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Carol Spooner on Pacifica Elections - KPFA, WBAI, KPFK
by repost
Wednesday Sep 9th, 2009 7:40 AM
Carol Spooner's recommendations for the Pacifica Elections at KPFA, WBAI and KPFK.
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“Who is Carol Spooner and why are her views important? Carol is the lawyer who was the lead plaintiff and circulator of the petition representing the many thousands of KPFA listeners who signed onto the law suit that successfully brought KPFA and Pacifica back under listener control when, in 1999, the Pacifica National Board under then chair Mary Francis Berry, threw the KPFA staff out on the street, locked the doors and had the intention of selling off one or more of the 5 Pacifica stations and their assets. After the success of the Listeners' Law Suit, Carol was a long time member of the KPFA station board polling first in most elections in which she competed, and was for several years a member of the National Board. A few years ago she withdrew from KPFA activism to pursue her own career.” - Marc Sapir MD, MPH
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From: Carol Spooner
To: Carol Spooner
Sent: Monday, September 7, 2009 12:48:48 PM
Subject: Pacifica Elections - KPFA, WBAI, KPFK

Hello All --

The five Pacifica radio stations' Local Station Board elections are here again. You should receive your ballot in the next couple of days if you are a member (if you gave $25 or more to one of the stations in the 12 months that ended July 15, 2009).

I have some recommendations for voters at KPFA, WBAI & KPFK, but first I'll tell you why I'm recommending them. If you're impatient, then skip down to the bottom to read my recommendations.
: >)

>From 2004-2008 Pacifica was seriously mismanaged from the top. Several Executive Directors (Dan Coughlin, Greg Guma, Nicole Sawaya and interim EDs Dan Siegel and Sherry Gendleman) and the Chief Financial Officer (CF0) -- with the support or at the behest of the Pacifica National Board (PNB) -- had brought the entire network to the brink of bankruptcy by the end of 2008. There were a number of reasons for this. But the primary two were: (1) WBAI was losing $100k/year and no corrective action was taken, (2) lawsuits at KPFA &KPFK over sexual harassment were mishandled and cost several hundred thousand dollars to defend and settle. There were other reasons, too, including falling listenership and donations at all five stations, and failure to develop new programming to keep and attract listeners.

You can see these financial trends in graphs presented to the National Board last July by the Chair of the National Board Finance Committee here: http://pacifica. org/documents/ 090723_finance. htm

You can see the falling listenership trends according to Arbitron in graphs presented to the PNB last July here: http://pacifica. org/documents/ 090724_listeners hip.ppt.htm

You may wonder why the PNB and top management allowed things to get so bad. I do, too. It's really incredible, but they did. I believe there were two primary reasons -- (1) Race politics. Whenever any attempts were made to make changes, cries of "racism" went up. Since most of Pacifica's station management and the CFO were Black or Latino, it was impossible to replace them without firing people of color. (2) Entrenched staff interests. There was fear that if the National Office took corrective action at one station, then it could take action at any station. So, although it was not in KPFA's interests to have its reserves depleted to cover the debts at other stations, three of the four PNB members from KPFA consistently voted to prevent changes in management at other stations. Their position was "local autonomy" over all other considerations. However, complete "local autonomy" isn't possible at Pacifica stations. Pacifica is legally required to pay the bills wherever they are -- and if WBAI doesn't have its rent money, then Pacifica must pay it from the reserves of some other station. And KPFA is the only station that has had significant reserves. So, KPFA has been "raided" for years. According to the last independent audit, as of 9/30/08 the National Office had accumulated $1.4 million in debt to KPFA, and WBAI had accumulated $991,706 in debt to the National Office -- money it will probably never be able to repay.

It was not until January 2009 -- on the verge of bankruptcy -- that the PNB faced these problems and began, finally, to take corrective action. While there has always been a significant minority on the PNB that wanted to take action, the balance of power did not change until a new PNB was seated in January 2009 with changes in the make-up of the KPFK and WPFW directors' contingents (although 3 of the 4 directors from KPFA remain opposed to corrective actions). In January, Grace Aaron (from KPFK) was elected Chair of the PNB (replacing Sherry Gendelman from KPFA), and she was appointed to act as interim Executive Director. (Nicole Sawaya resigned as ED last September and a new ED has not yet been found.) The CFO was fired and replaced by interim CFO LaVarn Williams. The management at WBAI and WPFW was replaced, and both of those stations have begun to turn around financially. Last spring WBAI had its first successful fund drive since 2003 and they repeated it in the summer fund drive. (Successful = made or exceeded their goal.) The corporate attorney was also replaced.

However, the road back is long and arduous. The network reserves have been depleted. A $300k line of credit (secured by KPFA's endowment fund reserves) taken out in August 2008 had to be repaid in August 2009. Over $100k in back rent for WBAI's studios and broadcast tower had to be paid (WBAI had received a 3-day notice from the landlord!), and there were many other obligations that had to be met due to postponed bills and poor budgeting from the year before.

