Once you get past the humorous parts of these interactions, there's some serious stuff to consider at the end.
A letter from Steve Brown to MC, bearing today's date.
First, the letter to which he is responding:
If the interim Executive Director (until she signs the contract) wants to meet with the WBAI LSB, she could at the very least email a message to the LSB Secretary or any of the officers. I'm certainly not going to jump through hoops for her and start scrambling all over the place just because she imperially snaps her fingers and expects the moon to blow her kisses.
On the other hand, if the WBAI LSB wants the officers to set up an emergency meeting with Summer Reese for Tuesday, say, and IF the other officers agree on the date, I will be delighted to again invite the suddenly taciturn iED to a meeting at a reasonable time and place, even though she seems to have blocked my emails and phone calls for at least 3 months, now.
HOWEVER, I absolutely refuse to approve of an official emergency meeting of the Board if she will only meet in Executive Session with the LSB, and will not first meet in public session with the listeners and staff.
Former WBAI LSB Chair
Steve Brown's response to Mitchel Cohen
Dear Mitchel –
Yesterday night, Pacifica Executive Director Summer Reese got off a plane from California after an emergency flight to New York, which she had evidently felt it necessary to undertake in order to address two urgent matters:
(1) the status of WBAI’s general manager, and (2) what steps (if any) the national board had taken with regard to a possible Lease Management Agreement for the station. The moment Summer got off the plane, she sent a polite message asking if the LSB would make time to meet with her, at its convenience, to discuss these important matters, both to inform the LSB of the national board’s thinking, as well as receive the thinking of the LSB. She asked that her meeting with the LSB take place in executive session, because the discussion would touch on contractual issues and personnel matters that were legally privileged and could not be discussed in a public forum. This seemed to me both reasonable and proper.
How did the LSB respond? I did not see any response – not from the Chair of the LSB or its Vice Chair or from any of its elected members. But what I did see was a response from you, appended below. This response seemed to hijack and short-circuit the prerogatives of the elected Local Station Board, even though you are not an elected member of this board, and had not been delegated by it to speak on its behalf to the executive director.
So unless I missed the “Mitchel Cohen Special Privilege Clause” in the Pacifica’s bylaws, I do not think you have either the legal right or the moral authority to issue ultimatums to the executive director, especially in such a snide and bossy tone of voice, as if you were berating a lazy serf who had failed to polish your boots to the precise level of glossy perfection that your position merited. I call particular attention to the passage in your email below, in which you draw yourself up on your tippy toes and announce to Summer Reese, in the petulant tones of a thwarted 3-year-old: “I'm certainly not going to jump through hoops for her and start scrambling all over the place just because she imperially snaps her fingers and expects the moon to blow her kisses.”
Then, to really show her who is boss, you add: “I will be delighted to again invite the suddenly taciturn iED to a meeting at a reasonable time and place, even though she seems to have blocked my emails and phone calls for at least 3 months, now” – as if inviting the executive director to meet with the LSB were your prerogative (and as if your righteous thunder against her was not so transparently and pathetically the result of your hurt pride at not having your emails and phone calls answered, as if our executive director had nothing else to do but sit wistfully by her phone waiting for you to call and invite her to the prom).
Finally, as if you were the Pope making an announcement ex Cathedra, you conclude with this presumptuous ultimatum: “HOWEVER, I absolutely refuse to approve of an official emergency meeting of the Board if she will only meet in Executive Session with the LSB, and will not first meet in public session with the listeners and staff.”
May I humbly point out that you do not have the right, let alone the power, to make official demands on the executive director – certainly not the right to “absolutely refuse to approve of an official emergency meeting of the Board.” As a non-LSB member, you simply cannot parade about as if you were speaking for and reflecting the will of the LSB (which it must be said has not done much speaking nor demonstrated much of a will in the past year or more).
I can understand your frustration over the difficulties at WBAI and Pacifica, Mitcxxhel. But you are not a member of the PNB, and not a member of the LSB, and not a member of station staff. Yes, you are a listener, and as such you certainly do have a right -- even a duty – to speak out for what you believe to be the best interests of WBAI. But you do not have the right to pretend to speak for the LSB, or make it appear that you do. My suggestion – and I have no more than the right to suggest – is that you try and adopt a more courteous tone with those who might not share your views. A little more humility might also serve you well in making your recommendations, many of which are sensible and in a saner station environment would have long ago been adopted.
Stephen M Brown
Mitchel Cohen's response
Steve Brown has maliciously taken a private email I'd written to the private LSB list, and posted a decontextualized portion of it publicly. What he fails to mention -- and no one would otherwise know (since it was a private email) -- is that not only was I not addressing Summer Reese as he claims, but I was responding to Carolyn Birden in what was supposed to be a confidential discussion. So there was no insult addressed to Summer as he states.
Additionally, Steve selectively removed what I'd actually written to give the impression that I would refuse to abide by the LSB's wishes and call a meeting of the LSB this week to meet with Summer Reese. Steve says that I wrote: "I will be delighted to again invite the suddenly taciturn iED to a meeting at a reasonable time and place, even though she seems to have blocked my emails and phone calls for at least 3 months, now".
Steve then snidely (though colorfully) remarks, "as if inviting the executive director to meet with the LSB were your prerogative (and as if your righteous thunder against her was not so transparently and pathetically the result of your hurt pride at not having your emails and phone calls answered, as if our executive director had nothing else to do but sit wistfully by her phone waiting for you to call and invite her to the prom)." First of all, I did not see the email containing Summer's message that was passed along to me by Frank Lefever until 3 a.m., after subwaying home to Bensonhurst after meetings (and food) all night.
