The most important legislative issue the WBAI Local Station Board and the Delegate Assembly face in electing representatives tonight to the Pacifica National Board and as officers of the Local Station Board for the coming year is whether or not to consider leasing or selling the station. In my opinion, the consideration of leasing the station trumps all else, at the moment.

Three of the four WBAI Directors — Janet Coleman, Carolyn Birden and Manijeh Saba — have voted in favor of considering leasing out WBAI, when they should have fought for delaying all leasing proposals for six months, at the very least. Let me repeat that: They voted on the National Board to invite leasing proposals, and then — a separate vote — for proceeding with considering them. That, in my opinion, is reprehensible and extremely destructive to WBAI and Pacifica, let alone to any semblance of principle.

On top of that, Carolyn and Janet voted to keep secret the names of the companies and individuals submitting offers to lease WBAI! (Manijeh abstained on that vote). This was truly an awful vote. It showed that these Directors have abandoned any commitment to transparency and democratic procedure.

Some delegates to the WBAI LSB apparently accept the validity of that position. They are told that this was really an effort to save the station — by examining the possibility of leasing it and soliciting proposals for actually doing so! How gullible!

There are always some who believe, as George Orwell put it, that war is peace, slavery is freedom, and ignorance is strength. It is striking when members of the Local Station Board, who are supposed to be on top of these things and well-informed, delude themselves about the nature of what is really going on.

Some of the aforementioned directors have had long involvement with the station. But that does not mean that their actions will be, objectively, in the best interests of WBAI and Pacifica. In this extremely important case, in fact, it is quite the opposite! Whatever their intentions, their votes to invite and to consider proposals for leasing the station — and to consider them in secret — was and remains extremely harmful. Ignorance is NOT strength, no matter how convoluted the rationalizations being offered.

The vote to consider proposals for leasing the station must be rebuked. It is a matter of political and moral principle, as well as an abandonment of fiduciary responsibility; instead, they should be planning (and implementing) ways for raising the necessary funds that WBAI needs to survive and to flourish.

We need new and more thoughtful directors elected to the PNB. I urge the members of the LSB and delegate assembly to nominate and vote for new directors who hold, as principle, that no lease or sale of the station is in the best interests of WBAI and Pacifica.

Again, this is a matter of political and moral principle. For those of you who, like me, have been around the Left for many decades, there is no higher, more serious consideration that can be made.

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Steve Brown disagrees:

Mitchel, I disagree with you.

There is nothing wrong with merely examining any proposal, since it need not be accepted. It is always  a good idea to know what is out there and what options are on offer in the case of a potential LMA. Because even if we do not lease now (or ever), there may come a time when it is imperative to do so, however distasteful, in order to preserve the foundation. Having already considered and evaluated the available options can save time, when time may be critical, since the process won’t have to start from square one.

But you would simply cut off any examination and all gathering of information. Which makes it seem as if you, Mitchel, not Carolyn, are the one who is refusing to face things. Your unwillingness to examine the options, even for informational purposes, is to bury your head in the sand, a form of denial.

You say, “The vote to consider proposals for leasing the station must be rebuked. It is a matter of political and moral principle.”

Nonsense. It is neither of those things. We are not talking about having Pacifica endorse Mitt Romney for President — that would be a matter of political and moral principle. We are, instead, talking of how to keep Pacifica solvent. The ultimate duty of a PNB member is to the welfare of the foundation first, and (sorry to inform you of this) to that of WBAI second. It is no different than saying that the ultimate duty of a member of Congress is to the welfare of the nation first, and to that of the state he represents second. In other words, a Congressional Representative or Senator should not vote to start an illegal war that could hurt the nation just because it would provide jobs for workers at the aircraft factory in his district.

But that is what you are doing. You are proposing that WBAI keep draining the foundation, which may weaken it enough to kill it, just to keep WBAI going (in the same way that a dishonest Congressional Representative might vote for war to keep his local aircraft plant going). Unless you come forward with an effective plan for raising the money to keep WBAI alive on its own, you cannot simply fold your arms and say, “We’re not budging.” And you have not produced an effective plan. For in spite of the hard work being done to raise money (which in my estimation is counter-productive and making the station sicker), the station is falling further and further behind.

