the
mission of Pacifica.

5. At some stations, the current staff are hostile to
the LABs and hostile to the mission of Pacifica. 
Therefore, if we think about all the stations in the
Pacifica network and not just WBAI, we might come to
the conclusion that seats should not be reserved for
staff members at this time.

6. The LAB needs to have members who represent
constituencies, like the environmental movement, the
alternative medicine movement, etc., and there should
be as many LAB members as are needed to seat all

7. In response to the previous idea, another person
suggested that it is not productive to have a large
number of voting "constituency" members on a board,
but these constituencies could be represented by
non-voting LAB members.

It was noted that Garland Ganter, former General
Manager of KPFT in Houston, tried to be on the interim
Pacifica National Board, and since he was a paid
staffer, this attempt was foiled.

8. The size of the LAB should be determined by the
function of the LAB.

9. We should decide how many committees the LAB should
have, and then allot 2 LAB members per committee. 
This can be a guideline as to the size of the LAB.

10. We should have the following committees on the
LAB: Outreach, Communications, Community Needs
Assessment, and Weekly Show. Subcommittees of the
Communications Committee could include 3
subcommittees: 1) a subcommittee that staffs a LAB
desk at the station with a telephone and computer,
where listeners could call to make contact with the
LAB, and a "cart" could be made to advertise this
phone number on the air 2) a subcommittee for a
website 3) a subcommittee for the Folio (i.e, a
printed report to the listener, mailed to

11. The role of the LAB is to liaison between the
station and listeners.

12. There needs to be staff representation on the LAB.

13. Later, someone proposed that there should not be
seats reserved for staff on the LAB.

14. Another person stated that reserving a few seats
on the LAB for staff would be a way to prevent
producers from filling all the seats on the LAB, the
idea being that a few seats on the LAB would be
reserved for staff, and the other seats would be
reserved for listeners.

15. In response, someone stated that producers could
be prevented from filling all the seats on the LAB by
an explicit statement in the bylaws, rather than by
the indirect method of reserving some seats for staff
and others for listeners.

Someone predicted that the future bylaws will direct
each Station Board to elect 2 people to the Pacifica
National Board.

16. Someone recommended that, although LAB committees
ought to be headed by LAB members, listeners should be
able to be members of those committees.

17. The Pacifica National Board ought to be directly
elected by listeners.

18. The Pacifica National Board ought to be elected by
the LABs, who are, in turn, elected by listeners.

There was a discussion of what committees are on the
LAB at present. They are: an Executive Committee,
plus 5 standing committees: Board Membership
Committee, Finance Committee, Fundraising Committee,
Personnel and Grievance Committee, and Outreach
Committee. Someone said that the 1991 WBAI LAB bylaws
define the structure of the committees.

19. The size of the LAB should depend on the number of

20. Marian Bornstein stated that the LAB should have
at least the following 4 committees: Fiscal/Finance,
Outreach, Membership, and Program. The Program
Committee would be responsible for giving advice about
radio programs.

21. We should not discuss the role of the LAB in
giving advice about radio programs until we know
whether there will be a Program Council.

Discussion of what the Program Council was-- it was
made up of the head of the Arts Department, the head
of the Public Affairs department, and an at-large
member, and it reported to the Program Director.

22. We need to think about how committees are formed,
how listeners can seek accountability, and how minutes
can be distributed.

It was noted that the 1991 WBAI LAB bylaws stated that
the board chair shall name each committee chair, with
the approval of the entire LAB.

23. Perhaps committees should be elected by listeners.

24. An elections committee can be part of the
membership committee.

25. LAB members should be able to be recalled, and
perhaps they should be able to be recalled or removed
from committees.

26. The listeners should be able to give a vote of "no
confidence" in the LAB or Pacifica National Board, as
is done in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and
the whole board should then be able to be recalled.

27. There should be two levels of bylaws, one that
cannot be changed and one that can be changed, 

28. Because we need to ensure the survival of Pacifica
with its mission intact, we should impose a litmus
test on all candidates.

29. All substantive decisions of the Board (this
probably refers to the Pacifica National Board) should
have a 2-week waiting period before they are put into
effect. This waiting period would allow the listeners
time to learn about any bad decisions made by the
board. If listeners learn about a bad decision within
the 2-week waiting period, they can then vote to
remove the person or people who made that bad
decision, and when those people are removed, the
decision will be automatically reversed. This 2-week
period could be called a "chill period."

