KZYX In Transition

by Sheila Dawn-Tracy, April 6, 2016

On the late winter evening of March 7th, as the sun dipped behind the hills, the KZYX Board of Directors met at the Willits library. President of the Board,  Meg Courtney, introduced individual Board members by name to the audience.  Director Clay Eubank was absent due to work obligations.

Courtney announced the appointment of Director Jenness Hartley to act as the meeting's facilitator. Hartley asked the board  to not respond to any interruptions during the meeting, explaining that the time for public comments had been extended from three to five minutes.

Although the Board voted to approve the minutes for the January meeting, they were not available for public review. The information distributed to the public only contained the minutes from the November meeting along with  financial statements.

Courtney expressed appreciation to the new General Manager, Lorraine Dechter for her ability to take on the challenge of finding and training staff replacements for the recently vacated positions of Program Director and Operations Manager.

Director Jane Futcher was also thanked for her work as Election Coordinator, which included the preparing and mailing of ballots and conducting the Campaign Forum for candidates. Also recognized was Director Ed Keller for his contribution of building a cover over the back room of the studio to keep the record collection housed there safe from water damage.

A combined crew of Board members and programmers were thanked for volunteering their time to stuff and stamp the ballot and silent pledge drive envelopes.

Courtney presented a three page fundraising calendar that had  events planned for almost every month through to February of 2017. It was the work of the fundraising committee consisting of  GM Dechter, Underwriting Coordinator David Steffan, herself and Director Futcher.

Former Program Director, Mary Aigner, arrived at the meeting and was promptly recognized for her dedication to public radio through 22 years of service.  A framed certificate  was read and presented to her by Supervisor Tom Woodhouse on behalf of the Board of Supervisors. Among the notable contributions assembled by former GM, Diane Hering, was her proficiency in operating all station equipment, her ability to trouble shoot problems, her inexhaustible presence at pledge drives and other fundraising events and her ten years of holding the position as the station's Program Director. She was loudly applauded by all in attendance.

Futcher thanked Woodhouse for his presence and indicated that he was free to leave to attend to any other engagements that he may have had. Woodhouse graciously declined commenting, "How bad can this one be?" Audience member and candidate for the Board, Jeff Wright quickly quipped "Stick around, " adding a refreshing moment of levity to the proceedings.

Courtney's final announcement was that the formation of a Bylaws and Policy Committee will be delayed until after the new board is seated in May. Several policies such as Safe Harbor, the grievance procedure and, potentially, the Program Advisory Council will be reviewed.

Matters from the Board

Director John Sakowicz urged the Board and management to explore seeking out a collaboration with KMEC - the low powered radio station in Ukiah as a way to have a low cost studio presence in that city.  He added that programmers there are very knowledgeable about how to provide a digital platform for a show's content, which he believed was the future of radio programming. Sakowicz noted that his  public affairs show, produced by KMEC,  now has an audience of 25,000 subscribers on Youtube.

Committee Reports – Finance 

Although Treasurer Clay Eubank was not present, the financial statement for the year through February was available to the public.

Due in part to having a contract with two General Managers for the month of January (Campbell and Dechter) the station's payroll more than doubled from the previous month from 17.5k to 39.1k.  Total gross employee wages for the month of February totaled 16k  which was 230% of that months budget. Consultant fees (News Dep't) added another 7.2k of wages or 106% to February expenses. Another over budget expense was that of Internet/Telephone/ISDN lines that, with four months of the fiscal year to go, is just 1.5k short of the total of 15.5k budgeted for FY 2016. Total expenses for February was 46.2k or a whopping 577% over the monthly budget. In a phone conversation with Eubank, it was explained that the station had to pay out for accrued vacation and unused sick leave time for the outgoing staff.

In summary, the total income for the Year to Date (YTD) was $287.4k of which $138.8k was from donations. Expenses were $361.8k for a net loss of $74.5k.

Accounts payable from prior years-$13k

Accounts payable current year -$30.8k

Payable line of credit-$49.9k

Accounts receivable (pledges & underwriting)-$72.8k

Available line of credit-$29k

Checking account balance-$19.1k

The March pledge drive reached its goal of $65k which was not included in the above figures. Income from a February fundraiser at the Little River Inn was still unknown and also not included.

Elections -The two candidates running for the Programmer Representative seat were Robert Vaughn and Stuart Campbell. No candidate statements were available to the general membership.

Community Advisory Board (CAB) Report

On 2/23 CAB members Ellen Saxe, Bob Bushansky and Steve Fish  met with seven community members and two  programmers at the Greenwood School in Elk.  Saxe  removed the formalities of an agenda and a timed comment period to facilitate discussion.

Favorable comments were made by the programmers, Charlie Acker and Liz Helenchild regarding the future of KZYX  and its renaissance as  community radio.  They stated they are getting more training and feedback.

A focus of many comments was a need for greater transparency.

