WBAI LSB Meeting — February 7, 2007
The fifty sixth WBAI Local Station Board (LSB) meeting was held on Wednesday, February 7, 2007, at 7:00 PM at Local 1199's Bread and Roses Art Gallery, 310 W. 43rd St. in Manhattan. This is not an official Web page of the LSB.
I arrived at this meeting about ten minutes late, and was surprised to see that the meeting was in progress! For the first time in years a WBAI LSB meeting appears to have started on time.
The reason for this soon became clear. The faction currently in charge had a motion on the floor, left over from a number of previous meetings, that would limit the amount of time spent determining the agenda for a meeting to twenty minutes. All but one of the faction operatives on the LSB had shown up early for this meeting, while the rest of us were drifting in knowing that the WBAI LSB starts its meetings an average of one hour late.
A motion to amend the agenda to hold elections to the PNB committees was defeated because amending that agenda needed a two thirds vote. The faction currently in charge would do what it could to prevent committee reports so as to avoid the obvious fact that the committee structure has pretty much melted down. Some of us were of the opinion that the elections for the PNB committees should have some notice rather than being slipped into a meeting all of a sudden.
The motion to restrict time for the setting of the agenda to twenty minutes came up, and was debated a bit, and then the vote came. The faction had twelve votes because another one of them had shown up, and the opposition had six. So this measure passed and will be a feature of WBAI LSB meetings from now on. In my opinion it will also be used by the faction currently in charge to keep agenda items off the agenda that they don't want on it.
During debate a number of non-faction LSB members brought up the fact that we don't get to see the agenda until it's been handed out at the meeting. The faction sets the agenda and the motion is frequently made just as the written agenda is being passed out, giving the rest of us very little time to even see what's on it. The Chair said that members could submit agenda items on the LSB's mailing list for inclusion in the agenda from now on. A couple of members noted that they'd submitted agenda items via the LSB mailing list in the past and that their agenda items had never gotten onto the printed agenda at all.
I guess we'll see if this promise by the Chair is kept.
The next item on the agenda was the setting of a date for a Town Hall meeting. The faction wanted to have it on March 25. The LSB is required by the Pacifica bylaws to hold two Town Hall meetings per year. The WBAI LSB only held one in 2005, and none in 2006. Some approved Town Hall meetings have not happened because they've fallen through in the planning stages.
The really interesting part of this motion was that it purported to be coming from the LSB's Programming Committee. As the Secretary of that committee I had to tell the assembly that no such motion had ever come out of the Programming Committee!
At a sparsely attended LSB meeting in March 2006, the faction had passed a motion attacking a LSB member. Part of that motion said that the Programming Committee would work with the Program Director to “... organize and co-sponsor a community forum with speakers holding diverse views on the nature of WBAI programming as part of the overall role of media in U.S. society ...”
Well, that's not at all what a Town Hall meeting is. And last May the Programming Committee actually voted to take off its agenda the planning for this “forum” that was obviously an attempt to set up a faction bund rally where the Program Director could attack the LSB member some more. The original “forum” was clearly planned to occur just before the start of the 2006, elections for LSB and would have essentially used station resources to promote the faction and its candidates and attack the LSB member who was running for re-election. They never got that “forum” and the attacked LSB member won, by the way.
During this time the Chair was interrupting the non-faction speakers and trying to prevent members of the Programming Committee from relating the fact that this motion had never even come up in the Programming Committee much less been passed by it. Meanwhile the Chair let the maker of the motion speak numerous times and try to answer the critics of the motion.
The Chair really behaved in a biased manner throughout this meeting.
Then one member asked to see the motion that enabled all of this. The Chair tried to say that it was out of order for him to see or hear that enabling motion. After a while it came out that that motion was not immediately available. Part of the problem is that the former Secretary hasn't even sent the LSB the draft minutes of the meeting from March of last year.
