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Democracy: Product or Process?

Bruce Anderson made a rare understatement when he characterized KMUD as a “weak democracy.” My experience over three years on the KMUD board, and as Board Secretary, was that there are many people here (on the board, programmers, members…) who are both ignorant about and deeply afraid of democracy.

Democracy is nothing more or less than process – a certain process – by which groups of people communicate and make mutual decisions. “Most people” (around the world) now think that Democracy is the most fair process for the most people.

Within the “Redwood Community” Anarchy seems to be the preferred mode of operation for many, never mind that idea pretty much went out of fashion a hundred years ago. Not that a great show of process isn’t made; anarchists will go on endlessly over process minutiae.

But the democratic process is not a new wheel in need of invention. It’s been figured out for a long time, and it mostly works. It is not intended to be the most efficient, profitable, or most convenient system. It is supposed to be the most fair.

The democratic process as we know it evolved over millennia; it is rooted in ancient common law, founded on the Magna Carta, refined over 500 years of Parliamentary Procedure, and summarized in Robert’s Rules of Order: an elegant, if dry, document that is logical, rational and practical. There are abridged versions written on what used to be a sixth-grade level, but even these proved too formidable for most of my fellow board members to read, and so most remained deeply suspicious of the unread contents.

One board member actually said, in a board meeting, “But if we have rules [of order], then somebody could study them and figure out how to get an advantage over someone who hadn’t read them.”

Ultimately, the board decided to revoke Robert’s Rules, which meetings had previously run by, and replace them with… nothing. No rules, or at least, unwritten rules. You know (nudge, wink), those rules. The rules that allow a minority to overrule or out-vote a majority. (Yes, I saw that happen repeatedly on key issues.) Rules that allowed whoever had the loudest voice to dominate the discussion. Crucial votes by, for instance, all the programmers, were blocked by an angry mob, and then results were simply… announced.

Most of the time I was on the board we argued endlessly about process and operations details, and almost never actually did anything. Most decisions were to table any issue. When, finally, a difficult decision had to be made, whoever didn’t like the result would throw a tantrum and the board would reverse itself at the next meeting.

The most recent, and disastrous, flip-flopping by the KMUD board was over the Reggae wars. I was not, thank Jah, involved in that fiasco, having long since done my time and fled. But I did, privately, urge some board members that KMUD must remain neutral, and had to maintain the appearance of neutrality. My position was that as long as the event was in dispute and under litigation, KMUD could not support or work with either side against the other. I urged board members to make this publicly clear immediately, with a statement that we looked forward to returning to the festival as soon as the disputes were settled.

Instead, the board first avoided the issue for months, hoping, I suppose, that it would resolve itself. When they finally had to deal with it, they instead made a decision that was perceived by one side to favor the other, and as soon as the predictable shit hit their fan, they immediately reversed their decision, thereby enraging and alienating both sides.

As if shooting itself in both feet wasn’t bad enough, then the station couldn’t help falling on its sword, so to speak, by way of the astonishingly unprofessional handling of Estelle’s departure. This was a personnel issue that was handled like a street brawl. Estelle was probably the most popular and widely respected programmer at the station. She had done an incredible job for a very long time. Anyone that bright and ambitious would be expected to eventually think about moving on to something new and different, or bigger and better.

Estelle could have taken the high road and walked out a winner, using any of the clichés which are customary in these situations. Instead, she went negative, attacking the station publicly. Whatever frictions there may have been between her and management or some board members, there are (or were) well-established grievance procedures, and there should have been – but apparently wasn’t – a constructive review process.

By attacking the station, and framing the issue in terms of Reggae partisanship, Estelle discredited herself and, I would think, alienated a significant part of the very base from which she is running for office. This was, I thought, an astonishing way to begin a campaign.