It was noted that a LAB attempted to recall Frank
Millspaugh and Cisco. These two National Board members
had one position on a certain issue, then changed
their position later. When they changed their
position, the LAB voted to recall them. But the
Pacifica National Board refused to heed the recall
decision. If we want the LABs to have real,
enforceable recall power, then the Pacifica
Foundation's national bylaws will have to be changed.

The KPFA process for recall was described, as follows:
1) a number of signatures equal to 15% of the votes
cast in the last election must be collected in order
to put a recall measure on the ballot. 2) Then an
election is held, in which a quorum consists of 50% of
the vote total in the previous election. 3) Then a
simple majority can vote to recall the candidate. For
example, let's say that 1000 people voted in the last
election, to elect Ms. Smith. Then 150 would have to
sign a petition to put a recall measure on the ballot,
and an election would be held, in which 500 people
would have to vote, and of them, 251 would have to
vote to recall. Only then would Ms. Smith be

30. Idea: a majority should be able to remove
individual members. (It is unclear whether this
refers to a majority of listeners or a majority of
board members.)

31. Someone said that the proposed recall procedure is
burdensome and too time-consuming. He said that a
better way to limit the impact of possible bad board
members would be to routinely hold elections once
every few months, so there would be frequent
opportunities to eliminate bad board members.

A comparison was read of the rules for recall at the
different stations. This comparison, as well as other
interesting comparisons, is available at the Internet
. The file is in Microsoft Excel format.

32. Someone proposed that we should not recall people
for mere differences of opinion or disagreements.

33. In response, someone else proposed that the
bylaws should state that listeners shall be able to
recall people for any reason, because it may be
impossible to codify the difference between a mere
"disagreement" and a true problem.

There was discussion of the idea of accountability. 
The idea of accountability goes beyond elections-- it
also must include ongoing participation in the process
and in meetings and other activities of Pacifica.

It was noted that "recall" of board members is what
happens when the voters vote to remove them. In
contrast, the current LAB bylaws allow the LAB to
"remove" board members for a valid reason, without
input from the voters. Missing 3 meetings in a row is
also grounds for removal, as stated in the WBAI LAB

34. It was suggested that we need to have a Program

35. Someone suggested that reactionaries are currently
broadcasting at some stations, and because this is the
case, we should make a special rule, as follows. 
Before a station can be allowed to elect board
members, it should be certified as being "in
compliance" with the Pacifica Mission. If the station
is not actively promoting the Pacifica Mission, then
it should not be allowed to elect people to the board.
(Note: it is unclear whether person proposing this
idea was saying that 1) LABs not in compliance should
not be allowed to elect National Board members, or 2)
stations not in compliance should not be allowed to
elect a LAB, or 3) stations not in compliance should
not be allowed to participate in any elections.)

36. Another person added that in the process of
assessing whether a station is in compliance, a
community needs assessment should be done. (That is,
someone should go out into the community and find out
what the community needs, then report that to the
National Board, and then the National Board can use
that information to help it decide whether the station
is in compliance.)

37. Apparently someone suggested that the Station
Board, not the National Board, should be the one to do
the certifying.

It was suggested that Pacifica needs to be democratic,
but we also need to be protected from harmful outside

38. The opinion was advanced that the Station Boards,
not the Pacifica National Board, should be the ones to
define what "the Pacifica Mission" is.

The question was raised of what should be done if the
listeners want to change all the radio programs at a
station and remove many producers, but the producers
are opposed to this idea.

A metaphor was offered comparing Pacifica to a living
cell: every cell has a membrane to protect it from
invasion of viruses and diseases. Similarly, Pacifica
needs to be able to exclude people who are not in
favor of the Pacifica mission.

A metaphor was offered comparing Pacifica to a subway
system, stating that the people in charge of the
subway don't take care of every little detail of how
the subway works, but they just put in a demand like
"we want a train to go to Flatbush" and freedom is
given to the subordinates to fulfill that demand in
the best way they can. Pacifica should function the
same way, in that the governing boards ought to set
the mission, and leave it to the station staff to
decide how to carry out that mission.

39. The facilitator drew a triangular diagram, as
1. Station Board
| \
| \
2.Listener--3.General Manager/Radio Station

39 (continued). The point was that the listener has
two ways to affect station policies: 1)
indirectly,through the Station Board and 2) directly,
through the General Manager of the station. People
have been proposing ways to recall Station Board
members who are not managing the station well. But
the problem is that this weakens the Station Board,
which needs to be strong, and it only indirectly
affects the programming at the station. If we want
program changes, we should think about focusing our
energies on the direct method (getting the General
Manager to change the policies) instead of the
indirect method (focusing on recalling board members.)

