Crimea River

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

KRFC hires permanent GM, Earth still round

For the third time in its five-year history, the KRFC Board of Directors has hired a new general/station manager from within its own ranks. I wish I coulda caught some action on that forgone conclusion (rent’s due in two weeks, you know).

I barely know Chris Kennison – but who he is is not the point. The point is this: the KRFC Board has failed, throughout the station's short history, to live up to its original tenets of inclusion, openness, fair-mindedness, and diversity. It continues to act in bad faith in its stewardship of not only these ideals, but of the trust of its volunteers and membership who are committed to these increasingly antiquated principles. I refer specifically to this signal event, thrice repeated, as the Board's patronizing, means-to-an-end, hallmark conceit. Somebody crapped in the sandbox again, and it wasn’t Save Grassroots Radio. But, again, was there ever any doubt that Chris, when jumped from the Board to the GM’s chair, would likewise glide easily from interim status to permanent? He is simply our third Board Member-Turned-Station Manager, or BMTSM.

(And is former BMTSM Beth Flowers’ and husband/volunteer programmer Scott Bussen’s little website business responsible for making the appropriate title fix for Chris on KRFC’s homepage? And, if so, did they do it after or before the email went out making the announcement? Cyd Charisse would have been envious of such fleet footwork, may she rest in peace. Although, srsly, Beth, time to take YOUR photo off the homepage, hon! And, BTW, why do I all of a sudden have to be registered and logged in to read the station's list archives, huh?)

The Board has failed, once again, to hold a time-consuming albeit necessary and legitimate search for a station manager (no offense to Chris personally or professionally). The process is, in fact, a closed loop, just like the process for choosing Board members. (Oh, wait – that’s TWO jobs…) And the only way to stop this rampant inbreeding is to reform the Board member self-selection process which the Board, with straight face, officially passes off as “elections.”

I have hammered on this string since the first round of Board member selections took place once we were on the air, in 2003-2004. (Posting Board and GM activities – maintaining a public and active station itinerary – was my first suggestion for what needed to be done after the door opened – and this didn’t happen until sometime after the second BMTSM was put on the payroll.) I threw my hat into the ring for a seat on the Board because I was openly frustrated and disgusted with how incompetent and unprofessional our first BMTSM was, and I wanted to be a part of the machinery to help make urgent changes and improvements.

Anyway, I can’t say that I ever “ran” for a seat, because running for something implies that you’re already in the race. It was at the “interview process,” I suppose, where I stalled. But even that doesn’t matter except for the fact that that was the precise moment when I realized that I hadn’t really understood what KRFC’s sideways process was, beginning with the selection of the “nominating committee.”

(Spoiler alert: The process is JUST LIKE making hotdogs!)

1. Certain people affiliated with the radio station are *coff*
“randomly selected” to sit on a “nominating committee” which meets with sitting Board members, as well as paid staff, to review usually just a pitiful handful of actual applications for seats on the Board (because the din of the call to duty is quite low for certain tasks, and for a reason). There is no mass emailing of this request because, again, the folks who wind up sitting on the committee are among the chosen. The sitting Board members even choose nominees who haven’t even applied to be on the Board! Many have actually been INVITED to be chosen! And the paid staff, who were chosen by the Board for their jobs, also get to sit in on the festivities! (It’s FUN to be chosen, isn’t it?)

2. Prospective board members are selected by the aforementioned committee members and, presumably, everyone else sitting around the table, and then the Board members cast Secret Ballots to choose which three of these nominees shall run in tandem for *ahem* membership approval.

2a. A brief digression: Where is the list of people eligible to vote? Whether they’re paid members or volunteers, what’s the criteria, and where’s the list, and who monitors the list when counting up “votes”? Just asking.

3. So, anyway, when the Board convenes the annual meeting of the station’s general membership, that’s when we find out who’s “running” (except for inconsistent and random biographical blurbs of these “candidates” that may come out earlier).

(And, by the way, are you getting annoyed with my use of quotation marks? Are you? Yeah, me, too, but there are specific definitions and meanings that have already been decided upon, and I just hate it when people try to redefine concepts having to do with democracy, so I have to qualify their usage in this ongoing saga. Now, eliminating the actual word “democracy” from the story, although that was the line in the sand for a lot of Save Grassroots Radio folks – it doesn’t automatically, in my mind, obviate, eliminate or otherwise render moot the process of democracy, no matter what you call it, and that conversation is a big digression anyway. So, onward...)

4. So we’re back at the general membership meeting where those eligible to vote (and others who may not know whether they're eligible) usually imbibe in free Fat Tire served at Avo’s or New Belgium, and nibble on some cheap pizza to go along with it, and maybe there’s some live music (though not always), and everybody stands around and gibble-gabbles about the radio station, because the only purpose for the ballot box is for those folks who may want to enter a NEGATIVE vote for the aforementioned slate of three handcuffed pre-Board members. The slate does not "win" affirmative votes; they are simply defaulted onto the Board, as though tripping onto the KRFC stage, by a lack of negative votes. (Srsly, how embarrassing...) They’re not competitors, and they’re not even genuine candidates, in the true sense of the word. And that is the sum and total of “voting” at KRFC.

(So, has anyone ever tried to cast a negative vote at one of these meetings? Was anyone ever tempted to but was too embarrassed to, because then everybody would see you do it? Did I mention that voting by the membership is NOT confidential?)

