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WBAI LAB minutes

Minutes of the WBAI Local Advisory Board Meeting

Tuesday November 5, 2002, at 75 Varick St., 14th Fl., Manhattan.

Present: Rashida Ismaili Abubakr, Panama Vincente Alba, Marian Borenstein, Cecelia Caruso, Anne Emerman, Gail Golden, Madelyn Hoffman, Lee Kronick, Ray Laforest, E. Anthony Mackall, Miguel Maldonado (Chair), Errol Maitland, Andrew Norris, Mimi Rosenberg

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 PM by the Chair. The agenda was discussed for approximately 15 minutes. Minutes of the previous LAB meeting on October 1 were adopted.

Agenda (150 minutes total)

1. Introduction, delegation of time keeping, Minutes of the October LAB meeting. (5 minutes)
2. Race and Nationality Coordinator: update by Sheila Hamanaka (5 minutes).
3. LAB Retreat 11/9/02 - summary (5 minutes).
4. Presentations on models for LAB elections: Introduction (5 minutes)
   a) KPFA/K election model (15 minutes)
   b) WBAI Unity Caucus Constituency election model (15 minutes)
5. Questions from LAB members on the presentations, questions from listeners, and general discussion, followed by a Straw Poll on the models presented (60 minutes)
6. Discussion and Straw Poll on the Question: Who is a member (and is therefore entitled to vote)* ? (20 minutes)
7. Discussion and Straw Poll on the Question: What classes of voters should be distinguished for LAB elections* ? (20 minutes)
8. Straw poll vote on whether local boards should define type, manner, timing of elections, etc.
9. Announcements

Race & Nationality National Coordinator. Bob Lederer gave an overview of the Race & Nationality committees being established throughout the network: LA and Berkeley are working, DC is close, and there is motion in NYC. The iPNB approved an interim coordinator for the national office, a position that would be temporary but for at least 2 months. Gail Golden explained that Sheila Hamanaka was proposed as the WBAI delegate to the committee that would select the interim national coordinator.

LAB Retreat: Nov. 9 was selected. Gail Golden and Rashida Ismaili Abubakr will prepare an agenda.

Ray Laforest said that Rob Robinson of the iPNB, who is combining the bylaws items from the iPNB meeting, was supposed to have a draft bylaws document ready prior to this meeting (Nov. 4) but now promises it by Friday Nov. 8.

*Suggested straw poll options:
A. Subscribers (minimum $25) and volunteers (minimum 3 hours).
B. Individuals who give any amount of money or time to the station.
C. Listeners who fill out a registration card.
*Suggested straw poll options:
A. Only one class of voters. (No special distinction for staff).
B. Two classes of voters: Staff and Non-Staff.
C. Two broad classes of voters: Staff and Non-Staff. Sub-classes with which voters can identify and register are defined according to the Constituency Model.

Ray Laforest and Marian Borenstein outlined the main purpose for tonight's LAB meeting: to bring the LAB up to speed with bylaws developments. The Chair described how two separate presentations will be given - each of 15 minutes duration.

KPFA Elections Model presentation. Manijeh Saba began her presentation and was interrupted with questions from Ray Laforest and Marian Borenstein. Ms. Saba had to explain that she was speaking as part of the 15 minute KPFA presentation. The Chair advised that the two presentations be given with questions reserved until both were complete. Ms. Saba, starting again, described the Committee for Unified Membership petition that had been signed by over 400. She compared it with the WBAI Unity Caucus model, saying the UC model divides the community. The Cmte for Unified Membership are concerned about mass disenchantment with the UC model based on contact with many listeners on the streets of NYC. She noted there is widespread opposition to the UC model.

Steve Salchow talked about the KPFA elections model which has been operative for two years. There is one single at-large election, and all voters can vote for all candidates on the board. There should be allowance for extensive discussion on air of issues. The concept of elections has been criticized by comparison with the public election experience where the media is out to lunch. Noted major difference: Pacifica voters will be informed by the best medium available. Voters contribute a min of $25/yr or 3 hrs of volunteer work (with possibility of a waiver). No registration process necessary. Ballots received in the mail, with an information packet. WBAI LAB has been successful in maintaining a diverse board. Proportional representation system ensures the outcome mirrors the vote of the electorate.

Paul Surovell said he believes that the issues in the petition are important to listeners, and he is convinced that the UC model will alienate listeners. He has worked with LAB, defending it from criticism, and warned against ad-hoc elections in 2001. The UC model prevents the WBAI family from coming together, there would be no sense of unity. The KPFA model has already succeeded. The WBAI LAB needs to show leadership.

Berthold Reimers emphasized the idea of a giving a balance of power to the LAB. Programming and outreach will guarantee the success of the elections.

WBAI Unity Caucus Elections Model presentation

Bob Lederer gave the background of the WBAI Unity Caucus as a group troubled by the possibility that the result of the elections might not be a body that supports the mission, and would not represent the communities of the station. The UC emphasizes the element of self-representation of communities that are oppressed, race-based, and geographically diverse. He pointed out that voters can choose whichever two constituencies they feel they fall into.

Margaret Dominique - a producer on the Haiti show - addressed the need to foster participation of women and underrepresented groups. Candidates must come from the constituencies - as being better able to represent them, and be accountable. Staff must be represented also. The KPFA model emphasizes people representing the general population, and would not, e.g. represent the gay/lesbian community. Membership and voter eligibility is guaranteed to all through the registration period no matter whether or not they have contributed or volunteered at the station. We advocate that each station have an outreach coordinator. At the Big Tent convention, there will not be 18 but a single election, where the candidates will hash out their issues before the election. There should be the right to recall members.

