WBAI LSB Meeting — August 6, 2007
The sixty second WBAI Local Station Board (LSB) meeting was held on Monday, August 6, 2007, at Local 1199's auditorium on the 2nd floor of their Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center, 310 West 43rd Street between 8th & 9th Avenues, in Manhattan. This is not an official Web page of the LSB.
This meeting began 18 minutes late.
Right from the start there was a problem with this meeting. The meeting date and time had actually been set on July 14, which was not a legal meeting because it had never achieved a quorum. So when the Chair started the meeting and announced that it was a regular LSB meeting I raised a point of order and noted that it wasn't. I said that it was either a continued meeting or it was no meeting at all. A meeting without a quorum, such as the July 14, meeting, can't do anything but adjourn to a future date, which makes the future meeting an adjourned, or continued, meeting.
I'd anticipated that the faction might try this and so I had come prepared with citations from the Pacifica bylaws and Robert's Rules of Order.
The Chair asked her faction leader what to do and he said that it was a regular meeting. And so the Chair ruled that this was a regular meeting.
I appealed that ruling by the Chair. There was some more discussion about it and I pointed out that if the Chair and her majority behaved as if this were a regular meeting then everything done at such a meeting would be illegal and would be challenged, including any motions or elections, and it would be a continuing breach.
After a while the faction leader realized that they really had no leg to stand on in this debate, despite their majority, and so he told the Chair to make it a continued meeting. The Chair then vacated her ruling and we proceeded with this as a continuation of the June 26, meeting, which was the last meeting at which we'd had a quorum.
After this the Chair scrambled to find a copy of the old agenda, which is what we had to work from for this meeting, and we continued.
We needed to pay some attention to WBAI's FY08 budget at this meeting and the interim General Manager (iGM) was leaving at 9:00 PM, also there were other items that the majority wanted to get to. So the agenda was amended in several ways.
A motion to add to the agenda that the entire LSB go into a committee of the whole to discuss the budget, which would have allowed all of the people present to discuss the FY08 budget, not just LSB members, failed by a vote of 6 for and 9 against.
So the agenda was amended, the meeting began and we got to the ad hoc Waivers Committee report. The committee had made a report at the July 14, non-meeting but this was the first time it had reported to a legal meeting. This was a very cursory report compared to that one.
Another motion was made to amend the agenda to go into a committee of the whole, that one failed too.
The Chair gave the report on the ad hoc Waivers Committee, telling about the 7 waivers that they issued and citing deaths in a family and accidents for the committee's inefficiency.
Shawn Rhodes, who was a member of the ad hoc Waivers Committee then reported that there were irregularities, a lack of checks and balances and other problems with the process. He reported that the committee never actually met to finish its work. He said that the delays were not caused by tragedies, they only made things worse. He said that the waivers cart was not done until August 19, 2006.
Mr. Rhodes presented the committee with a written report.
The Chair tried to get away with not reading the motion they were bringing to the floor to establish a Waivers Committee, but more than one member insisted that it be read into the record, so the Chair relented. And then she read it in a too-fast monotone as she does when she really doesn't want anyone to follow along.
The motion called for this to be a standing committee. I made a point of order that making it a standing committee would require previous notice and a two-thirds vote for approval. The faction resisted, but after I noted that the actions of the committee would be challengeable the faction leader made an amendment to make it an ad hoc committee and that was approved without objection. The motion provided for 5 members on this committee, all of whom would be LSB members. An amendment to make it 7 members on this committee failed.
The motion mentioned a P.O. Box, and Berthold Reimers brought up the fact that back when he was Chair of the WBAI LSB in 2004, the faction had made a big deal about the LSB having a Post Office box for some specific purpose, but he noted that this ad hoc committee had one already and the faction had made no fuss about it at all.
Well, the motion passed and then we got down to the nominations of LSB members for this ad hoc committee. All voting was done by the Single Transferable Voting method as prescribed by the Pacifica bylaws.
Elected to the ad hoc Waivers Committee were: Shawn Rhodes, Nia Bediako, Cerene Roberts, Kathy Davis and Vajra Kilgour, with runners up Ray Laforest, Carolyn Birden and Berta Silva who will replace any members of the ad hoc Waivers Committee who may drop out.
And then we got to the report of the WBAI LSB's Finance Committee. There had been a Finance Committee meeting on August 1, but the Treasurer said that things had changed since then.
The treasurer reported that Pacifica had given him a budget that was projected to have a $30,000 surplus at the end of fiscal year 2008 (FY08), but which had called for about a $100,000 reduction in Staff salaries. The National Finance Committee (NFC) had also called for no new hires at WBAI for FY08, which would prevent the hiring of a half time Information Technology person and a Development Director. The LSB's Finance Committee had made adjustments to that budget at its August 1, meeting, however, and had put those positions back in.
