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The WBAI LAB response regarding the March 16th Democracy Now! 3-31-01

From: Andrew Norris norris@jove.rutgers.edu
to: Pacifica National Board
from: WBAI Local Advisory Board
cc: Democracy Now!

Open response of the WBAI Local Advisory Board to the March 16th Democracy Now!

John Murdock of the Pacifica National Board (PNB) was a guest on the March 16th Democracy Now! which was broadcast on our station WBAI. We welcome his willingness to enter into open discussion with critics of the PNB, and encourage more communication between the PNB and the Pacifica community. During the show Mr. Murdock covered some topics of relevance to the WBAI Local Advisory Board (LAB). In particular we take issue with his presentation on two items of concern to us: relations between the PNB and the LAB, and Mr. Murdock's "draft" bylaws.

PNB and the LAB

In a sentence concerning the mission of Pacifica and the adverse comments of critics of the PNB, Mr. Murdock said of the PNB: "... a board of persons has worked hard with the staff, with the stations, with the Local Advisory Boards through disputes and hard times to continue to keep alive."

This self-assessment of the PNB by a prominent member is regrettably false. Mr. Murdock mischaracterizes recent interactions between the PNB and the LABs, and it is necessary to set the record straight. An objective view of the board's actions in the past three years could only conclude that the PNB has worked hard to eliminate the LABs. Fortunately, the PNB cannot by itself annihilate LABs since their existence is mandated by federal law. The PNB has, however, attempted to reduce the powers of the LABs, most notably by unilaterally redefining LAB bylaws in 1998 and by illegally removing LAB rights to elect members to the PNB in 1999. Both actions were openly and constructively opposed by the WBAI LAB at the time, and despite good faith efforts of this and other LABs to enter into discussions and offers to assist the PNB in these matters, their wishes were denied, ignored or rebuffed at every step. So much so that some LAB members felt they had no alternative but to resort to the California court system to obtain redress against their disenfranchisement by the PNB in 1999. Mr. Murdock is aware of all this, since his colleagues at Epstein Becker and Green represent PNB as defendants.

Contrary to the depiction of a PNB working hard with the LAB, the PNB has made virtually no attempt to communicate with this or other LABs on issue of importance to the stations. When was the last time the Council of LAB chairs was consulted or invoked? The PNB has ignored the LABs during station crises, in Berkeley in 1999, and most recently in New York. The only members of PNB who have made contact with the WBAI LAB during the current crisis are the so-called "dissidents", and their attempts to communicate with and convene the PNB on the WBAI crisis fell on deaf ears. At no time either prior to the "Christmas coup" or since has the Chair of PNB, or either of the two members of the PNB from NYC who sit on the PNB Executive Committee and have responsibility for hiring and firing of station managers, Mr. Millspaugh and Ms. Cisco, made any attempt to contact or consult with the WBAI LAB. The same holds for the Executive Director, who reports to the Chair and the Executive Committee of the PNB. Ms. Wash has totally ignored the WBAI LAB.

Draft Bylaws

Concerning the bylaws he drafted, Mr. Murdock flippantly chooses to ignore the facts when he says they were purely for discussion and that listeners and others overreacted when they were announced. Let us get the facts right here.

At the September 2000 meeting of the PNB Mr. Murdock said:

"I would take the bullet point items from people and put together a comprehensive draft of the revised set of bylaws, distribute those to the governance committee and the Board, receive comments and then through that process work through revising drafts with the objective that ideally by March we will come back and be able to vote on an undated and revised set of bylaws"

With this as background, members of this LAB heard nothing from Mr. Murdock until we received, indirectly, copies of his draft bylaws in late January. The cover memo on these includes Mr. Murdock's timetable:

"January 20, 2001: draft distributed to all members of the Pacifica Foundation National Board for review and comment; February 8, 2001: all members of the Board will have communicated their comments on the draft to me by fax, mail or e-mail (please make your comments in writing, preferably on the copy of the draft itself). "

There is no mention of anyone other than members of the PNB in this process. As it happened, two of the PNB members from New York (again the "dissidents") disseminated this document and also offered to compile comments from listeners and concerned friends of WBAI. Were it not for their hard work and concern most of us would never have learnt of your document within the narrow time frame you imposed. At the same time, we were under the impression that the bylaws would be voted on in March, according to the schedule you announced in September of 2000. It should also be mentioned that the other two local members of the PNB, Mr. Millspaugh and Ms. Cisco, made no attempt to promulgate your document, or to gather input from the community. In fact, neither of them has attempted to communicate with the LAB in over two years. They have failed to represent the WBAI community, and they do not have the support of this LAB. The PNB has been informed of this, repeatedly.

A cursory reading of the section of the draft bylaws pertaining to the LABs indicates quite clearly that Mr. Murdock made no attempt to obtain input from LABs. The document ignores the tremendous organizing efforts by concerned activists throughout the Pacifica community to achieve a representative system for constituting LABs. It totally ignores the successful implementation at KPFA of an elective system, the details of which are readily available to Mr. Murdock on the internet.

Finally, we reiterate that open communication is the only solution to the quagmire that bedevils Pacifica. This entails, at a minimum, the immediate cessation of censorship, banning and intimidation. The reputation of Pacifica is at stake.

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