WBAI LSB Meeting — September 5, 2007
The sixty fourth WBAI Local Station Board (LSB) meeting was held on Wednesday, September 5, 2007, at Local 1199's cafeteria at 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 13 minutes late.
The LSB Chair wasn't present for the start of this meeting, so the Vice Chair began it as soon as we had a quorum. This was an adjourned meeting, which means that it was a direct continuation of the August 21st, LSB meeting. So we were supposed to pick up right where that earlier meeting had left off. The Vice Chair wanted to change the previously adopted agenda, however.
The Treasurer wasn't there, but the interim General Manager was. The Vice Chair announced that the budget should be the first thing on the agenda, but she also wanted to do other things at the meeting.
I asked if the interim General Manager was going to leave soon, as he had made it a habit of doing. The Vice Chair said that he probably would.
The Vice Chair then made a motion, even though the person chairing the meeting isn't supposed to do that, and that motion made the budget a special order of business at 8:00 PM. That motion changed the agenda and so needed a two thirds vote to pass, it got it with 8 for and 4 against.
There were some issues that really needed addressing, and the budget proposal that we'd seen was just full of fantasies. To say that it was flawed would not communicate how bad the proposed budget was for WBAI.
So the next item on the agenda was a motion to rescind the motion which had established the ad hoc LSB Radio Report Committee. This motion had been brought by Carolyn Birden at the previous meeting.
This committee had been voted into being by a motion at the June 26, 2007, LSB meeting. At that meeting the people who'd been working on forming the committee, as per the LSB's instructions, had brought a motion regarding the establishment of a full fledged committee. But the viper tongued faction operative had shown up with her own motion that was very different from what the majority of the committee had worked out over the course of several months. The faction passed her motion over the actual committee's motion. However, the faction's favored motion was so seriously flawed that after a couple of months even they couldn't continue to support it.
We then had one of those little interludes of ineptitude which so characterize WBAI LSB meetings. I raised a point of order here because at the previous meeting the Chair had said that we would indeed have the text of the motion that we were going to vote to rescind available to be read at this meeting. The Vice Chair, who was chairing this meeting, was resistant to having this obvious detail seen to. She tried to stop me from making the point of order but I prevailed. After I made this point the Vice Chair was still spinning her wheels but her faction leader eventually told her that we did need to read the text of the motion that we were about to vote on rescinding. And so the faction leader read the motion aloud for the LSB.
The Vice Chair then said that we were out of time. There were motions to postpone the motion to the next meeting or extend the time so that we could discuss this motion to rescind but they all failed, even the faction leader's motion to extend the time for this item failed because it was for too short a time.
When it came time to vote, the motion to rescind sailed through with a unanimous 14 to nothing vote. After all of that the ad hoc LSB Radio Report Committee was gone.
There was then a little period of chaos at the meeting as the Vice Chair couldn't maintain order. And then the viper tongued faction operative was allowed to propose a new motion that, although it wasn't full of absurdities as her previous one had been, still favored the faction.
In debate on this motion one non-faction member said that this motion just enshrined a vanity program for committee Chairs of committees that don't function. He said this made for a bad radio program and was just about some people's egos.
And then the motion that had originally been introduced by the committee itself was put on the floor as a substitute motion. Among other things this one did not outrageously favor the faction and it took note of the need to rotate the times and days when the show would air so as not to constantly preempt the same time slot.
This motion was contained in a document titled History of the WBAI Local Station Board Radio Committee The history part of the document included a motion the committee had passed censuring the viper tongued faction operative for having misrepresented herself as the committee's contact person and deceiving the Program Director and producers in order to obtain air time for her faction.
There were then calls for extensions of time and a motion to divide was made and withdrawn.
One member wanted to make a motion to censure the Vice Chair for attempting to intimidate a LSB member. And a motion to extend the time for debating these motions was made.
At this point, just before eight o'clock, the Chair showed up at the meeting and took over the chairing duties. No one objected to her taking over the Chair in the middle of things because the Vice Chair had done such an abysmal job.
The motion to extend the time for debate on these two motions was defeated.
At this point it was 8:05 PM and we had to take up the issue of the budget, as per the amended agenda.
The Treasurer, who had shown by this time, reported that at the last meeting the LSB had approved a budget with a built in deficit of $76,000, but the National Finance Committee (NFC) had rejected that budget proposal and said that the LSB needed to pass a budget with a surplus of $125,000. There was a new budget proposal.
The new budget proposal projected listener support at $2,592,630. The previous budget proposal had projected this as being $2,440,000. So this budget sought to alleviate the problems by saying that WBAI would simply raise $152,630 more on the air! This was supposed to be accomplished by an increase in the fulfillment rate of the 'thons. That fulfillment rate was to be 83% for 3 of the 'thons and 84% for the Summer 'thon. Previous fulfillment rates were around 78%.