5. Oh, and when I said that the only voting going on is by casting a negative ballot, I may have misspoken, because ABSTENTIONS ARE (somehow) COUNTED AS AFFIRMATIVE VOTES. So, in other words, unless you’ve actually cast a negative vote against even one of the Troika of Destiny (because they’re all yoked together, remember), your apathy or indifference (po-tay-toe/po-tah-toe) will actually be counted as a vote FOR them. By doing absolutely nothing related to KRFC except maintaining non-death status, and your KRFC membership in good standing, you will have played a “positive” role in its “elections.”
(Who’s a good dog?)

6. This has obviously never happened before – the troika NOT gaining their seats on the Board – but the bylaws state that if the trio gets a negative vote of 25% of the membership, they are not seated, and I suppose we get to play out this game again, which would be sadly hilarious if it ever actually happened. And, by the way, we never get to see any numbers (which is a bit of a bother; see 2a) as to how many people make up the station’s eligible membership, how many single ballots are needed to “vote” the trio down, the clarifying criteria for qualifying as a current eligible “voter,” etc., etc. I suppose that since the process itself is illegitimate, it would be quite an undertaking in artifice to actually come up with all these pesky little details, just to appease those of us who might give a damn.

7. So, anyway, that’s it. What? You say you want more fanfare? More of that sizzling electricity and excitement of Democracy at Work? Okay, here goes: Ta-da! Three new KRFC Board members and, as "voting members" of KRFC, you didn't have to lift a finger! So, good for you! Have some more pizza! Or stay home! Same diff...

8. For my previous posts about this tragic pantomime and how to fix it (unless you, too, already learned about it in grade-school elections), go here: http://savegrassrootsradio.org/library/letters/kate-tarasenko-on-democracy

I am personally fond of many of the founding members of PRFR as well as some past and current Board members, and to them and their hand-picked posse of BMTSMs (and the remaining BMs pre-destined to take their turn at the wheel), I say this: You and we have done and continue to do a lot of things right. This, sadly, is not one of them. I know many of you have said that the reason you instituted such a convoluted process (which you continue to deny is self-selection) was because you witnessed/heard of/were told about other community radio stations being sunk by the undue influence of some rabble-rousing working class/peasant race/uppity chillens squawking in the background – you know, the volunteers who do most of the day-to-day work. And you've hypothesized that this process was a sure-fire way to protect the station from going radio silent. But you’ve been mere steps away from the courthouse for months now, another potential death-knell that you said you wanted to avoid, serving up this Orwellian farce that you have the audacity to refer to as "elections" as justification for keeping the bylaws and our "guiding documents" status quo. (Except for the Mission Statement but, again, I digress…) So… how’s that working for you?

Like I said, wish I coulda caught some action on today’s announcement, rivaled in its suspense only by (as the song goes): “The sun will come out tomorrow.”
– KT

2 comments:

Crimea River said...

FROM: Paul Bame, founding member of PRFR/KRFC and former news programmer

It would be a lot easier to know whether a vote was kosher if the people voting (or petitioning) could be independently verified as members. That's one reason why companies are required to give their shareholders or members access to their shareholder or membership list (another is to communicate information the company may not itself want to communicate). KRFC's lawyer, apparently Tom Cruise in "Minority Report," argued they must withhold their list to protect against a future crime.

I think there's a problem with the nominating process not foreseen by its well-intentioned crafters (I opposed it, FYI), and that's the power dynamic. On the committee are about 25% of the nearly omnipotent board, plus a staff member beholden to that same board for their job directly or through the GM. The staff member cannot always be expected to feel safe going against the will of the their bosses. Anyone else with desires to get or keep a show, or qualify for a future board or staff opening, can't be expected to feel safe going against the board or staff. An atmosphere of extraordinary fairness and courage could reduce this structural defect. One of the important operational questions of the nominating committee is whether candidates will be able to work productively with, aka "get along with," the current Board. I think that tends to eliminate principled and outspoken people as experience seems to confirm --a recipe for blandness, not vibrancy.

Between the power issue and the "get along" question, the Board gets a candidate veto in the nominating committee itself, and then gets another chance to refuse the slate when it is presented to the Board formally, thus violating the original hope of representing all the constituencies somewhat fairly. And a dedicated member trying to inform themselves before the annual vote would be hard- pressed since there is no real alternative to the cheery candidate bios authorized and distributed by the station (unlike, for example, the pro and con arguments supplied to referenda voters).

Nigel said...

Just to set the record straight the entire process was carried out by members of KRFC.

A general email was sent out to all programmers requesting volunteers to become apart of the selection process. I volunteered to be apart of this panel.

We had 5 candidates for the position; of whom "Chris Kennison" was one of them.

We first vetted all the resumes and it became obvious that there where three potential candidates who we could seriously look at. (Management and radio station knowledge).

We then conducted telephone interviews with all candidates and the group (I unfortunately, was unable to attend owing to a work commitment) meet to do a final discussion.

Because we do depend on funding from the general public and are volunteered powered it's important to take many things into consideration. Required salary being one of them. So there are many aspects to the equation on what KRFC can / can not afford and do.

Of course, it's interesting that the above article (that I could notice anyways) missed a salient point. Chris Kennison was acting Station manager for about 6 months after Beth Flowers had to leave for health reasons.

During this time Chris proved to be a worthy Station Manager and even though he had the "interim" tag on his shoulders made decisions and proved worthy as a real candidate for the full time position, plus Chris also knows the workings of KRFC and programmers involved.

So, in short, the BoD followed the advise of the committee formed to help the hiring process. I stand by the decision we made.

It was not an easy choice but taking into account salary requirements, experience and first hand knowledge; although not an easy decision I believe that it was the correct decision.

Nigel.

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