I might add that I don’t feel your positioning this as a political and moral issue rings true. I feel, between the lines of your emails, that you do protest too much. I feel that your campaign to block even a discussion of LMA is really a ruse to dislodge Carolyn and Manijeh from the PNB. Of course, no one can read another’s mind, but one can speculate on the evidence, which I have done.


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Mitchel Cohen responds:

Stephen M Brown wrote:

“There is nothing wrong with merely examining any proposal, since it need not be accepted.”

Pornography — Where’s the examination?

Robbing banks — Where’s the examination?

Leasing the station — Why is that even being considered?

In other words, we should rightly reject all of the above from even being considered. On principle.
Inviting and considering proposals to lease out WBAI is not about knowing what is out there and what options are available, as though we are examining this or that pattern for wallpaper. It is about paving the way for leasing or sale. That fight is NOW.

What is really going on is a fight to lease it to either Ken Freedman of WFMU or to Dan Coughlin and Manhattan Neighborhood Network, who have submitted proposals. To pretend otherwise is manipulative and a sham.

Had the PNB voted not to consider this at all, then there would be no leasing. That is what they should have done. There would be no opportunity for the station to be leased, period. By voting to consider it, the PNB has swung wide the door to leasing — and SELLING — the station, no matter how hard our directors disclaim that as their intent. (I note that Cerene Roberts, with whom I’ve often disagreed on so many issues, has been the only WBAI director here to take the principled stand against leasing or sale.)

That is the fight. That fight is NOW.

“SAVE OUR STATION” IS REAL.

As Steve writes:

“You are proposing that WBAI keep draining the foundation, which may weaken it enough to kill it, just to keep WBAI going … unless you come forward with an effective plan for raising the money ….”

Those on the LSB who can’t figure out what’s really going on should check this out for yourself, and do so quickly. Check out the history of how the road to hell has been paved with good intentions (and that’s assuming that the intentions of our Directors fall into that category to begin with).

By “considering” and inviting proposals for leasing out WBAI, and by discussing them in secret, Carolyn Birden, Janet Coleman, and to a lesser extent Manijeh Saba are preparing the way for leasing the station. That may not be their intent. But that’s the objective outcome of what they are doing. Leasing out (and ultimately, selling) the station will be the end, no matter what else they’re saying, no matter the disclaimers or intentions.

Steve himself accepts the possibility of leasing the station:

“… even if we do not lease now (or ever), there may come a time when it is imperative to do so, however distasteful, in order to preserve the foundation.”

In other words, we may have to kill the patient in order to save her, says Steve.

I maintain the opposite. It is incumbent on the directors to the Pacifica National Board to assist — not consider proposals to lease — WBAI in its hour of need, even if they are frustrated that those “hours of need” repeat themselves year after year. It is their job to figure out how to raise the funds needed, not to throw up one’s hands and abandon that effort! (And, contra Steve’s assertion, there have been many ways offered to do so, including some brilliant ones by Steve Brown himself!)

This is happening NOW. It’s not some “possible” future event. I reject leasing or sale outright, and the excuses for doing so. Once it is gone, we will never get it back. Stop kidding yourself and look at the history of such leasing arrangements. It is almost always the prelude to a sale. I don’t know of a single not-for-profit project that, once leased out, ever got it back.

Most likely, the three directors from WBAI who voted for considering leasing out the station do not intend for that to happen. But their intentions here do not matter. Once we lease the station, it is gone. Forever. And the first step down that treacherous path was to vote in favor of inviting proposals for leasing, which they did, and then to actually begin considering them, as they are now doing.

Again, there are a hundred other things that can be done to raise funds. Why have the same directors opposed Alex Steinberg’s proposal for holding a one-time nationwide telethon to raise funds to pay off the $240,000 owed in severance to workers that THEY voted to lay off, for just one of many examples?

I urge all LSB members, all delegates, and all who care about saving WBAI:

Please stand on principle. DO NOT SELL OR LEASE THE STATION. DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER SELLING OR LEASING IT.

And, do not send those directors back to the PNB who voted to do so.

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