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Houston reports
Houston Report - by Juan Gonzalez

Wed, 07 Mar 2001 18:40:46 -0500
Subject: Houston Report
From: Juan Gonzalez, Pacifica Campaign

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to report that I returned several days ago from a weekend of inspiring protest and national organizing at the Mar. 2-Mar. 4 Pacifica National Board meeting in Houston.

More than 100 listeners flew into Houston from all around the country to join with hundreds of Houston-area residents in what turned into a terrific three days of resistance against the corporate clique now running the Pacifica National Board.

The weekend got off to a great start Friday with a picket and press conference in front of the offices of Pacifica Board Chair David Acosta, a Houston CPA. There, the Pacifica Campaign unveiled our new brochure exposing the malfeasance and corporate background of the rogue Pacifica Board members. (We're sending out the brochure via mail in the next few days, so if we don't have your mailing address please send it to us ASAP.)

The Houston Committee for Peoples Radio and the Harris County Green Party organized a packed meeting of about 300 people Friday night at the MECA Center, a vibrant community center in the heart of the city. On Saturday night hundreds jammed a "Super Teach-In" at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Houston's Flower District. And the Pacifica Campaign held a Saturday morning meeting with organizers from around the country, laying the groundwork for coordinated national actions against Pacifica Board members.

Meanwhile, at the Doubletree Hotel, the Pacifica National Board meeting was ringed by police and protesters all weekend. The board, already on the defensive from our growing campaign, quickly gave up its plan to have most of its sessions in secret. It was forced on two occasions to hold a public comment period. On Saturday, I and several other listeners confronted the Board directly, especially criticizing how management at WBAI was using the issue of race to divide listeners. At one point, board member Bertram Lee got so furious he rushed toward me menacingly, but was pulled back by other board members who calmed him down. I made it clear to the board that our campaign would not rest until they had all resigned.

On Sunday, listeners forced a special public comment on the Christmas Coup at Pacifica station WBAI. The Board heard listeners and staffers denounce the midnight firing and banning of veteran WBAI programmers, the changing of locks, the installation of security guards, and the creation of a climate of fear antithetical to Pacifica's mission. Pacifica Executive Director Bessie Wash and the illicitly installed WBAI station manager Utrice Leid stormed out as protesters chanted ≥Resign Now, Democracy Now!≤

The protests empowered the six dissident members of the board to temporarily beat back a set of proposed new bylaws, which were written by Board member John Murdock of the anti-union law firm of Epstein, Becker & Green. The new bylaws would allow a sale of stations without a full board vote and permit board members to personally benefit from the sale.

The corporate clique that is temporarily running the network came with a phalanx of specialists hired with listener money, including lawyers, security, and a new PR rep Fred Winters of New York. The PR flak handed out a lie-filled fact sheet that denounced Pacifica protesters as racist, sexist and violent. The fact sheet also contained lies about Amy Goodman and Democracy Now!, which Winters was subsequently forced to change in front of a Houston reporter after Amy Challenged his allegations. The Pacifica Campaign was able to learn a couple of important facts. Fundraising at Pacifica station KPFK was down $70,000, from a goal of $540,000 to an actual amount pledged of $470,000. WBAI's figures claim to have raised $802,000 of an $816,000 goal. But that number is an illusion. First, WBAI lowered its goal from an average of $950,000 for most drives to $816,000 because interim manager Utrice Leid know that her takeover had sparked widespread opposition. Second we have learned from sources within BAI that as much as one-third of listeners who pledged money did so conditionally, i.e., they will only send their checks if the fired staff at WBAI are rehired. Because of those factors, we estimate at that WBAI is down at least $400,000 (or more than 40 percent) from its previous drives. That is an enormous financial problem for them. And even the money that was raised happened only because Leid extended the fund drive to three weeks -- the longest drive in recent WBAI history.

In addition, we learned that WBAI is budgeting as much as $23,000 for security and planning to install surveillance cameras inside the station. We believe these kind of steps send a chilling effect throughout the station and, indeed, the network.

In short, we accomplished several major objectives at the board meeting:

1) We and others prevented the board from changing any bylaws or stacking the board with more members supportive of the corporate clique;
2) We managed to do extensive education of listeners in the Houston area through our public forums and through articles in the Houston Chronicle that reported our protests.
3) We succeeded in creating an on-going nucleus for the Pacifica Campaign in Houston
4) We established close ties with activists in other parts of the country who are fighting to reform Pacifica.

Opponents of this board have been empowered by this past weekend, and the corporate clique on the board is already beginning to fight among themselves.

Just for good measure, there was a protest Monday outside the offices of Pacifica board treasurer Micheal Palmer. He works at CB Richard Ellis, the largest commercial real estate services firm in the world that boasts of developing maquiladoras in Mexico. The rogue board members, and their agents, are clearly beginning to feel the heat.

We urge you to keep up the boycott. Give no money to any Pacifica station. Urge your friends and neighbors to do the same. Redirect your contributions to those fighting to save Pacifica. Your contributions enabled us to send several people to Houston and to print the first pieces of literature on the campaign. Please keep up your support. Send a check to our campaign or to the fund for the legal suits against the Pacifica board, or to the free speech radio group organized by striking Pacifica reporters. And most of all, get involved. Together we will win.

Juan Gonzalez.

Mailing Address:
The Pacifica Campaign
51 MacDougal St., #80 BNY, NY 10012
Tel: (646) 230-9588


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