V. In response to a question, chair replies that the
next brainstorming session will take place after the
upcoming Pacifica National Board meeting.

VI. Meeting is adjourned.

the interest of precision, I have transcribed the
flip-charts made during the meeting below, as close to
verbatim as I can make them without using
illustrations. Please note that underlining is
indicated by placement of an underline before and
after the underlined phrase, like so: _underlined
phrase_. Note that there is one cryptic symbol, that
looks like an equals sign with an underline under it. 
I think this symbol may mean "is defined as" and I
have indicated it with: _= . I made comments in a
couple places with brackets [].

First sheet:
Phone # 973-378-5516 message
Fax # 973-378-5516
VVI guest spkr.
in perm. studio.
Second sheet:
# KPFA 22/incl. 8 staff members
Bylaws 12 to 24 incl.
1 paid staff
1 unpaid "-- Pacif 1999
Currently 16 sitting members.
- KPFK 4 staff seats
- Governing policy on LAB (1997 1998)
- KPFA has Election Procedures
- WBAI bylaws (local 1991) (2000)
- KPFA Elec Proc. are in contradiction w/ 1997-1998
Pacifica guidelines
- We need staff members on the board.
Third sheet:
- There were "problems" with KPFA LAB of staff members
voting on listener issues.
- CPB funding was held up pending acceptance of LAB
-> recommend _do not_ accept the money
- There are several interpretations of CPB
requirements on advisory vs. governing board.
- BAI can be a mission driven station. CPB Web site
does not support the "advisory" concept as mandatory
- The 97-98 guidelines promulgated "new" bylaws in
replacement of 1991 LAB Bylaws.
Fourth sheet:
_# of staff members:_
- factors: local & national (political)
- Houston Lab is in limbo.
- Too many staff may bring hostility
- Lab members according to constituencies
- Currently GM is non-voting member
should there be more?
- Conflict of interest?
-Staff _= employee _= union
- unpaid volunteers
- staff. paid.
- producer.
- Size of SB should relate to role./function
Fifth sheet:
- SB as leader with committee structure
2 Bd members on each committee
- outreach
> - communications (LAB desk)
- run web site.
- folio.
- on air show.
- committees include listeners
- Fundraising
- interLab communication
- STANDiNG committees
listed in 1991 Bylaws.
- membership/nominating
Sixth sheet:

1 - Fundraising 6 grievance
2 - Fiscal
3 - Programs
4 - Outreach
5 Membership/Elections Nomin

[These 6 committees are] standing [committees]
[These 6 committees] produce _reports_

- other committees are ad-hoc.
no consistency, no procedures.
- what are the roles + skills of Board Mbers
- Programs committee.
->develops assessments
- Programs council
Arts Dpt head
Public Aff dept head
At Large members/ex progr.
---> reports to Progr. Dir.
Did not function well
Seventh sheet
- accountability of committees
- _now_: committee chair named by SB chair..
(change? how?)
-current SB has no staff.
minutes are internal.
[6 items regarding accountability are as follows:]
-weekly on air
-volunteer participation

--> what real power does the Lab have.
-decisions with limited attendance
- committees elected by listeners (perhaps)
- what are causes for recall?
Eighth sheet
- No seats reserved for staff
run like other candidates
- other disagree: have fixed #
- 2 levels of bylaws
so some can't be changed
-litmus test on candidates
and members
- chill out period on resolutions
- _recall_: cisco + millspaugh
changed positions + were recalled.
-Lab. (majority)
need bylaw change to enforce.
-KPFA guidelines 15% + 1 of previous force.
to vote
50% is valid vote for recall.
- idea: majority can remove indiv. members
Ninth sheet
- voters should have ability to recall.
- total board recall at KPFA & KPFK (not adopted)
rules for recall were read
- comparison of-
- Needs _Grounds_ for recall
--> Do not use recall simply for disagreement (other
- Accountability = Participation
in process and meetings.
- "removal" in bylaws 97. PNB. bylaws
by LAB members
- Need Program Council.
- A station need to be _certified_ as compliant with
mission before a board is allowed to function
- community needs assessment
Tenth sheet
- who certifies?
--> the Station Board
--> oversight
- Need criteria for recall/removal.
- (SB)
/ \

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