A number of us were saying that this motion was out of order because it hadn't come out of the Programming Committee, and it wasn't a Town Hall meeting and no one was coming up with the original motion anyway.
And then a nut who attends some meetings began to disrupt the meeting, yelling some nonsense about WBAI cooperating with the CIA and telling us all what a staunch Communist he is.
And so the faction leader moved to postpone that agenda item until later in the meeting when the enabling motion could be found. That motion to postpone passed and they never did find that enabling motion.
Next on the agenda was a motion to change the quorum of the Programming Committee.
Programming Committee Chair Nia Bediako moved to reduce the quorum for the Programming Committee to 5 members for the next six months. Part of the reason why the committee has a problem getting its current quorum of six is that the Chair has insisted on retroactively excusing members whose membership has lapsed due to non-attendance, along with refusing to recognize the resignation of a member. And then these members don't show up for meetings and that's why we've not had a meeting since July.
So one person made an amendment that the committee's quorum be reduced for only the next two meetings, not six months. I made an amendment to make it three meetings. The faction wanted six months because then they can assure that faction members can dominate the meetings while not having to show up very often.
Alex Steinberg then noted that we'd not had these problems when he was Chair of the Programming Committee in 2004. We'd had a lot more members then and they showed up and did the work of the committee, despite disruptions caused by faction members. And he introduced an alternate motion that called for the creation of an ad hoc committee to evaluate the current standing LSB committees.
It should be noted that almost all of the WBAI LSB's committees have ceased to function. Only the Finance Committee is still able to meet and even that committee is having a big problem achieving quorum, having only been able to meet twice out of the last five tries. And that 40% rate of achieving a quorum has been the best of any WBAI LSB committee for the past few months!
The faction leader said that such an ad hoc committee to evaluate the situation was unnecessary and that we should think about how to get more people to go to the committee meetings at some other time.
James Ross pointed out that the LSB exists to perform certain duties assigned by the bylaws and except for passing a budget we haven't done any of them!
Sprinkled among the debating points were insults from a usual source among the faction members and attempts by the Chair to stop people from being critical of the way the LSB has pretty much melted down over the past two years when the faction currently in charge has had a majority.
When it came time to vote Alex Steinberg's proposal was defeated by a vote of 10 for to 11 against and the other amendments were also defeated. That left the original proposal on the floor unchanged. But that required a two thirds vote, which the Chair had to be reminded of by more than one member. And so the motion to reduce the quorum for the Programming Committee to 5 members for the next six months was defeated.
Next we had a motion to approve the minutes of the February 15, 2006, meeting. Yes, we're a year behind on approving the LSB's minutes. The former Secretary has only presented us with draft minutes going up to the meeting of March 9, 2006. I had a bunch of corrections but the Chair said that the Secretary didn't have some of the motions that I said were incorrect in the minutes. And since they didn't want me to go through my old notes, which I had right there, I was to send the Secretary the motion via E-mail. The Chair actually insinuated that I was not prepared, even though I was the one with the information and I had it right there!
And then we ran out of time for this item. I moved to postpone the approval of the minutes to the next meeting and that got voted down! When I pointed out that we now had the choice of voting in minutes that were inaccurate and largely uncorrected or letting the entire fifteen minutes we'd just spent on them go for nothing at all some of the faction operatives woke up. I suggested that someone move to table the approval of the minutes, and the faction leader did so and that passed unanimously.
During public comment faction operatives took the opportunity to attack a non-faction LSB member, another member of the public refuted those attacks and then the large crazy guy who claims to be the big, staunch Communist really began to disrupt the meeting. And suddenly Vice Chair Nia Bediako was chairing the meeting. Neither she nor the eventually returning Chair Vajra Kilgour could get the guy to stop yelling, waving a red cloth on a stick, waving crude, cardboard signs around and reminding us all that he's 6'7" tall. After more public comment the crazy guy began disrupting again, singing the Nationale, the 1937 version I was told, and after a while the security guards from Local 1199, whose space we were meeting in, came to get him out of there. Eventually he was persuaded to leave, after having led the guards on a slow motion meander through the meeting room.