Ultimately, I think the increasingly obvious problems at KMUD go way beyond personality disputes or process issues. KMUD’s problems merely reflect the “community” it serves, and I think we, as a community, may have outlived our purpose; we may have forgotten our raison d’être. Or we are simply stuck in an imaginary past, in a Camelot for radicals that never was.

Personally, I feel like I’ve outgrown KMUD over the last few years, while the organization continues to, well, spin its wheels in the same old mud. Understand that I say this as a charter member, and a longtime volunteer and major donor. I used to always listen to the station. I even loved listening to the programs I didn’t really like. Now I turn it on less and less, and more and more what I hear is so often boring or even offensive that I usually just turn it off.

KMUD’s bylaws require it to serve the entire community, and KMUD thinks it is the entire community. But I remember going to the Chamber of Commerce dinner where Estelle was honored as Citizen of the Year, and how astonished I was to walk into the Mateel and see it packed with people I had never even seen before – and, except for a couple of other KMUD guys, I was the only man in the room not wearing a suit. Hello, Business Community?

How about the ever-growing Hispanic community increasingly working in those businesses?

Most important to me is the YOUTH community – our kids and presumed heirs. Will they have to pry our cold dead fingers off the control board to get their turn on the air? Actually, I think recently there have been some token efforts to include more youth, especially in the news department. This is great news to me, as I have been pleading for this for years. This effort to recruit and train students to be in and on the radio should be increased tenfold.

Know why? ‘Cause kids are hip, and we’re not. Oh – present company excepted, of course!

But seriously, I think it’s way past time to collectively grow up and move on. Quit living in the past, ‘cause we’re already here in the future. Just ask your kids. If you can get them to take their thumbs off their phones long enough to remove an earphone.

David Bergin

Addendum: Cristina already posted the piece on her blog, and it’s already drawn some comments.

They are within $5,000 of their goal as of this morning. Today is the last day. You can pledge online at the site.

You can renew your membership anytime by mailing your check or money order to KMUD, PO Box 135, Redway, CA 95560. You could make a donation online here right now, or call (707) 923-2513 or 1-800-568-3723.

Felix posted some fine photos from the pledge drive in this gallery, check ’em out.

Seems like all the candidates for political office are talking about change. Do you have some you want to get rid of? KMUD will take it!

Here’s a fun project: If you have a jar of coins, where you put the pocket change you bring home after shopping, and you’re curious how much is in there before donating the contents to KMUD, check out This free calculator will give you an estimate of the total value. Whether you figure out how much is in there or not, we’ll gladly take the change and we’ll sort it and take it to the bank.

PS: The cell phone booth is one of a number of excellent art projects by Nick Rodrigues. Take a look at his site .

The photo comes from the KMUD site. They got it from here.

Addendum: They are now less than $1500 from their goal as of about 1:00 p.m. I hope that doesn’t make the first poster in the thread even more angry than he or she was this morning!

I’m told the power is still out in Redway. The lines were down right at Blue Star Gas this morning. The PG&E folk were working on it when I drove by.

KMUD also reported problems on Pratt Mountain. I don’t know if that’s been resolved.

This one comes from Progressive Media USA.

What’s particularly ironic is that all three of these Fox News commentators are joking about how dumb this intern was for looking for a Douglass/Lincoln debate video.

My liberal cultural elitism is acting up again. Can’t…hold…out….much…longer…

Hank brings into the mix Elections Code section 8807, which basically says that Roger cannot go to the run-off election. If he comes in first or second but fails to win over 50 percent of the vote it won’t matter. The other two candidates will move on to the run-off. No appointment.

This means that Johanna really has to declare a write-in candidacy, potentially splitting the Rodoni vote.

Can we get back to the issues now?

Addendum: The New York Times says it’s time for McCain to anti up.

It is an injustice, a legacy of the racist threads of this nation’s history, but prominent African-Americans are regularly called upon to explain or repudiate what other black Americans have to say, while white public figures are rarely, if ever, handed that burden.Senator John McCain has continued to embrace a prominent white supporter, Pastor John Hagee, whose bigotry matches that of Mr. Wright. Mr. McCain has not tried hard enough to stop a race-baiting commercial — complete with video of Mr. Wright — that is being run against Mr. Obama in North Carolina.