So, there is a LOT more at stake in this election than the interminable bickering over local programming priorities. This bickering plagues just EVERY community radio station in the country. (I know because I have read the Grassroots Radio Coalition email discussion group for years). Programming issues are important and engaging but, while it is difficult, they can be addressed through local programming councils and committees. But those are small issues in importance when compared to the very survival of the Pacifica network. Bankruptcy could rapidly occur if the balance of power on the PNB shifts back to the old irresponsible crew who are clamoring for the return of the fired management. And a bankrupt Pacifica network cannot improve its programming. Instead, it's broadcast licenses could be sold to the highest bidder by the bankruptcy trustee.

Since the PNB is elected by the five Local Station Boards – each station elects 3 listener-reps and 1 staff rep to the PNB from among LSB members who have served at least 1 year on the LSB -- it is crucial that the LSB majorities be people who will elect responsible PNB members who will support the continued efforts to bring Pacifica back to financial health.

Based on their histories, the following slates have consistently elected PNB members who have opposed responsible financial management: KPFA - the "Concerned Listeners" slate; WBAI - the "Justice and Unity" coalition; KPFK - the "Take Back KPFK" coalition. These groups have consistently cried "racism" and opposed necessary management changes at the National Office, WBAI and KPFK. The cries of "racism" are false. For example, Dan Siegel -- former corporate counsel and interim Executive Director and now a KPFA listener-candidate on the "Concerned Listeners" slate -- states in his candidate statement: "in my opinion the Foundation's leadership is engaged in a campaign of eliminating African Americans from positions of leadership in the Foundation. Since January, Pacifica has fired its Chief Financial Officer, the stations managers at WBAI and WPFW, and the program director at WBAI, all black men." What he fails to state is that the CFO and station managers at WBAI and WPFW, and the program director at WBAI, have all been replaced by black men and women. This kind of inflammatory race-baiting has been a major factor in the decline of Pacifica and needs to be resoundingly rejected by the voters.

Recommendations:

This is a "single transferable vote" election -- so please rank ONLY candidates you want to see elected and do NOT rank any candidate you do not want to see elected. All or a fraction of your vote will be transferred to the next in order of ranking on your ballot if your first preference is eliminated for lack of enough votes or is elected with more than the necessary votes to win. (The necessary votes to win is the number of ballots cast divided by the number of open seats + 1, + 1 vote.)

Note also: There may be some candidates running who are known to be good progressive people, but who are running on slates that have destructive voting records. That's unfortunate. Sometimes people are recruited for slates who have little or no knowledge of Pacifica. But, since these slates historically have voted as blocks in the election of PNB members, even if a candidate is otherwise well-known to be progressive, still please do NOT vote for them.

KPFA

Recommended (in alphabetical order): Banafsheh Akhlaghi, Shara Esbenshade, Sasha Futran** (incumbent), Ann Hallatt, Adam Hudson, Laura Kiswani, Ramahn Jamaal McCreadie, Henry Norr** (incumbent), Andrea Pritchett, Evelyn Sanchez, Akio Tanaka**(incumbent) .
Please rank incumbents highest, as they are eligible for election to the PNB.

Also consider: Jim Curtis, Richard Phelps, Gerald Sanders and Stan Woods.

NOT Recommended -- The "Concerned Listeners" Slate: Pamela Drake, Donald Goldmacher, Conn Hallinan, Mark Hernandez, Jack Kurzweil, Dan Siegel, Mike Smith, Virginia Rodriguez, Andrea Turner, John VanEyck.

WBAI

Recommended (in alphabetical order): Jonathan Asculai, Elizabeth Brown, Mitchel Cohen** (incumbent), Chris Farrell, Andrea Fishman** (incumbent), Andrea Katz, Austin Kelley, Frank Lefever, Lionel Legros, Manijeh Saba, Alex Steinberg** (incumbent).
Please rank incumbents highest, as they are eligible for election to the PNB.

NOT Recommended - The "Justice & Unity" Slate: Nia Bediako, John Brinkley, Carlos Canales, Russell Dale, Miriam Decime, Betty Dopson, Wellington Echegaray, Sarah Klepner, Gil Obler, Terrence Podolsky, Sharonne Salaam, Berta Silva, Lynn Stewart, Nana Camille Yarbrough,

KPFK

Recommended (in alphabetical order): Ken Aaron, Luis Cabrales, Chris Condron** (incumbent), Kim Kaufman, Dr. Chipasha Luchembe, Ahjamu Makalani, Dutch Merrick, Margie Murray, Edgar Toledo, Richard Vega, Bree Walker, John Wenger.
Please rank incumbents highest, as they are eligible for election to the PNB.

NOT Recommended: Kahlid Al-Alim, Chuck Anderson, Refugio Caballes, Luis Garcia, Tej Grewall, Ian Johnston, Joe Lawrence Matthews, Ruby Medrano, John Parker, Rudy Perez, Lawrence Reyes, Fernando Roldan, Sandi Stiassni.

Thanks for reading, and for helping to support alternative radio all these years!

Best wishes,

Carol Spooner
Pacifica National Board Member (Jan 2002-Jan 2005)
KPFA Local Board Member (April 2000-Jan 2005)
Founder, Committee to Remove the Pacifica Board, and lead plaintiff in
the listeners' lawsuit (July 1999-Dec 2001)