The Treasurer reported that the committee had considered that the premium expenses were too high and had reduced them on paper to $150,000. It was also noted that the legal expenses looked unrealistically low for FY08 and they were raised to $50,000 in the budget.
Listener support was projected to be $2,440,000 in this budget. Here are the details as projected at this meeting:
Steve Brown asked about renewal mailings.
Interim General Manager Robert Scott Adams talked about the mailings a little bit and then said that the mailings which had been done on WBAI's behalf by the Pacifica National Office had netted WBAI only $25,000, and that it was not a very successful mailing because expenses had been excessive, he said that WBAI could do such a mailing much better and it would cost less.
Mr. Brown asked specifically about the last mail drop and noted that the Pacifica CFO had said that these mailings make a lot of money. Interim General Manager Adams said that they're a success for Pacifica but not for WBAI.
Mitchel Cohen asked how realistic the 80% fulfillment rate was and iGM Adams said that the fulfillment rate had been 78% to 79% for the last 6 months.
When it was my turn to ask a question I asked again about the Pacifica mail drops. iGM Adams reiterated that indeed they had only netted WBAI $25,000. This was a bit alarming because Pacifica's CFO Lonnie Hicks had insisted last year that WBAI was going to realize a net income of $200,000 from these mailings! This means that the income projections for this year will now be off by $175,000 due to this extreme shortfall!
I'd said last year that this $200,000 income line that the CFO had put into the FY07 budget was flaky, not being based on proven income. That's part of why I had not voted in favor of the FY07 budget. But I had expected WBAI might get about half of what the CFO was predicting. I never thought that the mail drops would fail this badly.
The Treasurer said that our budget would probably be unacceptable to the Pacifica National Board, and that we'd need a waiver of the “reserve” again.
Berthold Reimers said that WBAI's finances looked desperate, iGM Adams agreed.
When Kathy Davis asked about getting money from Pacifica that belongs to WBAI, including the sub-carrier income, iGM Adams said that he wasn't supposed to talk about the sub-carrier situation.
The Treasurer said that the sub-carrier income belongs to the Pacifica National Office but that they weren't collecting that money now anyway. Outside of this meeting I've heard that apparently there is a dispute with the renter of the sub-carrier and that's why there's no current income from the rental of one of WBAI's sub-carriers.
There was a short discussion of the switching around of people from one health benefit plan to another.
Steve Brown noted that the “reserve” was supposed to happen so that if there's a problem we have a cushion. He asked what if we get the waiver and don't have a “reserve” and there's a financial problem, how would that influence our FY08 budget?
The Treasurer said that if a 'thon fails the station will have to make cuts, and salaries is the one area where the station has the most flexibility.
Steve Brown said that this was a dangerous policy because even if you fire people it takes 6 months before the station would really see a reduction in expenses. The Treasurer said he still wanted a half month “reserve.” Mr. Brown said that if there's a bad 'thon then cutting salaries wouldn't help, he asked what the station would do in that case. The Treasurer said that since the station doesn't get all of the money from the 'thons right away the impact from a failed 'thon would take 3 months to hit. Mr. Brown didn't seem to think that this was an adequate plan.
One faction operative said that the LSB's Finance Committee had a problem getting information. She attacked the person who had been the iGM last year, this person had been an active opponent of some of the schemes of the faction currently in charge. The faction operative then said that she couldn't support this budget as she couldn't support the last budget. But last year she had simply abstained from voting on the budget when her faction had finally passed it. But she is partly right about the committee not getting enough information, but I don't think it's some conspiracy that's preventing us from getting it.
IGM Adams had to leave at this point. He said that this budget was $98,000 in the red. He said that the station needed to freeze the Paid Staff's scheduled raises and make a 5% cut in salaries, which would save the station about $50,000. He also said that we didn't really have to pay the money we owe to the National Office for central services, and that this should make a difference of about $50,000 to $75,000. He also said that the station would stop over paying for postage, a practice which Steve Brown had pointed out.
Mr. Brown said that he thought the legal expenses were budgeted unrealistically low for FY08 because he knows that two cases currently pending are already costing WBAI $60,000. IGM Adams said he'd look into it.
Program Director Bernard White was then handed a microphone and he said that there were areas we could look at to raise money. He spoke of specials and “internal adjustments.” He said that we'd had experience with periodic slumps in revenue but that with elections and a change in President we do well but then things drop off. He said that when a change is coming people listen to us and he anticipated that happening again.
