WBAI LSB Meeting — September 7, 2006

The fifty first WBAI Local Station Board (LSB) meeting was held on Thursday, September 7, 2006, at 6:30 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.

This meeting was called with short notice as an emergency meeting by the four officers of the WBAI LSB.

Pacifica CFO Lonnie Hicks had said that all Pacifica station budgets had to be in by September 8th, 2006. And so this meeting was called for the purpose of approving the radio station's budget for Fiscal Year 2007 (FY07). We'd had a meeting planned for September 13th, but that was too far away, thus an emergency meeting.

This meeting started an hour and fourteen minutes late. The agenda was short, it was just to approve the budget and very little else.

As usual, we excused absences and then one member asked when was the last meeting that Tiokasin Ghosthorse had attended. The Chair fumfered around about this saying after a bit that she didn't know. I volunteered that he'd last attended a LSB meeting in January! The Chair said that she was sure that this was not the case and that Ghosthorse had attended meetings more recently than that. Well, I'm sure that the faction wished that their place holder for a Staff representative seat did show up more often but the fact is that he hadn't been there since January. The attendance Web page tells the tale.

It was really only a few minutes before we got into the actual budget. Unfortunately, this year's budget process in the WBAI LSB Finance Committee was a bit of a mess and was far from being as comprehensive as these things had been for past budgets. The Finance Committee had really not been able to grapple with the budget much at all before it was presented to the LSB for approval.

Much of the problem had to do with the rocket scientists from Pacifica having not bothered to properly back up their financial data for the whole organization, and then when they had a crash they discovered that the primary backups that they did have had been corrupted for a long time. Apparently no one at Pacifica had ever heard of routinely testing your archives to see if they're still viable. Several layers of backups had in fact failed and we were all lucky that paper printouts existed that could be hand-entered into the computers again to reconstruct the finances of the Pacifica Foundation.

But the budget had been essentially handed down from on high by Pacifica CFO Lonnie Hicks, so most people didn't feel the need to question any of it at all.

I asked if there would be layoffs as a result of this budget, I was told by Treasurer Baruti Bediako that there would not be. Some members made note of the fact that the FY06 expenses for payroll were larger than had been budgeted. There was no real answer for this.

Patty Heffley asked if there had been evaluations of Paid Staff during this time, since payroll was such a large part of the budget. After asking the question more than once and after some time had gone by the answer came that, no, there had not been any evaluations of Paid Staff. Of course we all know that Management has yet to be evaluated by the WBAI LSB, and that's a mandated yearly task.

It was pointed out that some of our 'thons have been over $400,000 short of their goals.

When Steve Brown asked if there was any plan for what to do if we ran out of money in FY07 because the budget projections were too rosy it came out that there was no plan, except that people were sure that the rest of Pacifica would bail us out.

Throughout the evening the Chair kept interjecting comments, and she interrupted other members who were asking questions and trying to get information about this budget. Of course the Chair is supposed to remain neutral and not interfere with other members' actions.

The interim General Manager (iGM) said that she wouldn't be alarmed if we came up a little bit short in the 'thons because she and some others were looking at other funding sources, like major donors, to help.

Carolyn Birden moved that we should get a breakdown of all legal expenses for FY04 through FY06, and this was passed without objection after it was amended to include a provision for confidentiality for Paid Staff and a statement that the information would be provided on an ongoing basis.

As the night wore on some faction operatives couldn't resist the desire to insult others and so that happened a few times.

Among other things there was a $200,000 income item that was to be given to WBAI by the Pacifica National Office which were the projected proceeds of a mailing by the National Office. Of course this had never been done before and so this was not proven income, which was what Pacifica budgets used to have to be based on. I was among those who questioned putting this $200,000 into the budget as income we could definitely count on.

I asked about an excess that was projected for FY07. We'd been told that we would have a surplus but the amount of that surplus kept changing over the months. In the end this surplus was projected in writing to be $215,200 at the end of FY07.

There was a flap over something like $60,000 more having been paid in salaries for FY06 and one faction operative was pressing this a lot. It turned out that this was over budget because of community events that had to employ people per diem.

In the end the budget passed by a vote of 9 for, 4 against, and 1 abstention. I voted for it but as I did so I said that I was voting for it, “Reluctantly and with reservations,” because this budget as it had been presented to us just did not seem all that stable.

And then a faction operative, who'd been insulting people all night, introduced an amendment that said that the iGM had to consult the two unions at WBAI and report to the LSB before restoring any workers who'd been layed off or had their hours cut. Well, this is way beyond the powers and authority of the LSB. In the end the wording was changed to say that the LSB strongly urges the iGM to consult, etc. Besides, there's really only one Union at WBAI these days.

I put in my amendment that said that the goal would be to raise the $2,400,000 in “Listener Support” in 85 days of pitching. WBAI has been pitching more and more for the past few years and for FY06 we'd pitched one day our of every four, which I think actually drives away listeners. This amendment passed.

Finally, we passed a motion from the LSB's Finance Committee saying that Pacifica should have the sub-carrier rent money paid directly to WBAI and that WBAI would then give Pacifica 20% of the income from that source. I voted in favor of this, but I won't be holding my breath waiting for the National Office and the Pacifica National Board to agree to it.

This meeting adjourned at 10:04 PM.

UPDATE: In the end the CFO rejected this entire budget as too big, even though he'd essentially handed it to us!

Here's the page showing the attendance at the LSB meetings.

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