A number of us were very skeptical about this raise of the fulfillment rate as a means of increasing the income side of the budget. There was no real basis for saying that it would increase by this much.
During this part of the meeting the Treasurer and the interim General Manager layed out the details for the 'thons for FY08.
The interim General Manager said that the station was getting a grant of $85,000 for a new HD transmitter and that in April 2008, there would be a special 'thon to raise the additional $66,000 for it. NOTE: this never happened.
The Treasurer said that the increase in grants income of $151,000 was the result of the $85,000 and $66,000 the interim General Manager had talked about, and that the first payment of $25,000 was in the budget.
Steve Brown pointed out that only the $25,000 should be in the budget not the entire $151,000.
The Treasurer continued that the $125,000 for the surplus would need to be generated in addition to the grant money. He projected that salaries at the station would need to be reduced by $68,795.
Kathy Davis asked if the proposed salary cut would include WBAI Management. The Treasurer gave the faction's line about people who hadn't gotten a raise in the last 2 years being exempt from salary cuts. Of course the interim General Manager had only been at the station for less than one year and so hadn't had a raise and the Program Director hadn't had a raise. However, the Program Director was getting “bonuses” so he was getting his salary boosted without it being called a raise.
Kathy Davis said that there had been an AFTRA Union meeting earlier that day and that this trick wasn't going to work.
The interim General Manager said that he'd be meeting with AFTRA in the next week. He also said that the station would get more credit card pledges in the future and that that would speed up the shipping of the premiums.
When asked how the fulfillment rate would be increased by 6.4% over what it usually was the interim General Manager said that carts would be played and there would be free gifts. Somehow I was not convinced.
In response to another question the interim General Manager said that there would be two extra mailings that would net the station $50,000.
The Treasurer said that one grant was not monetary but was in the form of equipment donated by Manhattan Neighborhood Network to a group of producers close to the Program Director. It was noted that Manhattan Neighborhood Network's CEO is closely tied to the faction currently in charge.
Alex Steinberg said that an alternative to a 5% pay cut for Staff would be a larger pay cut for Management. He said that a Pacifica-wide Management pay cut, including a 25% pay cut for WBAI Management, would balance WBAI's FY08 budget without cutting Staff. He said this would set a wonderful precedent and show that Pacifica is not like corporate America.
I said that the budget needed to be based in reality, and this one was not. I pointed out that it used to be that all station budgets had to be based on the previous year's income figures. But that we were being given numbers that were a fantasy.
The Treasurer said that there would be an additional $90,000 from more mailings and an anticipated $10,000 would be given to WBAI with the ballots in the 2007, Pacifica elections. He said that would amount to $100,000.
The interim General Manager acknowledged that this was largely speculative but said that we must set the bar high and that the intent was to do what we say. Some of us on the LSB did not feel totally reassured by this statement.
There was some back and forth about AFTRA not agreeing to these cuts and Kathy Davis said that it was not appropriate for the LSB to vote on something that was Union Contract related.
At one point even the viper tongued faction operative had to ask, in the middle of berating the interim General Manager, “How dependable are these numbers?”
There was some more discussion with Ray Laforest saying that a 25% pay cut for Management was not realistic, and he derided as not serious the memo from AFTRA Shop Steward Jose Santiago that had been presented at the previous LSB meeting.
And then we ran out of time for this agenda item. A motion to extend the time by half an hour failed but a motion to extend the rime by 15 minutes passed. And then we discovered that the interim General Manager had left.
There were some questions about whether or not the Paid Staff was going to receive the the 4% raise that the Pacifica Foundation, which owns WBAI, had agreed to in the labor Contract between Pacifica and AFTRA. We were told that Pacifica was not going to pay this raise.
The cost of Free Speech Radio News was discussed a bit. The Treasurer told the LSB that this was a cost that we had no control over. Payment for it comes out of our Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) allotments.
The idea of looking for ways to lower the cost of premiums was brought up. The Treasurer said that for FY08 premium costs would be reduced from $168,000 to $150,000, and that no one would be paid for premiums for one year. There was some disagreement over this with the Chair saying that the station must invest in premiums.
The cost of technical maintenance was brought up. The Treasurer said that there had been three major setbacks in FY07: the transmitter had failed twice and the air conditioning, which is needed for the transmitter to operate, had failed once. He said that the station would also have to be converting to digital radio at some point. He said that a new transmitter wouldn't need repairs.
