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WBAI LAB minutes

[posted here 8-15-02]

Minutes of the WBAI Local Advisory Board Meeting

Tuesday July 2, 2002, at 75 Varick St., 14th Floor.

Present: Rashida Ismaili AbuBakr, Marian Borenstein, Gail Golden, Madelyn Hoffmann, A. Victoria Hunter, Ray Laforest, Anthony Mackall, Errol Maitland, Miguel Maldonado (Chair), Andrew Norris

In attendance from the iPNB: Leslie Cagan, Janice K. Bryant

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 PM by the LAB Chair.

Minutes from the meeting of April 8, 2002 were approved. No other minutes from previous meetings were offered. The Chair circulated a proposed agenda he had prepared. The meeting was intended to be a joint LAB and WBAI Area Bylaws Revision Subcommittee meeting (the co-chairs of the Bylaws Subcommittee are Ray Laforest and Janice K. Bryant).

Announcements: Bob Lederer gave an update on the state of LAB member Jon Cohen. He came out of hospital vigorous and preparing for the most important stage of his medical ordeal: a bone marrow transplant, scheduled for late July/August. Bob also mentioned the continuing imprisonment of WBAI unpaid reporter Farouk Abdel Muhti, currently locked up in Middlesex NJ by the INS.

General Manager's Report. Valerie van Isler gave a report on the station after 6 months since her return as GM. The station was at risk, difficulties were not over, but there was a glimmer of light. The number of subscribers had increased to almost 18K from 12K in January, and listenership has grown. There had been a number of personnel changes, some may end up in arbitration. Interim Directors of Public Affairs, and of Arts, had been appointed. The positions of Public Affairs Director and Operations Director had been advertised. An AFTRA contact was imminent, and the more than 125 unpaid staff will be unionized. The program schedule had been revised, it now comprises 96 programs with over 150 producers. There will be a mini-drive Aug. 5-9, and a national day of programming in September, and a telemartketing campaign over the summer.

A. Norris: when would the regular quarterly station fiscal reports be available?
VVI: Because of the terrible messed-up state of the books when we returned, none are yet available, but Dan Coughlin and Verna Avery Brown are working on them.
AN: How do we know how many listeners there are, since no Arbitron numbers are available?
VVI: We are not paying for the Arbitron figures but need to.
AN: Who will be doing the telemarketing?
VVI: A company previously used by KPFA, and not the one used in 2001. Carolyn Birden: Is there a written financial report?
VVI: I am providing a written report to the LAB tonight. (VVI was referring to the recent WBAI
GM report to the national board, copies of which she handed out. This report is available at http://wbai.net/ipnb_bkly_doc_wbai_gm6-22-02.html ). Jim Davis: When I compare the recent "begging letter" from WBAI to that I received from WNYC, the latter looked more radical. The WBAI letter did not mention the possibility of sending in a smaller amount, e.g. $25.
VVI. The WBAI letter raised $50K for the station.

Report from Chair of iPNB: Leslie Cagan gave a report from the recent uPNB meeting in Berkeley, CA. Acting on the recommendation of the WBAI Committee, the board dissolved the committee, which had been brought into existence as a result of the iPNB meeting in late December 2001. Two other recommendations from the WBAI Committee were that the WBAI LAB assume oversight of the unpaid staff unionization process, and also oversee firings and hirings. The iPNB did not vote on these as it felt they gave powers to the WBAI LAB that other LABs did not have, and it was not clear these powers should revert to the WBAI LAB at this time. No budget has yet been adopted for FY 02, the budget for 03 will be voted on in September. The cash situation is critical, and could run out by August 15, hence the need for mini-drives over the summer. There will be a national direct mailing to lapsed members. It was decided that future budgets include as line items: outreach, training, Folio, and the cost of elections. On bylaws: the pace is frustrating, but by July 15 Carol Spooner will circulate a first draft for comment. The iPNB has mandated that each station provide at least two hours of programming per week on bylaws discussion.