The Program Director continued that specials will increase the number of listeners that WBAI has and that we needed to focus on the war and the “Bush Report Card,” along with various “hot button issues.” He said that there was a grant to get equipment and go out and do remotes. He said that we had the check and the equipment would be bought soon. He said that he would organize the calling of lapsed listeners to get them to donate to WBAI.
And then we had public comment. Besides the usual nuts we had some listeners asking about the availability of premiums when there aren't 'thons going on, another listener suggested giving more air time to 3rd party candidates for public office. One sort-of Staff person said that there were 3 things wrong with WBAI, it doesn't make a living, it's contentious and there's factionalism at the station. He said that the people he talks to miss Gary Null, Mike Feder and Robert Knight; of course these all happen to be people driven out of WBAI by Program Director Bernard White. He said that WBAI needed more 9/11 conspiracy shows. He said he had spoken to some black women in a coffee shop and they said that they missed Utrice Leid and Marjorie Moore and that they will not give money to WBAI anymore. And he ended by saying that WBAI needed a code of conduct and that people should not be insulted nor should there be “fisticuffs.”
The person who makes videos of these meetings spoke and said that he'd made 5 short videos about the meetings which are on line, and he gave the URL for them and invited people to watch them.
That faction sycophant from upstate New York then spoke and railed against the meeting space. He said the acoustics were wrong and the sound system was lousy. I have to agree with him on these two points. He said that people weren't speaking English and that he wouldn't come to this meeting place anymore.
That Gary from Staten Island guy got up and did his usual routine and wouldn't shut up for a while when his time was up.
A Staff faction operative from the so called Unpaid Staff Organizing Committee (sic) (USOC) read out their position paper on the FY08 budget. USOC (sic) says that they want to avert layoffs and that WBAI should immediately begin a series of off-air fundraising initiatives. They also said that the position of Development Director should be retained. I think that almost everybody agrees on this last part, although the faction currently in charge was against that position a couple of years ago.
After this public comment session the Chair announced that she wanted the ad hoc Waivers Committee to meet the next day.
The Vice Chair who is also the Chair of the Programming Committee said that she couldn't make the meeting that some committee members had set for August 13, and asked that the date be set for September 10, and no one objected (on September 10, she said she had an emergency and couldn't make that meeting).
A motion was made that the LSB meet on August 21, 2007, at 7:00 PM. I made an amendment that if there was no quorum by 8:00 PM that the meeting be canceled. This passed by a vote of 2 for and 1 against, but then the Chair woke up some of her somnolent fellow faction operatives to get them to vote against the amendment. There was an objection to this interference in the voting process by the Chair, the Chair ruled that it was a good thing to do and an appeal of the Chair's ruling was made. The faction upheld their Chair's ruling by a vote of 11 for upholding the Chair's ruling and 7 of us against. So they took a second vote and my amendment failed by a vote of 8 for and 9 against.
The Treasurer said that he supported the iGM's budget recommendations and that we had to get a budget to the CFO no later than August 13, but that the budget could be revised. Some LSB members wanted to move the meeting up to sooner than August 21, but the Chair said that she couldn't make it before then. The Treasurer said that we could do another draft of the budget after August 21.
So the LSB voted to hold the next meeting on August 21.
The LSB's Finance Committee had voted to bring a motion to the floor, but that motion never got presented at this meeting.
The faction leader made a motion which said that the LSB tentatively approved the draft budget but that we wanted a Development Director. His motion, which included some parts of what the committee had voted for on August 1, included a suggestion of 5% pay cuts for Staff. The wording of this motion was described by one LSB member as being “free associated” by the faction leader. He was just saying whatever came into his head and it changed a few times, making it hard to follow. That motion got passed. There was an interlude where part of the motion said that only people who hadn't gotten raises within the past two years would be subject to pay cuts. Well, I interpret this to mean that WBAI Management would be exempt from the proposed salary cuts! That isn't right!
I proposed an amendment to this motion that would have made the motion read that Management would get that 5% pay cut even if they hadn't gotten raises in the past 2 years. This amendment got voted down. But eventually the faction leader withdrew that entire part of the motion.
An amendment by Carolyn Birden to add other recommendations that the LSB had made to this motion was also voted down. Ms. Birden had earlier raised the issue of Management bonuses, which wouldn't count as a pay raise but which certainly put extra money in the pockets of Management. The faction didn't want to hear about that.
The LSB then passed a motion that authorized the Treasurer to call a meeting of the Finance Committee before the LSB's August 21, meeting. He was also supposed to poll the committee, the iGM and the Business Manager on when everyone could make it. In the end he just held the meeting on August 20th.
There was then some question about the budget motion, since it had been put in such a confused manner. After a while I made a motion to adjourn and that passed without objection.
This meeting adjourned at 10:17 PM.
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