The Treasurer pointed out that WBAI was getting $412,502 from the CPB and that only $132,257 of that had to go to Free Speech Radio News, the rest WBAI could use for itself.
The faction leader then said that premium costs should not be cut drastically and that his motion prevented salary cuts. In fact this was not true; his motion just said there'd be no salary cuts, but the budget itself was full of fantasies, such as a 5% boost in the fulfillment rate.
Then it was time for public comment. Motions to extend debate on the budget motion were made, and failed. One failed on a roll call vote. There was a dispute as to who exactly was presenting amendments to the motion on the budget. A non-faction LSB member said that the motion to pass the budget was premature anyway. And then there was some chaos with people disputing what to do next. The Chair couldn't even keep her fellow faction members in order for a while.
And so we went to public comment. The faction sycophant attacked Steve Brown for trying to make sure that subscribers got registered for the election by handing the checks over himself. Monroe then defended Brown, saying that he hadn't been able to vote in the 2006, election.
Another speaker said that anyone in business would recognize that WBAI was in bad shape due to lack of management and vision. He noted that the faction majority had stifled discussion of Management and had voted for an unreasonable budget. He also noted that the interim General Manager had left in the middle of the budget discussion without a word to anybody present. He said that he was not sure how WBAI was going to survive.
Another guy who likes to suck up to the faction repeated the attacks on non-faction LSB members and on Robert Knight.
After the public comment session was over the faction leader made a motion to hold a Delegates' Assembly just before the start of the next LSB meeting to vote on bylaws amendments. This passed without objection.
Then we went back to the topic of the FY08 budget. The Treasurer made a motion that the LSB approve the budget as presented with a $150,808 surplus. The surplus was a fantasy.
Alex Steinberg moved that we reject the budget and instead of cutting Staff salaries by 5% cut the WBAI Program Director and interim General Manager's salaries by 25%, and suggest a 10% cut in the salaries of Pacifica Management. This motion failed by a roll call vote of 8 for, 10 against and one abstention.
The faction leader then made an amendment that the interim General Manager revisit the salary and other numbers to make sure that they're right, and then meet with AFTRA and the mock union calling itself USOC, and review the budget in 6 to 9 months and restore the salaries then if possible.
This amendment passed without objection. But in fact it was meaningless. It was obvious that the budget was not realistic and that WBAI was not going to make the money that it projected. Of course all of this was being done just before the elections in order to allow the faction currently in charge to claim that they had passed a budget that called for no layoffs of Paid Staff. They calculated that the realities wouldn't hit until after the elections were over.
One member asked if the motion on the budget could be postponed so that the LSB could get more information. The Chair insisted that the budget motion had to be passed that night. There was a dispute about the Chair reading the motion with a different wording than had been presented, and so it got read over again.
There are a number of interesting things in the budget. It calls for a total income of $3,948,478 which is projected to result in an “adjusted excess income” of $250,808.
Of this quarter million dollar figure half is to be held in reserve and half is grant money for a digital transmitter, and that money will be paid out over some years.
It's a budget that gives me much worry. A lot of the increased income is supposed to come from a higher fulfillment rate, and I'm not sure that we can boost fulfillment by that much. Oh, and the Program Director is being put in charge of the management of the Premiums Department. That's a laugh.
But in the end we never voted on the budget!
The faction currently in charge didn't want any more motions or discussion of the budget because they were starting to look bad by refusing to vote for a motion that would have made WBAI and Pacifica Management bear the brunt of the salary cuts, thereby leaving the WBAI Paid Staff to suffer.
So they ran out the time and the Chair said no more amendments, even though one non-faction member had been trying to get an amendment in for a while.
After saying that no one else would be recognized for anything, and that we were going to an immediate vote, one faction operative was allowed to get the results of a roll call vote reiterated, and then the Chair recognized another faction operative, who is the Vice Chair, who had raised her hand to make a motion. Still, the guy who wanted to make an amendment was not allowed to be recognized.
And then the Vice Chair suddenly moved to adjourn until the next meeting! The faction all voted for this and the motion to adjourn passed very rapidly by a vote of 10 for and 8 against.
Of course we'd never voted on the final budget. The faction members had been so intent on shutting up people who weren't in their faction and in railroading through their rotten budget motion that they just reflexively voted to shut down the meeting without thinking, which is a frequent mode of voting for some faction operatives.
After the Chair declared the meeting adjourned I pointed out to everyone that the LSB had failed to vote on the budget! The Chair tried to get people to come back so that she could stage an illegal vote, but I strenuously objected, pointing out that the meeting was over and that no business could legally be conducted anymore.
This meeting was adjourned at 9:58 PM.
The video of the meeting is up on Google!
Here's the page showing the attendance at the LSB meetings.
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