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

Published date: 
Wednesday, August 7, 2019 - 10:33am
STATE OF THE STATION
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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.

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