My complaint that she cut me off her "response list" months and months ago is not one of hurt pride (come on, Steve, who the *^$% cares?!) but of her failure to write to me directly as Secretary of the LSB -- her job! -- so that I could timely communicate with the rest of the Board. Equally important is Steve's inference made by intentionally deleting the key part of the sentence he quotes from me. See if my restoring of what Steve deleted changes its meaning for you (I underline the part that Steve deleted): "If the WBAI LSB wants the officers to set up an emergency meeting with Summer Reese for Tuesday, say, and IF the other officers agree on the date, I will be delighted to again invite the suddenly taciturn iED to a meeting at a reasonable time and place, even though she seems to have blocked my emails and phone calls for at least 3 months, now." In other words, if the LSB wants me to set up the meeting with the still-interim Executive Director, I -- as Secretary -- would do so.
So what's really going on? Summer Reese has apparently come to town primarily to REMOVE BERTHOLD REIMERS as General Manager. She cannot legally do so without the LSB considering the question. If the LSB considers it but turns her down, then she is legally bound to take it to the PNB and obtain the national board's approval -- or else, she is not allowed to fire Berthold. Steve knows this. Thus, his support for her demand for a meeting in Executive Session, to get that process started. Summer wants to lease out the station, and removing Berthold is a necessary step. And is fearful of facing the public about that.
She is collaborating in that with one of WBAI's elected Directors to the PNB, Carolyn Birden. Along the way they have fooled or convinced two of WBAI's other Directors, Manijeh Saba and Janet Coleman, into going along with their destructive scheme, which would mean the end of WBAI. Steve Brown is cynically latching on because he wants Berthold Reimers out as GM, whom he criticizes for not doing many necessary things over the last few years. I agree with much of Steve's criticisms of management (although I think Berthold has greatly improved, does an enormous amount of work, and could lead us out of the mess we're now in).
But firing Berthold and bringing in a "turn-around" expert as a prelude to a lease arrangement, which will become a prelude to selling the station outright, will not fix things. Additionally, there is absolutely no financial reason for Berthold to be fired and for Pacifica to be considering a leasing arrangement. WBAI just completed a successful fund drive. We have decreased costs by moving out of Wall Street (* - See below) and by (very sadly) laying off 3/4 of the paid staff. We reduced costs by $1.1 million, and with the exception of a lump-payment of $225,000 for severance to those who were laid off, we've caught up with most of the current bills. However, we need 5 or 6 months for those reduced costs to kick in. Basically, this means that we need Pacifica to loan us TIME.
We have a number of fundraising events scheduled. Last week's Pete Seeger/David Amram/Tiokosin Ghost Horse concert netted WBAI around $10,000. There are also two bequests that WBAI anticipates receiving, one of close to $100,000 from our wonderful friend Jim Krivo, who died a few months ago. The other from a wealthy benefactor who left WBAI more than $1,000,000 but whose Will is tied up in court. We're also expecting around $25,000 more over the next months from pledges that were made but not yet paid, and a large grant -- I think it's around $170,000 -- from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. MORE than enough to sustain us through the next 4 or 5 months, in addition to the upcoming winter fund drive.
If Pacifica would just allow us the time, I have no doubt whatsoever that WBAI could stand on its own 99.5 feet in a few months. So why the rush to cut off its head NOW and review the leasing roposals NOW?
Could it be that the moment Summer Reese signs the papers to become the new Executive Director she loses her seat on the Pacifica National Board, and who knows where things will lead on the National Board?
Is WBAI being used opportunistically as a political football in some other scheming factional nightmare? I think that that's at least part of what's going on, why the rush is happening. It's simply awful. And for WBAI's Directors to not understand that we are being used that way, and that Berthold is the "collateral damage" in the wider scheme, is tragic.
It's all about those HERE who have given up on saving WBAI and who want to lease it out for 5 - 8 years; those from Berkeley who want to sell WBAI outright and apply those receipts to their own stations, which are doing as poorly as WBAI, or even worse, and could use the money; and those of us like myself and the vast majority of listeners and staff who understand that the importance of holding onto and improving this listener-sponsored, non-commercial, free speech, anti-war radio station far outweighs the personal frustrations and factional slights that have made them bitter fools and stripped them not only of their vision of WBAI's potential, but of WBAI's ACTUAL and greatly improved financial situation.
former Chair of the WBAI Local Station Board,
and currently Secretary of the WBAI LSB
* Note: Carolyn Birden and others argued vehemently in the Summer of 2012 for remaining at the Wall Street location for another three years, and condemned me for even looking for other spaces, claiming I was undermining then-Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt's "master plan" -- there was none! So when I met with the owner of the building on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn in which WBAI now resides and proposed that WBAI move there, the resistance was palpable. That resistance cost WBAI a pretty penny; if it were not for Hurricane Sandy forcing WBAI to move from Wall Street, we would have been forced to close up shop altogether. But many persisted against that bureaucratic wall. Alex Steinberg (a fellow Brooklynite) and I set up meetings between the Atlantic Avenue building's owner and the new iED, Summer Reese, and, separately, with Berthold Reimers. We walked them around the neighborhood. They liked the building and negotiations began. The Manhattanites were none-too-thrilled. But this is not mostly about stuck-up Manhattan vs. working class Brooklyn -- that's real, but only a tiny part.