Ray Laforest objected to the first presentation speaking against one model rather than for its own. Questions from the LAB:

  1. How would KPFA model avoid a repeat of the Cynthia McKinney situation? (Maitland)
  2. Why is there only one NJ representative, etc., in the constituency model? Why not representatives for peace, environmental movements, etc.? (Hoffman)
  3. How do the two models ensure that experts, in e.g. financial operation of non-profits, apply? (Norris)
  4. Similar question: need technology, radio, legal skills. What is the estimated cost of elections in each model? And the frequency of elections? (Emerman)
  5. Can a group select anybody they like to represent them in the CM? What is the advantage to having the same model as other areas? (Maldonado)
  6. Is there accountability in the KPFA model? (Kronick)
Paul Surovell noted that the KPFA presentation was based on the straw poll questions in the agenda. Re Q1: three lines of defense exist: (a) only 1/3 of LSB is elected each year, (b) grandparenting, (c) the LSB has to certify the election. In the McKinney situation it would not be certified. The UC model has vulnerability in open membership, e.g. the Unification Church could capture the youth seat under CM if they wanted.

Berthold Reimers on Q6: Elections would be focused on getting activists to participate. The KPFA model would attract people who have WBAI as their primary focus. Manijeh Saba: strong outreach will be necessary.

Steve Salchow on Cost: KPFA spent approx $8,500 for printing and mailing. Internet voting was included at a cost of $2,000. The total was approx. $11,000.

Berthold Reimers on Q6: each voter gets to chose all those elected to the board and may petition to remove members on the board. Recall should be a serious mechanism. CM members would only represent groups and not everyone, and the CM does not address accountability.

Margaret Dominique: A takeover is harder because it would have to reach the different groups.

Bob Lederer: Accountability is ensured through the big tent process. Groups such as environmental etc, will be included by proportional representation. Cost: not much more than the KPFA model. Stations will be allowed autonomy, but mandates like the 50% diversity criterion should be national. He promotes experimentation with a national convention after one year. The CM advocates expertise coming from the grassroots, there is no requirement for running for the board, but the statement of principles must be followed.

Joe Kaye noted that the LSB could end up with no Latino, no Haitian, etc. under the diversity requirements.

Questions and comments from the audience: How do you include self assessment in the models? How are the candidates selected in the KPFA model? Where is the outreach addressed in the KPFA model? How are the groups selected in the CM model? Over time, who/how are the constituencies decided? Why do people vote in person in the CM, requiring different polling places? Does the requirement that you have to come register, come to the big top, come to vote, etc. not make it more difficult to particpate? Self determination exists thru the proportional representation. Who decides if there are more asian, etc seats?
The CM is a Rube Goldberg model and inequitable: e.g. 500 could vote for the "women" seat and 4 for the gay seat? This is not fair. Under CM you get to choose only two constituencies. This will we denying those who want to be seen as all things. I (a white person) cannot vote for someone in e.g. African ancestry.

Mimi Rosenberg asked the LAB whether it is necessary to answer these questions, or do we not know enough already?

Margaret Dominique and Bob Lederer: The reason people vote in person - except for prisoners and disabled - is that this is a way to verify identity, although this is a mechanical detail and not a focal point. On self evaluation - there will be grounds for recall. Outreach is done by a paid outreach coordinator - who would marshall volunteers not factions. Who determines which constituencies? The current LAB would choose the constituencies in an open meeting. People can distribute their 2 votes as they want. You can register in one geographical area, at large, or for one of the 17 constituencies. Each community only selects their representative. The distinction between this and universal voting for all constituencies is essentially a judgment call.

Manijeh Saba and Paul Surovell: KPFA created an outreach effort to recruit candidates from communities. It is important to involve candidates from progressive communities, and all communities of color. There is a need to obtain candidates with professional skills also. Outreach is vital: KPFA has a van that goes out to the communities - we need to do similar things here. There is one Pacifica community, we are not divided. We are striving to overcome biases, and need to maintain unity. Communities did not demand a CM - this came from people with an ideological proclivity -the proof is that the constituencies are not present tonight.

With the conclusion of the presentations, Q and A, the LAB then had some discussion on the next steps. It was decided to proceed with straw polls. Item 8 on the agenda was withdrawn.

Straw polls:

Item 5: Preference for the two models presented:
a) KPFA model: 3 in support
b) Constituency model: 8 in support
Abstain: 1

Item 6: Who is a member?
a) Subscribers (minimum $25) and volunteers (minimum 3 hours): 0 in support.
b) Individuals who give any amount of money or time to the station: 2 in support
c) Listeners who fill out a registration card: 7 in support.
Abstain: 2

Item 7: What classes of voters should be distinguished for LAB elections?
a) Only one class of voters. (No special distinction for staff): 0 in support.
b) Two classes of voters: Staff and Non-Staff: 3 in support
c) Two broad classes of voters: Staff and Non-Staff. Sub-classes with which voters can identify and register are defined according to the Constituency Model: 7 in support
Abstain: 1

The meeting ended at approximately 10PM.

Respectfully submitted,
Andrew Norris
December 17, 2002

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