Ray Laforest: Bernard White had agreed to have 15 minute reports on Wake Up Call after each Bylaws Subcommittee meeting, to be organized by RL and Janice K. Bryant. Bernard White will also meet with producers to coordinate shows on bylaws. The national Bylaws Committee has been meeting by conference call. Ray summarized the contract that the iPNB had negotiated and signed with Democracy Now!, including $400K for this year, rising to $440K/yr in October, with subsequent annual increases of between 4% and 10%., plus $48K/yr for phones.

A. Norris: has the 2001 IRS return for the Pacifica Foundation been filed?
LC: Did not know.
Patty Heffley: Pacifica sold the farm with the Democracy Now! deal. Pacifica covers insurance, and gives the list of subscribers to Democracy Now! Productions Inc.
LC: The contract contains an option to renew. We will also look into getting an addendum. It might be useful to have a public meeting where Amy Goodman and Kris Abrams (DN! Producer) can explain their view on the contract. Steve Brown (comment) Pacifica will be dead in 2 years because of this contract.
Fred Nguyen: What is the plan if Pacifica runs out of money by August 15?
LC: Loans are a possibility.
Joe Kaye: Can the deadline be delayed for the Bylaws?
LC: We will try to stick to the timeline. Some feel the need for additional time. It is a possibility, if all agree, and could be granted by the judge if we can show good faith efforts underway.
Marcia Newfield: Suggests a national day of programming on bylaws.
LC: The idea has been raised but there is no specific proposal yet.

Chair's Report to iPNB: Considerable discussion ensued around Miguel Maldonado's recent report to the iPNB in Berkeley. Several people expressed concern at some of his remarks, e.g.
Joe Kaye: Some of MM's comments were divisive. The report was not discussed with the LAB prior to the iPNB meeting. Anthony Mackall: There were a number of statements in the report that he disagreed with, some were incendiary. What was the purpose of Miguel's comment about WBAI being a "black station"? Gail Golden: Did not hear the report but asks on whose behalf did Miguel speak? He did not speak for me.
Bokeem: Valeri van Isler wanted to respond to MM but Leslie Cagan did not let her. He wants to hear the reasons for the comments made.

Miguel Maldonado: Can understand some people's concern, but he will defend and prove what he said. He will publish a letter by next Monday on his report to the iPNB in Berkeley.

Leslie Cagan: There was ambiguity in the directions given to LAB chairs about reports, it was not specified whether they were to be personal or "official".
Carolyn Birden: MM said "black station as opposed to community station".
Paul Surovell: Suggested giving MM an opportunity to lay out his arguments, and then get a response from the station General Manager and Program Director (both present).
Bernard White: Why do we need a letter to explain it - we have a tape. We can deal with what MM said point by point.
Valerie van Isler: This is an issue of the Board reporting responsibly and must be answered by the board.

Discussion then turned to the prospect of a separate closed LAB meeting, after Ray Laforest suggested the LAB meet in Executive Session to arrive at a solution. Some expressed support for an Executive Session. Rashida Ismaili AbuBakr said the Executive Session was necessary to discuss procedural issues. She was concerned about the tremendous amount of racializing. Many of those responsible for the racializing over Fred Nguyen's email posts were present tonight. She called for a cohesive coming together. Others, e.g. Steve Seltzer, expressed concern that a closed meeting would suppress the issue. Andrea Fishman suggested MM's comments were critical but not divisive and needed to be better understood, requiring public not private discussion.

Miguel Maldonado said he would not participate in a closed meeting. All LAB meetings are public. Leslie Cagan: Pacifica operates by open meetings. Closed sessions can be called only for legal or personnel issues. She urged there be no vote for a closed session but that the board maintain the highest level of discussion. Marian Borenstein proposed that the LAB meeting in Executive Session to discuss Board procedures. There was no second.

Madelyn Hoffman made a motion which was eventually amended to:
That the LAB prepare official reports for presentation at the September and subsequent iPNB meetings. That the Chair poll LAB members whenever issues relating to the LAB arise with the national board.
The motion was passed with 6 Aye, 0 No and 2 Abstain.

Respectfully submitted,

Andrew Norris
August 6, 2002

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