2019 State of the Station: Ruban Lawrence, President of the Board

Published date: 
Wednesday, August 7, 2019 - 10:33am

 

Annual Meeting Election Results and Candidate Statements

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STATE OF THE STATION

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Board President Ruban Lawrence 9/14/19

 

Hello everyone,

I am sorry I am unfortunately not attending the Annual General Meeting

today.  I am concerned about my personal safety, based on what has

been happening at board meetings recently, and what I've been hearing

on social media and through community members. I'm not sure what is

actually going to transpire at the AGM today. Maybe my fears are

unwarranted - I certainly hope so. I hope the AGM goes well and that

the KBOO community can decide what it wants, and how it wants to move

forward.

 

Let's first go through the financial and membership picture of the

station.

 

Expenses for last fiscal year (2018) were just under 1.2 million. They

have been moving upwards at a rate of about $100,000 a year for the

past 5 years.

 

Revenue fluctuated up and down slightly over the past 5 years. We

ended last fiscal year at just over 1.2 million in revenue.

Our current account balances are:

About $180,000 in our Reserve fund.

About $230,000 in our Endowment fund.

About $147,000 in our Restricted account.

Our total staff salaries are about $380,000 in 2019. We had salary

savings of about $26,000 due to not having to pay a Station manager

salary for about 5 months.

 

Legal expenses were $45,000 in 2018, and we are going to finish 2019

at about $33,000. HR expenses were about $20,000.

Membership numbers:

 

We are still gaining new members, however the rate at which we are

getting new members is in decline and trending downwards. We gained

550 members in 2018, and we are set to gain about 450 members in 2019.

Our overall membership is also trending downwards, over the past 2 to

3 years. We are projecting to end this year with about 5600 members.

Listenership is also in decline, and has been for a few years. Weekly

Cume was at about 45,000 in 2017, at about 40,000 in 2018, and is at

about 25,000 now in 2019.

 

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WHO DO WE WANT TO BE?

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The past year at KBOO has been a challenging one. Being a board member

requires you to follow the three core duties of being a board member:

- Duty of Care

- Duty of Loyalty

- Duty of Obedience (to KBOO)

I have done the best I could in the difficult circumstances we have

faced this year. In January of this year, the  board accepted the

Station Manager’s  resignation immediately. There have also been other

personnel issues we have had to navigate as well. While I would like

to tell you more here, I cannot reveal confidential personnel

information. You may not like this; but as a board member, I am bound

to confidentiality as part of my duty of care. For about 5 months, the

Vice President, Danielle Parks, and I took on the work of the Station

Manager temporarily without any compensation. We only intended to be

in this position for 1-2 months. The reason we did this was to

understand why the Station Manager role is so challenging, and what we

could to as a board and organization to make the Station Manager role

more sustainable, to stem the relentless turnover we've been having in

the SM position for many years.

 

There are certainly things I wish I could have done differently or

done better, but I did the best I could. Everything I did came from a

place of trying to do right for KBOO.

 

I would like to have more conversations with the community about what

has happened over the past year, so that we can move forward and begin

working together in a constructive, positive way. And this brings me

to what I want to talk about next.

 

Who do we want to be as a community? Do we want to fight with each

other and shout over one another so that the loudest group dominates?

This has been what has been happening over the past few months,

starting with a petition in June to remove Danielle and I as board

members. And then our board meetings got overwhelmed with loud and

angry public comment to the point where we could not get any KBOO

board business done at all. We've had 4 of these board meetings so

far. It has been stressful, and hurtful, and unproductive. After about

2 of them, I couldn't speak anymore. It was only this past Sunday that

I began to understand why, when I drafted the statement below to read

at an additional board meeting we'd scheduled this past Monday the

9th; this board meeting was cancelled due to no quorum:

 

September 9, 2019

Thank you for giving me the time and space to speak here today.

We have now had 4 board meetings that have each been about 2 to 4

hours long each, which have all ended up being extensive public

comment. At first, it seemed like community members were concerned and

upset with things that were happening at the station.

 

The angry board meetings continued, and I continued to find myself

paralyzed and unable to speak, because within 5 minutes of the

meeting’s start, I would be interrupted, or booed, or yelled at. So I

would just sit there and not say anything anymore. At the last meeting

in late August, I honestly left my body and dissociated until I

physically left early after an hour, because I couldn’t take this

hostility anymore.

 

The angry board meetings that began in June have been affecting me

significantly. I have felt completely silenced, bullied, and felt

paralyzed and unable to speak. The morning after the second angry

meeting in June, I went on a hike to recover. I went up to one of my

favourite trees and I sat for a while. I closed my eyes, and I kept

seeing the repeated mental image of me, laying on an altar,

surrounding by people with knives, each taking their pound of flesh

from me. It was a horrible mental image, but it accurately described

how I was feeling. It took me a few days to recover from that.

