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AFFIRMATIVE ACTION NIXED IN PACIFICA RADIO

by s hamanaka Friday, Sep. 19, 2003 at 9:38 AM

Arguments expected at NYC Natl Bd Mtg 9/19-21

The foremost left media outlet in the United States, Pacifica Radio, with stations in New York, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Washington DC and Houston, has been locked in a bitter internal struggle over whether or not to use affirmative action in the seating of its local and national boards. At issue is whether communities of color, who now dominate the populations of major U.S. cities, will also rise to power in Pacifica, which has traditionally been controlled by liberal and leftwing white European Americans. The struggle has split its national board and activist leadership roughly along racial lines. Pacifica Radio has acknowledged a pattern of racial discrimination in the past. Opponents of affirmative action say it is illegal and would jeopardize Pacifica's funding and licenses. Pacifica is primarily listener sponsored.

In the latest development, judge Ronald Sabraw ruled on Monday that the controversial Draft "B" of the bylaws, which lacks any affirmative action remedies, would prevail. Nominations for the new Local Station Boards opened immediately.

A court-ordered settlement agreement, overseen by Judge Sabraw, resolved a previous internal struggle between progressives and liberal Democratic Party forces. The settlement agreement required elections for new boards. New bylaws guiding those elections had to be passed by a two thirds majority on the iPNB and then be ratified by three out of the five Local Advisory Boards (LABs). Diversity was the sticking point.

In June Draft "B" failed to gain the required two-thirds majority approval by the iPNB. However, Judge Sabraw ruled in favor of Carol Spooner of KPFA Berkeley, the Secretary of the interim Pacifica National Board (iPNB), who discounted the votes of several African Americans on the iPNB through a technicality. Judge Sabraw ruled that three out of five LABs had to endorse Draft "B" by July 24, the second requirement for passage of the bylaws. On July 23 KFPK Los Angeles defeated Draft "B", which had already been roundly rejected by WBAI New York and WPFW Washington DC, (both stations have a strong African American presence.).

Fearing protest from New York supporters of affirmative action, iPNB Chair Leslie Cagan illegally and unilaterally cancelled the June IPNB meeting scheduled for New York City and instead ordered a "mediation session" in Chicago (where Pacifica has no station) to reach accord on diversity language for the new bylaws. The majority of participants in the Chicago mediation session were people of color and the straw polls taken overwhelmingly favored affirmative action.

Upset with the turn of events at the mediation, pro-"B" forces staged a revote on Draft "B" at KPFK Los Angeles, in which white European American board member Tom Irwin switched his vote, tipping the scales. Two iPNB directors, Carol Spooner and David Fertig then seized the opportunity and unilaterally declared Draft "B" to be victorious. This was soon followed by a nod from iPNB Chair Leslie Cagan, who now declared that the session in Chicago, which reportedly cost Pacifica twenty five thousand dollars had NOT been a mediation but merely a "a facilitated discussion." Draft "B" she declared, had passed. However, when the board later met as a whole via teleconference, they voted down the idea that B had passed, and in a straw poll voted 10 to 1 to continue the mediation process. In Sabraw's latest ruling the judge disregarded his own previous deadline for passage of B and declared it ratified.

The disenfranchisement of African American directors on the board, and repeated violations of democratic process within the iPNB has led some people of color to complain that Pacifica is controlled by a de facto all white European American executive committee, (an executive committee is explicitly disallowed in the settlement agreement.) To some, the judge's ruling reinforces charges of institutional racism within Pacifica Radio, particularly because supporters of Draft "B" are fighting against waivers, which would enfranchise listeners who cannot afford to pay for membership or are unable to volunteer for three hours of work. The friction in Pacifica parallels complaints from organizers of color that racism is a still a persistent problem within the U.S. peace movement, to which Pacifica is closely tied. iPNB Chair Leslie Cagan is a prominent leader of the massive coalition United For Peace and Justice. Pacifica is scheduled to proceed with elections without any affirmative action remedies.

An iPNB public meeting is scheduled to take place in New York City this weekend, September 19-21. It meets Friday from 4 pm to 9 pm, Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm and Sunday 9:30 am to 3 pm. Location: the Synod House of the Cathedral of St John the Divine at Amsterdam Avenue and 110th Street. Public comment, expected to be heated, is scheduled for Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. Race and Nationality is scheduled for discussion Saturday afternoon.

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LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 12 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
This is Ridiculous! Listener Friday, Sep. 19, 2003 at 12:56 PM
Listener just wondering Friday, Sep. 19, 2003 at 1:15 PM
Provocateur? KPFK Listener Friday, Sep. 19, 2003 at 2:19 PM
A Few Questions ? Saturday, Sep. 20, 2003 at 2:58 AM
A Few Questions ? Saturday, Sep. 20, 2003 at 3:03 AM
Alternative? White flight = white theft Saturday, Sep. 20, 2003 at 9:08 AM
I agree KPFK Listener Saturday, Sep. 20, 2003 at 9:37 AM
Affirmative Action KPFK Supporter Saturday, Sep. 20, 2003 at 10:10 AM
KPFK Supporter White flight = white theft Saturday, Sep. 20, 2003 at 12:22 PM
more comments on Pacifica always trying to learn Saturday, Sep. 20, 2003 at 12:27 PM
Thanx ? Saturday, Sep. 20, 2003 at 12:38 PM
PR is Affirmative Action in Elections Gregory Wonderwheel Tuesday, Sep. 23, 2003 at 4:49 PM

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