Bad Bylaws Take 2

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What The 2nd Version of New Bad Bylaws Would Do

Berkeley – We promised you an analysis of what the latest set of bad replacement bylaws would change – and here it is. Rather than doing away with democratic representation altogether, this revised proposal from the same group of people merely suspends democracy for 3 years and then reinstates it with majority rule requirements that completely shut out minority groups and interests from any representation in Pacifica governance. 

Here are the significant changes:

Lowers the standard for future membership petitions to change the bylaws to the signatures of 1% of the members, currently 500-600 people. This allows a small group to force a six figure outlay of charitable donations to entertain their ideas. Pacifica recently changed this bylaws clause to require 5% of the membership to sign on, so that the Foundation does not waste money on referendums that have no chance of passage. By changing it back, the New Day proponents suggest that further amendments are likely in the offing if these new bylaws are adopted. Pacifica has already lost $150,000 to their new bylaws proposals this year, with another $100,000 to come if this new “New Day” bylaws referendum is forced. 

A new 15 member Pacifica National Board is 1/5 self appointed, with 4 nationally-elected officers, 3 self-appointed members, 1 national paid staff rep (representing 100 people), 1 national unpaid staff rep (representing 1,000 people), 1 affiliate rep (representing a portion of the 220 affiliates), and 1 elected rep for each station (giving each station 1/15 of the board to represent local interests). This is a cut of 60% of current staff representation, 10x greater influence for each member of the paid staff over each member of the unpaid staff, a 50% cut in affiliate representation, and a 75% cut in each station’s local representation on the national board. It ups the membership requirements for elected members of the national board to 2 years of current uninterrupted membership, making it more difficult for new faces to participate in Pacifica governance. 

Sole station-elected directors are supposed to serve on *every* PNB committee, although nonprofit law disallows directors from serving at the same time on finance and audit committees. Station directors can nominally select someone to serve in their stead, but the national board can stop them from doing so by a 2/3 vote. This suggests that some stations may see their station representatives barred from crucial national board committees. No locally-elected director can ever be an officer of the national board. 

Affiliates must join a new “Association of Affiliates” 501c3 organizationLPFM and small stations that do not pay annual fees to rebroadcast Pacifica programs are not members of the Pacifica Affiliates for the purpose of participation in governance. 

Right of membership recall of elected representatives is eliminatedOnly the boards can remove their own members, and should they do so, they can replace the removed members with anyone they choose to serve out the duration of a 3 year term. .  

Local Station boards are transformed into Community Advisory BoardsRemoves delegates from governance, and any local oversight of station budgets and management personnel. LSB (now CAB) officers directly elected are a chair, vice chair, secretary, membership coordinator and fundraising coordinator and 1 paid and 1 unpaid staff representative. These 7 people can appoint up to 6 other people or 45% of the new local boards. The five elected CAB members are a chair, vice chair, secretary, membership/fundraising coordinator and community outreach coordinator. The last two positions (membership/fundraising coordinator and community outreach coordinator) would likely cause this body to be ineligible as a CAB. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting requires that a CAB not play any role in station operations. Membership coordination, fundraising and arguably, community outreach are all a part of a station’s operations. 

Removes local board review of  whether “station policies and procedures for making programming decisions and program evaluation are working in a fair, collaborative and respectful manner to provide quality programming”. This is replaced with administering a survey that is written by the executive director, which removes independence from the CAB’s survey activities and probably violates CPB rules. 

Removes local board review of staff diversity and workplace discrimination issues; “To ensure that the station works diligently towards the goal of diversity in staffing at all levels and maintenance of a discrimination-free atmosphere in the workplace” and replaces it with a Committee of Inclusion which is granted the authority to “implement specific measures to improve the status of under-represented communities in their respective radio station areas”. Again, the CPB requires that CAB’s not participate in station operations so a CAB cannot “implement specific measures”.

A non-compliant CAB, as projected by these New Day bylaws, would likely prevent Pacifica from receiving Corporation for Public Broadcasting grant funding in the future. 

Local and national boards removed from any input into the selection of station general managers. All general manager hiring, evaluation and termination is the sole unilateral perogative of the executive director of the Foundation. 

Listener democracy suspended for 3 years. For the first three years, the officers of the new national board would be 4 specific people, two incumbent directors (Jan Goodman KPFK, Lynden Foley KPFT), one retired director (Akio Tanaka KPFA) and one publisher of an LA online blog (Sharon Kyle KPFK). Not s single officer representing the entire eastern half of the United States. These 4 would be the officers through 2023, with the power to select 3 additional at-large directors. No change in board officers could occur until 2024. The chosen 4 would be joined by station representative directors appointed by the current LSB’s, half of whose terms expire in 2021 and the rest which expire in 2022. Only the staff and dues paying affiliates would be permitted to choose their national representatives for the 2021-2023 period, representing only 3 members on a 15-person board of directors.

Pacifica would administer 41 different elections every 3 years. The New Day bylaws call for 7 distinct elections at all 5 stations for meaningless local positions, and 6 distinct national elections for national officer and staff positions. This would require 15 different ballot layouts (an increase of 50%), 18 distinct voter lists (an increase of 80%), and 41 distinct voting tallies (an increase of over 400%). This would greatly increase election costs, probably more than doubling them due to the increased administrative load. 

Each election would be for a single position (including 35 local ones with no actual power to do anything) and would be strict majority rule requiring a majority of all votes cast. This makes it difficult for minority demographics or viewpoints to obtain any of the seats and given the current profile of Pacifica’s membership as overwhelmingly white, would likely lead to decreased diversity on the boards. Less arguments, to be sure, but at the cost of a full range of ideas, vigorous representation of minority interests, diversity and innovation. 

For all of these reasons, Pacifica members should not sign the New Day petition and wait for a better bylaws amendment proposal on the 2021 ballot that will respect full democratic participation. 

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Started in 1946 by conscientious objector Lew Hill, Pacifica’s storied history includes impounded program tapes for a 1954 on-air discussion of marijuana, broadcasting the Seymour Hersh revelations of the My Lai massacre, bombings by the Ku Klux Klan, going to jail rather than turning over the Patty Hearst tapes to the FBI, and Supreme Court cases including the 1984 decision that noncommercial broadcasters have the constitutional right to editorialize, and the Seven Dirty Words ruling following George Carlin’s incendiary performances on WBAI. Pacifica Foundation operates noncommercial radio stations in New York, Washington, Houston, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area, and syndicates content to over 180 affiliates. It invented listener-sponsored radio.

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