And as I stand here today, I see many people present, and I am filled

with fear and anxiety, because I wonder, “Is this going to happen

again?”

 

It was only last night that it finally all came together and I began

to understand why in the meetings, I would feel panicked and

paralyzed. I didn’t realize that I was experiencing trauma all over

again, as an adult, and completely shutting down as a result.

I am Canadian-Sri lankan, and my parents are immigrants who settled in

rural Alberta (the Texas of Canada) in the late 70s. It was a

conservative place where we lived among white farmers and First

Nations people. The closest school to us was on the nearby Cree First

Nations reservation, and so that was where I went to school. That was

where I first began to experience relentless racism, every day. A

variety of slurs were used against me – slurs for African Americans,

South Asians, gay men, and so on. One that still stands out in my

memory was when I was called an “ugly buck-toothed n-word with gums

like a dog”. I remember being on the cusp of killing myself when I was

10, because I couldn’t take it anymore.

 

I couldn’t escape it. I tried to be nice to them, to be friends with

them, to avoid them, to get help from the school administration –

everything I could think of. Nothing worked. I even thought about

yelling back at them, or even getting violent with them. But if I did

that, the possibility of retaliation was quite real. There were 10 or

more of them, and only one of me.

 

So I just shut up and took it for years. For a long time, I actually

internalized the idea that in life, my purpose was to be other

people’s punching bag – that people could be as vicious and awful to

me as they would like, and it was my duty to just take it. I thought

all of that was behind me. But trauma has a way of resurfacing, even

after many years.

 

I’ve only realized over the past few days, that these board meetings

have been retraumatizing me all over again, and are why I find myself

paralyzed and unable to speak. It feels to me like I am re-living what

I experienced all those years ago. In these meetings, I feel like I’m

being attacked and bullied all over again by a mob. I can’t speak, I

can’t think clearly, and I freeze.

 

I left August’s meeting after an hour because I was in fight-or-flight

mode. I needed to get away and go someplace where I felt safe, and so

I did. I wasn’t present for the budget presentation, but I felt OK

about that because I had already thoroughly reviewed it prior to the

meeting and have been kept in the loop on it throughout its

development.

 

What I learned later on was that a good majority of people who were

present in August’s meeting – many of whom had been the loudest and

most vocal, left before they could hear the budget presentation. Some

of those who left were even people who had applied to be board

members. How is it that people who care about KBOO – community members

and board member candidates - would leave before hearing a

presentation of the budget? The budget is one of the most critical

things the KBOO board does every year.

 

Learning that this happened made me wonder if the goal of all the

attendance and yelling at our board meetings is intended not to have

honest and open discussions about what’s going on at KBOO – but rather

to bully and attack me until I’m whipped enough and bleeding enough

that I leave.

 

I hope that this is not the case.

 

So I ask that all of us in this room today – board members and

community members – work together in treating one another with respect

and dignity. I ask that the board be allowed to go through its agenda,

as doing so is necessary for KBOO to continue functioning.

Can we agree to do this?"

 

I hope as a community we can move beyond fighting, disrespecting, and

dehumanizing one another. I hope we can work together, and support

each other, even though we all have such diverse perspectives.

This year has been difficult, for sure. There is hope, though. We have

an experienced non-profit Interim Executive Director, Rachel Pfeffer

as our Interim Station Manager. She is working to bring stability to

KBOO, and to also help us find a permanent Station Manager. Running

and stewarding KBOO is not her job alone, though - we as board,

volunteers, and community members need to share this work. None of us

can do it alone. We need each other.

 

Rachel and community member Celeste Carey have organized the first of

a series of Resolution Circles for the community to facilitate healing

and rebuilding. It will be held on Sunday, October 6th at Uplift SE at

3534 SE Main Street. Some of the main priorities at KBOO right now

are:

- addressing the decline in listenership

- building stronger connections within the larger Portland community

- updating equipment

- attaining equitable and inclusive staff salaries

- mitigating communication issues in our community, and

- creating the conditions for diverse communities to thrive at KBOO

 

Thank you for listening and being part of the KBOO community. I hope

we can take the first steps in moving to a brighter future together.

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Comments

I would like to ask the candidates how they will support the continued strength of the station as local terrestrial radio - that is, simply being able to play the station switching on the radio, while driving, no need to navigate digital technology.

