Why do we need new Bylaws for Pacifica? (ver. 1)

Our country needs Pacifica more than ever!  But our beloved Pacifica is losing listeners, incurring repeated financial losses each year, drowning in debt, and failing to achieve its missionMeanwhile, our boards (local and national) spend much of their time and energy struggling with and blaming each other, while failing to find solutions to these problems – and some board members even deny that the problems exist!

We consider upholding the Pacifica mission to be central to moving forward effectively. Pacifica needs a new set of Bylaws that provides for new governance so our Foundation and stations can not only survive, but grow and thrive.

Our present 16 year old Pacifica Bylaws have both strengths and weaknesses. Now we need to look realistically at what has worked and what hasn’t. We appreciate those who developed the Bylaws. Many of them have told us the Bylaws are not working well, given where we are today – that there are serious inconsistencies and flaws that have resulted in chaos and opportunistic manipulation, and that have caused (almost guaranteed) very poor governance because of serious conflicts, lawsuits, distrust, and paralysis in our boards. Despite good intentions, our current Bylaws have allowed a situation that works against carrying out Pacifica’s mission. Frankly, they have created little arenas of power struggle which have paralyzed the organization.

Many of you responded to our survey in 2018 and told us very clearly that we need to change Pacifica’s Bylaws, which define how our governance works, to make Pacifica better – and to save it. 

Most of our board members have little or no training or useful experience in finance, broadcasting management, fundraising, or human resources. Our Pacifica boards have both dedicated people who actively work to help our stations, and also people who resort to insults, name-calling, slander, character assassination and delay tactics to advance their goals. At times, we seem to bring out the worst in people, not the best in people. However, in the face of dysfunctional behavior, the Bylaws make it almost impossible to remove board members except for insider political control.

Pacifica is increasingly saddled with debt. The boards seem paralyzed about how to pay it off. With dwindling listenership and annual financial losses, there is not enough money to pay basic expenses. The network is under constant threat of our creditors suing or foreclosing on the loan which has used all of our buildings, and other assets, as collateral.

MILLIONS of dollars of debt

Pacifica’s debt includes the 2018 loan for over $3.2M (used to refinance our debt to Empire State Realty Trust and to get out of the rest of the WBAI tower lease), with the National Office building sold and all of the other Pacifica buildings mortgaged and put at risk. This loan must be paid off by March 2021 or station buildings and other assets, including the Pacifica Radio Archives and intellectual property of Pacifica, may be sold at auction to pay off the loan. Other interested parties may already have plans to purchase the assets when the loan defaults. We are already in default on the big loan, giving the lender the right to raise the interest rate to 18% if they choose, and to seize any of our buildings if they wish, even before 2021. We are at their mercy, and can only hope they will be patient and understanding. Vague hopes of refinancing this debt seem unrealistic, either with the current lender or another one, given the lack of any repayment plan and uncertainty over whether we can even pay the interest.  We must pay both the interest and the principal of that loan – or risk losing our buildings. There’s been a lot of talk about getting more revenue, but no indication of any serious steps being taken given our present boards. And in fact our revenue has continued to decline while our deficits continue.

In addition to that big loan, we also owe additional amounts to other creditors – again with no way defined to pay them back.

Pacifica can’t keep spending more money than we’re bringing in each year, going deeper into debt, and somehow expecting things will get better without changes. Everyone agrees we need more revenue and/or lower expenses, but our boards have been unable to work effectively to do that.

We need to be able to modernize all of the stations. They were built on a 1947 model, and they have to learn how to function in the new media environment of social media and multiple alternative outlets online. They have to have resources and leadership to move to a 2018 model of radio and communications.

The Pacifica National Board and Local Station Boards have not found a way to transition to the new media landscape.  This is holding us back financially, in expanding to reach new listeners, and in fulfilling the Pacifica mission. We, who are and have been Pacifica board members, realize that our very structure has put at risk Pacifica’s survival.

To make matters worse, many members don’t believe the boards represent them. Many local board members were not elected by the membership but are lower placed alternates who were seated to replace other board members who resigned once they saw the ineffectiveness and inappropriate behavior or abdication of responsibility of other board members, and realized that our local boards have almost no real authority.

One frequent complaint from members and programmers is that conflict among board members keeps those in governance from raising funds, doing marketing, and improving programming and technology.

LeBris Flying Machine, 1868

Being progressives means embracing change. In the history of aviation, if people had stuck with 18th and 19th century ideas of how to build aircraft, we’d still be stuck on the ground. Pacifica needs to be open to new options and possibilities to be able to fly and to find ways to make sure Pacifica not only survives and is able to pay its bills, but grows in listenership, influence, and support.

Please vote for the new Pacifica Bylaws!

Together, we can, and must, build a better Pacifica. We have to be willing to make changes – not in our mission, but in our boards and governance in order to carry out that Mission which we still believe is so important.

Pacifica desperately needs new Bylaws – but Pacifica members must vote to approve them in an upcoming member election. Please do not ignore the ballot you get – most will come by e-mail – and vote yes for the new Bylaws – to save Pacifica and its mission!