After all of this, one of the Local 1199 workers told us that no one else they allow to use the space causes problems like the WBAI LSB meetings do. Two of our last three LSB meetings have required the intercession of the Local 1199 security guards.
I moved to have the Programming Committee report next because I noted that although the committee's quorum was still six and we had seven members in the room, we could set a meeting date that all of us could attend and then we'd be able to have a meeting for the first time since July. That motion to move the Programming Committee's report up in the agenda passed.
Faction operatives tried to delay the meeting by introducing motions to have us go over the March 9, 2006, meeting's minutes. I think that they just wanted to avoid going through the list of committee reports which would have illustrated all too well that the WBAI LSB's system of standing committees has melted down. This tactic got voted down, but they did get to waste two minutes of the meeting's time on it.
The Finance Committee report wasn't much of a report because the Treasurer, who chairs it, didn't arrive till later in the meeting. A motion for the committee to meet on either February 26th, or February 27th, passed. I don't think that this way of handling the setting of these meeting dates is proper. Most people will not know when the committee is going to meet until less than a week before the date.
Then the faction leader moved to lower the quorum of the Finance Committee to seven for three months, so it could meet again. I moved to amend this to the next 3 meetings. And that passed. The faction had been forced to compromise, how amazing.
Jamie Ross then reported that a working group he'd formed to study the station's fund raising history for the last ten years was going well. So far they'd seen that the fulfillment rate at WBAI had gone up from 65% to 80%.
The question of the legal fees that the Pacifica CFO assesses WBAI from time to time came up. They seem to be mysterious and unpredictable.
Patty Heffley asked about the functioning of the Finance Committee and its fulfillment of its legal obligations to have minutes, etc. It came out that the committee isn't doing that well on these things.
In the Programming Committee report the committee Chair tried to reintroduce the motion to suspend the quorum for six months again. Duh. That was ruled out of order.
We established that the now six members of the committee remaining in the meeting room could make a meeting on a certain date, but that date later got changed.
Patty Heffley, who's trying to establish how functional our committee structure is, asked about the Programming Committee and it came out that it hasn't met since July, and that while we're approving some of our minutes we still have some from 2004, that remain unapproved! I should note here that I'm currently the Secretary of that committee.
In response to a question of what the committee had accomplished committee Chair Nia Bediako talked about a survey the committee had done of the members of the WBAI Program Council. The survey had been started in 2005, and we were scheduled to really dig into it at the next meeting.
Next in line was the report from the General Manager Search Sub-committee. But time was almost up and the faction leader moved to set the next meeting date.
We voted to meet on February 20, when we'll need to elect representatives to the PNB committees.
I objected to the fact that we are not setting the meeting place in these motions, as the bylaws require. I also pointed out that for the past two LSB meetings we have not even posted the locations of the meetings until a couple of days before the meetings. And the bylaws require that notice of the meetings be given, saying, “Four on-air announcements, made during prime time on the radio station on four different days, beginning, whenever feasible, at least 7 days prior to the date of each meeting, shall be considered adequate notice.”
The Chair said that since it says “whenever feasible,” that we just are not bound by this provision. I asked if it was reasonable to say that it has not been feasible to comply with this part of our bylaws for the past two years? The Chair said that it was not a real world concern. And that's interesting since the CPB, which provides six figures of funding to WBAI yearly, and the F.C.C., both require such notice. Oh well, the WBAI LSB is a dysfunctional mess.
We had previously voted to have the Programming Committee meet on February 20th. In the end the LSB voted to move the date of that meeting to March 6th. And then we adjourned the meeting at 10:02 PM.
There's a video of this meeting posted here.
Here's the page showing the attendance at the LSB meetings.
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