  • On air programs featuring reports and discussions with both Board members and CAB members were requested.
  • The end of the Board practice of holding confidential meetings through  a closed listserve was expressed.
  • A more responsive Board with follow through on a stated course of action in a timely manner, with attention to consistency of action from one Board to the next was desired.
  • The Board should clearly state the rules by which they are running their meetings and follow the internal process set up by the organization.

Creation of a station sanctioned method for members to communicate with each other was highlighted. Suggestions included:

  • Facilitation of member run meetings
  • Members should be given an option to communicate through phone, mail or email.
  • Give appropriate access to membership list with an opt out provision given to members desiring it. Other issues raised :
  • Pay attention to the South Coast (Irish Beach to Sea Ranch).  Install the promised repeater or translator to include the 8000 residents in broadcast range. Have a Board meeting there.
  • Recreate a Program Council not as an advisory committee but with decision making authority.
  • Hire a paid Volunteer Coordinator and have an open recruiting policy as opposed to the current one of  selective recruiting.
  • Address the Safe Harbor issue & the absorption of the community raised funds for a Ukiah studio.
  • Define and follow a process for choosing programmers and other station volunteers.
  • Institute a fair grievance procedure for former programmers.
  • Encourage interest and participation of younger generations ; have children and youth programming.

Sakowicz responded to the desire for member communication in stating that a listserve could be created for that purpose. He also said an ongoing site for the general public, kzyxtalk, could function towards that end.

Courtney recognized a member of the audience to speak.  He commented on the ease of setting up a new listserve. She was cautioned by Director Futcher on opening the meeting to a discussion format. She did not recognize this reporter who had been asked by the CAB to contact a Corporation for Broadcasting spokesperson on the propriety of private CAB meetings that had taken place without public notice. (The official response is they are improper when a quorum of CAB members exist.) Courtney then recognized a programmer to speak. Objections were raised on the arbitrary way the meeting was being run. The facilitator, Hartley, tried to restore order by holding up a Quiet Please sign which may have worked for her grade school class but had zero effect on those present.

I called a point of process to remind the Board that at the prior Board meeting the public had been allowed to give input to the CAB representative and it was advisable to have a consistent policy in that regard. Courtney remained indecisive.

To further complicate the situation, Director Keller took out the camera he had brought to record Aigner's award ceremony and appeared to be photographing those objecting to the lack of process.  This upset a candidate for the Board who left his seat to engage Keller in conversation.

Courtney could not regain control of the meeting and called a five minute recess. Supervisor Woodhouse  exited and did not return.

When the meeting resumed Sakowicz gave a detailed account of how the Board of Supervisors ran their meetings, suggesting that the MCPB Board run its meetings similarly in allowing the public to comment on each agenda item in order to eliminate dissension.

Courtney elected to move on to the next agenda item.

General Manager's Report

Lorraine Dechter gave an oral report centering on transition activities of finding and training new staff after a 60% employee turnover. The new Operations Manager, Jerry Fraley,  previously worked at KMFB and was recruited through a programmer's  recommendation. He was highly praised for his technical skills. Dechter introduced the Interim Program Director, Raoul Van Hall whose contract officially began on April 1st. His resume`includes 43 years in radio, 40 of which was as program director. For the last 15 years he has been involved in public radio,  working  at KBOO based in Portland, Oregon doubling both as its program director and operations manager. He also produces two shows that air internationally. He is hoping to continue at KZYX on a permanent basis after the field of applicants has been more widely advertised and  reviewed. He is committed to being accessible to the community having found that the best ideas come from the most unexpected sources.

The new position of Music Director has been created to review new music releases to add to the station's music library. It is being filled by Alice Woolsey-Erskin.

Dechter thanked bookkeeper, Dan McDonnell, for "being  her right hand man" assisting her through the transition and being willing to problem solve where needed. She spoke of technical problems with the satellite studios that had tried the patience of programmers but were now resolved with excellent results. She has also had difficulty with the website and, being unable to post the station's first newsletter (written by Futcher) on it, posted it instead on the station's Facebook site.

She mentioned that expenses tripled in January from the pay out of benefits and double GM salaried positions.

In programming news, Dechter announced the start of a 5 minute Native American news program that was aired at 7 AM but has been changed to air at 6:30 PM following NPR's The World. As a national broadcast segment, contributors are sought and will be paid through that organization.   Additionally, another three minutes was added to local news programming at 6 PM for a total of thirteen minutes.

Fundraising

The Mendocino Community Foundation has awarded $5k for the purchase of new donor software.

The February on air auction in collaboration with Nevada Public Radio netted $904.

Dechter stated that the pledge drive was going well with donations of higher amounts being made.

Among the community fundraising events planned  throughout the fiscal year are quarterly Celtic concerts produced by programmers Tim Bray and Catherine Keegan. A chocolate and flowers Mother's Day fundraiser, a Blues, Brew & BBQ event in July and a free Member's Appreciation Day in September are also scheduled.

Coming in April is Amy Goodman's book promotion tour. She will speak at the Willits Art Center on the 16th from 1 to 3 PM. Tickets are on sale.

Programmer Jaime Roberts is planning a production of King Lear to be held at the Caspar Community Center in the near future.

