The Gray-haired Forty

Sasha Lilley attacks listener democracy, disses listener activists

"unlike those living on pensions, trust funds or SSI, the majority of working people don't have the time to participate -- even if they wanted to, which itself is dubious from everything I've heard from listeners, excluding the grey haired 40 people who come to every LSB meeting with such regularity that you could save seats in advance for them all." --Sasha Lilley


From : Sasha Lilley
Reply-To : lbo-talk(at)lbo-talk.org
Sent : Friday, August 20, 2004 12:13 PM
To : lbo-talk(at)lbo-talk.org
Subject : [lbo-talk] KPFA Staff Open Letter to the Local Station


I do think the bylaws are a disaster. And even worse have been the actions of members on the LSBs who go beyond their mandate under the bylaws by trying to intervene into the daily business at the stations.

Can you honesty say that having an elected board is going to save KPFA and Pacifica from another takeover attempt? The actions of those on the LSBs -- engaging in bizarre parliamentary manipulations, sabotaging essential station business, creating an unsafe working environment for both staff and fellow board members, slandering staff and management (for which litigation may be in process) -- has opened up the stations to intervention from the FCC and the state in this very hostile political climate. You are probably aware that both KPFA's and KPFK's licenses are up for renewal next year and these sorts of irresponsible and self-serving actions could very well lead to revocation.

Do the bylaws "empower the listeners" or just the very few that have the time and inclination to get involved? Is it the voice of all the listeners that are represented on the boards or just a small few who are harboring grudges dating back decades in some cases? Our membership numbers in the tens of thousands and our listenership in the hundreds of thousands and yet people were elected to the KPFA LSB with as few as 400 votes.

What good is democracy if it leads to the rule of a small faction of people who are not representative, either politically or demographically, of the listeners as a whole? And you can talk about outreach all you like, but built into this system is the fact that, unlike those living on pensions, trust funds or SSI, the majority of working people don't have the time to participate -- even if they wanted to, which itself is dubious from everything I've heard from listeners, excluding the grey haired 40 people who come to every LSB meeting with such regularity that you could save seats in advance for them all.

Having lived through the Mary Francis Berry era I am concerned once again about the concentration of power by Pacifica's board -- albeit for different purposes, but with the same potential for destruction (I'd rather not respond to the penis-waving statements here about experience in the struggle, except to note that I was a volunteer at KPFA at the time of the lockout and was out in the streets with tens of thousands of other people). One of the key issues during the struggle against the old regime was how Pacifica was draining the stations of revenue. Yet this year alone the costs of the LSBs, the elections, and the Pacifica National Board are projected to be $580,000 and it is expected that the coming elections will cost much more than last year's, making the next fiscal year's expenses for governance even higher.

The June report from Pacifica's Chief Financial Officer states: "The variance which is most worrisome is that of the [Local Station Board] elections. It shows a negative variance YTD in April of 138k. On projection, I have received word that the new elections this summer and fall will cost the network an additional 160k. This will bring the total election costs in this fiscal to a grand total of 347k. (I had projected 268k by fiscal end but this new figure supercedes that number.) This figure is 347k is 29% of the Network's working capital figure! Governance costs here are actually higher when we include National Board expenses (168k), Board related legal expenses (50k), telephone costs (15k) - all in one fiscal year. This totals 580k!.... Governance costs, projected at 580 thousand dollars are 48% of our required working capital, and 4.4% of our total expenses. This does not include other normal administrative expenses, insurance and other requirements. We, as a Network, cannot survive this kind of expense."

Instead of helping raise money for the stations -- an essential part of the LSBs' mandate -- the governing structure has become a big drain on them. As an underpaid worker, and someone who routinely has to deal with outdated equipment at the station as do 200 other KPFA paid and unpaid staff, the costs of this (volunteer) bureaucratic stratum, intent on increasingly consolidating power, is really troubling.









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