Granted, Hagee did not marry McCain and his wife, nor did he baptize McCain’s children. So basically, unlike Obama, McCain remains “loyal” purely for politics. What a relief.

Friday, not yesterday as I erroneously reported.

The race is back on. And it looks like one side got a head start. I received the following e-mail last night.

Today has been a very active day in our small little corner of the political world.

As you probably know, Johanna Rodoni has officially requested the governor to “suspend normal protocol” and immediately appoint her has Roger’s successor for the balance of his term.

Additionally, I understand the Supervisor Jill Geist, using Chair’s discretion, has also written the Governor, supporting this request, without the action or approval of the rest of the Board of Supervisors.

I also understand that at least 3 other letters in support of Johanna’s request have been received by the Governor this day. These have been written by Joe Russ IV, Rob Arkley and Archie “Red” Emerson.

It would appear to me that there is a considerable effort being applied to make this appointment happen, and quickly.

While I really don’t have any objections to Johanna being considered to fill Roger’s vacant term, I really feel the decision should be made by the Governor using the standard protocol, which allows for a request for applicants, time for submissions of resumes or CV’s, time to research and consideration, interviews and a final decision. There doesn’t appear to be any overwhelming reason that Humboldt County Board of Supervisors can’t wait a few weeks for an appointment to this vacancy. If the appointment was to happen after the June 3rd election, the will of the people could also be considered.

I urge you to write the Governor, copied to others, asking that:

1. The process not be rushed,
2. That normal protocol be followed and
3. To hear the will of the voters on June 3rd before making a decision.

Should either Clendenen or Fennel win a 50+% margin in June, wouldn’t it make sense to appoint that person to fill the next 8 months, then taking their rightful seat in January, thereby creating continuity on the Board.

Please address your letters to:

Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of the State of California
State Capital Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-445-2841
Fax: 916-558-3160

Cc: Humboldt County Board of Supervisors
Congressman Mike Thompson
Senator Patricia Wiggins

Assemblymember Patty Berg
Loretta Nickolaus, Humboldt County Administrative Officer

BCC: Bill Thorington,

And or call me at 496-4703 if you have any thoughts.

Bill Thoringon, Manager
Clendenen for Supervisor
707-496-4703 Cell
707-725-4146 Campaign Office

Que sera sera. In the end, it’s just politics. Still, Clif’s campaign will wait until after the memorial to resume phone banking. I have no word on whether Thursday night’s debate is still on.

Here is the TS coverage.

Oddly enough, there’s no coverage from the Eureka Reporter.

Addendum: Whew! The letters attached to the TS article make this thread look like a Bible study!

I thought Reverend Wright did pretty well yesterday, but I just watched this morning’s press conference.

Obama has one chance, and one chance only. And it may be too late. He’s got to shun the man who baptized his children and married him to his wife. Obama will probably lose Indiana and he may very well lose his advantage in North Carolina.

Obama has to announce firmly that Wright is not the man he was drawn to years ago and he has to announce that he has left that church. It’s being reported on CNN that long time friends of Rev. Wright think that he’s gone wacko. That could give Obama a little wiggle room to suggest that Wright has changed, not him. But he has to do it soon, and he can’t couch it in gentle terms. He’s got to make a clean break.

If he doesn’t, he may still win the nomination, but he’ll lose to McCain.

Clinton is running for 2012. I noticed she actually attempted to defend Obama today. But he has to do it himself. He can’t just distance himself and says he disagrees. He’s got to denounce Wright for his performance this morning.

And Wright has pretty much called Obama a liar. I agree with David Gergin that he has to respond with anger. It can’t be an “he and I have intellectual disagreements.” He has to… thrown Wright under the bus.