Public Comment

Director Benj Thomas spoke for programmer Barry Vogel who had interviewed Bernie Sanders previous to his candidacy for President and wished to air the interview on KZYX. He was told the equal time provision applied although other stations had agreed to broadcast the interview. Vogel advised the Board to not take the course of unnecessary caution.

Jeff Wright thought Lorraine and Raoul were doing a great job in station operations during a time of major change. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the decision to delay action on returning Safe Harbor to the membership, many of whom he felt had donated to the station on the assumption of having uncensored late night programming . He asked how much had been raised through the major donor, exclusive house parties. He stated that KMUD wants to collaborate with KZYX and favored new ideas for networking with other stations.

I commented that the Bylaws allow members at the annual meeting to vote on any issue brought before them by the Board. I asked the Board to resolve the question of the right of members to communicate with each other by asking members to vote on communication options- phone, mail, email or a desire for privacy. I stated that the CPB regulations specify that members be informed of their right to opt out of sharing their personal data through signing a non disclosure privacy statement provided to them through the station.

I felt the station had missed an opportunity to include the newsletter in the silent drive appeal to the members. I thought a better response would be received if a schedule, bumper sticker, newsletter or survey was offered in return.

I stated that in the past six years of attending meetings, a structured written report from the GM had been the norm. I found the oral report somewhat confusing and difficult to follow.

I noted that the decision on Safe Harbor had been postponed for nearly a year and felt that the Board needed to deal with important decisions in a timely manner.

I was disappointed that the candidate campaign forum did not have much public input. I thought that had announcements been made early and often that calls from listeners would be welcomed, it would have made a more spontaneous exchange of information possible.

Anna Lucas asked for the results of fundraisers to be posted on the website. She had wondered how much  the fun but pricey event at the Little River Inn brought in. She also would appreciate updates of pledge drives to be posted at regular intervals.

Former Board member Fran Koliner thanked Board members for the energy and love they put into their work as she knew from experience, it was not an easy job. She also recognized the outstanding contributions of staff and their spouses.

Ellen Saxe  apologized for not making enough copies of her report to give to those in attendance. She would mail copies if so desired. She announced the CAB meets on alternate months of BOD meetings and would meet in April though the date had not yet been decided.

Lindy Johnson suggested that Board members have nameplates so that people could know them better.  She said it was an emotional transition for listeners to go from voice recognition of long time staff to the new voices of the current team. She cheered them on saying that when the station went off the air, it felt like a fumble.

Larry Pendleton stated that recording the meetings has been fun but now that his wife is the GM, it could appear to be a conflict of interest for him to continue to do so. Future meetings will be recorded by Raoul Van Hall.

In response to public comment,  Futcher agreed that a written GM report would be desirable to keep absent Board members informed.

She also brought attention to the fact that the ballot information included the designation of Ukiah as the location of the annual membership meeting. I had pointed out to her that not only had the last five annual meetings been in Ukiah but having it there would break the rotating meeting schedule which would place the next meeting in Anderson Valley. The reason then President, Stuart Campbell gave for returning to a six meeting per year schedule was to diversify the location of the annual meeting to make it more accessible to a broader range of the community.

A discussion of Safe Harbor ensued with Courtney stating her belief that the policy needed to be reviewed and, if warranted, rewritten by the yet unformed Bylaws and Policy Committee. Dechter stated that staff was confused since the Board had determined that prior staff did not have the authority to change the policy which would mean that current management did not have the authority to rescind the change.  She also noted that programmers have differing opinions of whether the station was in or out of Safe Harbor, citing one programmer's opinion that since the station had received its license (ostensibly the reason prior management had given for changing the policy), the change was null and void. Jeff Wright informed the Board that the station was currently not in compliance with the FCC ruling involving Pacifica which specifically allowed adult content between 10pm and 6am.

Courtney then apologized for the earlier breakdown of process. She commented that the make up of the agenda has been a fluid process determined by whomever chaired the meeting. She agreed with the point of process made in regard to the need for consistency of procedure and stated her intention to clarify and stabilize the format.

ELECTION RESULTS: The tally of votes was announced on Monday, April 4th. The new At large  Board member is John Azzaro with 387 votes. Stuart Campbell is the Programmer Representative with 37 votes. Johnathan Middlebrook, 1st District candidate who ran unopposed, received 345 votes.

The vote count for the remaining candidate slate is as follows.

At Large seat-Charlie Hochberg-177; Richard Miller-104; John Sakowicz-89; Jeff Wright-33.

Programmer Representative-Robert Vaughn-17; Johanna (Wild Oak) Cummings who had withdrawn her bid for the position-12.

The induction of incoming Board members will take place at the annual membership meeting on May 2nd. Location TBA.

The  Board announced its July meeting will be held in Point Arena.

One Response to KZYX In Transition

  1. Bob Mendosa Reply

    April 12, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    MCPB net assets in 2007 = $350,000.
    MCPB net assets in 2015 = $80,000.
    Loss of net assets over the past eight years = 77%.
    Whistling past the graveyard.

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