I am in favor of podcasts and having KBOO have the ability to expand its listener audience. However, I am concerned that it continue to be the local go-to, walk in source for local reporting and activism. A community resource! I get concerned that with over-concern about expanding the listener audience, the mission will widen too much in scope, getting beyond us with all the technology available. I want to continue to hear local voices and call-ins!

Who of the candidates defends the survival of pure simple terrestrial radio, free of tracking, predatory advertising and all the rest? Even now the website is less accessible as far as being able to see the daily broadcasting schedule for radio, with descriptions of who is on the program. I have to call sometimes to find out who I was listening to, what author, etc. harder now to ID. Thank you, Roberta

theresa58x's picture

Dear Ruban,

Can we at least be honest? Are we to believe that you actually fear bloodshed by KBOO's members? If not, what do you mean, and what is the source of your fear? Isn't it true that no one has threatened you at all? Is it violent to object to your evasion of process and democracy?

I am growing tired of such claims.

At the broadcast KBOO Board candidate forum, I spoke of my regret, about not having spent enough time, back in 1997, checking on the background and proclivities of the Station Manager hire. As I explained, I had been on the hiring committee and had restricted my investigation of the new hire to her professional credentials and hiring history. As a result (I explained), we were stuck with a person that was in fact hostile to our participatory culture and structure. I ended the discussion with "The next Station Manager will be doxxed!"

Of course, I meant that I will check very carefully to see that the new hire is actually friendly to community organizations. I don't think that anyone who actually listened to the broadcast thinks that I meant to expose the credit card numbers and address of the new hire in order to harass them; that would be rather counterproductive, to say the least, to the whole effort to hire a good employee.

But I have been told that just such an idea is circulating.

The viability of that bizarre concept--that I would encourage violence against someone I was in the process of hiring--is contingent on the still-widespread and bigoted idea that transgender women are deranged, even to the point of acting against their own interests. It's based on a patriarchalist misconception, i.e. that it is better to be male, because males are superior; therefore, anyone who would "step down" from maleness is as mad as a hatter.

Unfortunately, the rhetoric in a small faction at KBOO doesn't stop there. Despite never threatening or implying violence to anyone at KBOO, I am being told that people are actually physically afraid of me and fear some injury at my hands. This, despite the fact that I am sixty-one years old and disabled, with an injured and diseased spine. I am told that Black men suffer the same variety of prejudice, so that they can make no complaint or loud utterance, without being labeled as violent. And it is for the same reason--that bigotry makes them monsters, in the minds of weak Whites.

After Heather's experience of being dismissed out of hand in the Station Manager hiring process, I have begun to suspect that there is some entrenched bigotry at foot. No one need fear me, and I shouldn't have to say that.

I will not say that I do not burn with the injustice, the irony, of the pretense of violence. I have spent months trying to assuage, calm, and comfort my spouse, after she suffered the defamation and injury of being removed from her beloved community, on false and manufactured premises. The "investigation," really a fishing-expedition that sought any weaponizable facts over the entire eighteen years of Ani's employment history, loudly revealed intimate details of my own sexual history.

Even now a new member, who never volunteered for one minute at KBOO, and only joined now in order to make contention, is emailing people by the dozen, implying that Ani was justly charged with a sex offense! And of course he also defames me, trying to twist my words into his assertion that I am violent or dangerous.

None of this is to say that I have not been contentious and strident--but I did not take an attitude of protest, until it was clear that no democratic process nor legal structure within KBOO and its bylaws would be respected. But a protest, however tedious, is still an effort within our community. If neither democratic process nor law is to be respected, only the Court is left as a recourse. In respect for all who contribute to KBOO in labor, volunteerism, and cash over the years, I have reserved that for the very last.

In all of this I have been the opposite of a violent person, seeking instead to apply facts, logic, and arguments, to convince people to do the right thing, to respect the will of the majority, and the rights of the worker.

But there is one other faction to address, namely, those who would label any direct contention or argument as violent. After hearing your address to the General Meeting, I felt compassion for your injuries, and anger at your long-ago attackers--but it was also clear to me that you were implying that protest and contention against your actions is tantamount to racism and homophobia. That is an ugly and unjust charge, and if it was uttered due to post-traumatic stress, you should immediately seek treatment
.
It is the more insidious for being implied, rather than spoken directly and honestly.

Adding to that we have the Manager's claim, that I have bullied her (by speaking briefly and calmly with her at a programmer's meeting), and that she too fears "violence." Oh, the terror of having to speak to a transgender woman!

Taken together, the claims represent an attempt to seize by defamation what cannot be gained by factual claims. And it is in the first page of the rulebook of an actual bully, to claim that any defense is instead an aggression.