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Why you should vote for Save KPFA in the Local Station Board election
by Brian Edwards-Tiekert (via list)
Saturday Aug 21st, 2010 4:38 PM
Members of Pacifica’s National Board rack up tens of thousands of dollars in meeting expenses each quarter, but can’t seem to pass a budget on time. They’ve ordered their election supervisor to spend tens of thousands of dollars printing and mailing fat ballot booklets that could just as easily be posted online—even as Pacifica falls behind its payments for “Democracy Now!”. Over the years, our boardmembers have found ways to conjure up salaries and paying contracts for some of their own, even as the radio stations they’re supposed to care for have been laying off staff members well-loved by their listeners.
Hi everyone,

If you're a KPFA member, you should be getting a ballot this week from the Pacifica Foundation that asks you to rank 27 candidates for 9 seats on KPFA's Local Station Board. Here are the people I'm endorsing (I’ll explain why below). You can read more about them at http://www.savekpfa.org. In no particular order:

§ Dave Saldana
§ Suzi Goldmacher
§ Matthew Hallinan
§ Margy Wilkinson
§ Mal Burnstein
§ Tanya Russell
§ Terry Doran
§ Donald Goldmacher
§ Mark Hernandez
§ Jack Kurzweil

Here’s the situation: KPFA, and Pacifica (the nonprofit network that owns KPFA) are on the brink. Literally. When the economy tanked, it decimated fundraising. That compounded long-term trends in Pacifica—stagnant audiences, rising costs—and has rapidly drained the network’s cash reserves. Now Pacifica’s bills are in arrears, and the wolves are at the door.

So the question is: how do we turn it around?

There are two competing visions in the world of Pacifica politics, and they represent a very stark contrast. The first is austerity and de-professionalization. The second is rejuvenating our programming to bring in more listeners.

Let’s start with the second: The team I’m endorsing thinks better programming is the key to winning more listeners over to KPFA . . . and more listeners means more money during fund drives. We already know what success looks like: KPFA’s newest program, Mitch Jeserich’s “Letters to Washington”, debuted last November. It’s already matching the audience numbers of KPFA’s most popular program, “Democracy Now!” and it’s become one of the station’s top fund-raisers during pledge drives as well.

What KPFA and Pacifica need are more innovations like “Letters”. Instead, some of our board members are trying to get rid of it.

You see, among some of KPFA’s boardmembers, there is an ideological commitment to volunteer-run radio. This comes from a few different places: some, like the Vice-Chair of the Pacifica National Board, are partial to fringe conspiracy theories – and they think paid programmers prevent some of that stuff from getting to the air. Others have concluded that because some non-commercial stations in less-populous areas operate without paid programmers, volunteer-produced radio is more authentic “community radio” than what we do at KPFA. People of both persuasions have wanted to eliminate most of KPFA’s professional staff since before the current fiscal crisis.

Their battle-cry is “democracy!” And, indeed, most of them wouldn’t have any say over what goes on the air if Pacifica hadn’t decided, eight years ago, to hand control over to whomever happens to float to the top of relatively low-turnout elections. That’s why it’s so important that you educate yourself and vote.

Unfortunately, low-turnout elections in the new, “democratic” Pacifica have given birth to something every bit as frightening as the autocratic regime that preceded it: a self-serving governance bureaucracy that places its own needs above those of the radio stations it controls.

Members of Pacifica’s National Board rack up tens of thousands of dollars in meeting expenses each quarter, but can’t seem to pass a budget on time. They’ve ordered their election supervisor to spend tens of thousands of dollars printing and mailing fat ballot booklets that could just as easily be posted online—even as Pacifica falls behind its payments for “Democracy Now!”. Over the years, our boardmembers have found ways to conjure up salaries and paying contracts for some of their own, even as the radio stations they’re supposed to care for have been laying off staff members well-loved by their listeners. Since Pacifica democratized in 2002, it’s spent more than $2.4 million on its boards. So of course they support replacing paid programmers with volunteers—that frees up more resources for what they see as the real purpose of Pacifica: playing mock congress.

The SaveKPFA slate understands that the role of a nonprofit board is to support its organization, not suck it dry; to guide its direction, but not micromanage its operations. And that’s why I’m supporting them.

Now for the usual caveat: there are probably other worthy candidates in the mix--I don't know everyone who's running, and I won't endorse someone I don't know. I can tell you *not* to vote for anyone on the "Voices for Justice" slate. Their incumbent board member, Sureya Sayadi, has brought several board meetings grinding to a halt by screaming epithets at the top of her lungs. Her running-mate, Steve Zeltzer, did the same to meetings inside the station during his brief stint as a KPFA programmer.

Meanwhile, the “Independents for Community Radio” slate recruits more reputable candidates, but they seem to follow the marching orders of the board insider who recruit them to run. The “independents” have a terrible track-record: their worst actions, unfortunately, I’m required to keep confidential. I can tell you that in the year that they’ve controlled KPFA’s board, the “independents” have doubled the number of meetings—and halved the amount of work done. We’re barely a month from the beginning of the next fiscal year, and they haven’t even produced a rough draft of a budget.

In particular, I strongly recommend *against* voting for Tracy Rosenberg. I had high hopes for her when she first ran, but she’s proven herself a no-holds-barred ideologue. She has 1) misrepresented herself as election staff--asking people to send her their supposedly-confidential ballots—when she was in fact a candidate herself, 2) ghost-managed a divisive recall campaign among the station’s staff targeting myself and Bonnie Simmons, 3) tried to have a KPFA newscaster disciplined for reporting a 60-second story on the departure of KPFA’s last general manager, and 4) registered the web address savekpfa.net and re-directed it to her own slate in an apparent attempt to confuse voters about which candidates are running on which slate. I can’t imagine how a self-proclaimed champion of democracy justifies that last trick -- when SaveKPFA candidates raised this with her, she asked them to make her an “offer” to get it back.

It is vitally important that you educate yourself about the election and vote. Your ballot is due September 30--turn it in now so you don't forget. Finally, forward this email to all the friends you have who care about KPFA, and ask them to pass it on as well.

Best,

Brian Edwards-Tiekert
Co-Host,”The Morning Show”, KPFA 94.1 FM
Staff representative, KPFA Local Station Board

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Whose name?
Saturday Aug 21st, 2010 9:18 PM
The CL'ers usurped the name "Save KPFA" and are now claiming an exclusive right to it.


by No SaveKPFA slate
Sunday Aug 22nd, 2010 10:41 AM
they seem to follow the marching orders of the board insider who recruit them to run.
have a terrible track-record: their worst actions, unfortunately, I’m required to keep confidential. have doubled the number of meetings—and halved the amount of work done. misrepresented staff- and registered the web address savekpfa.net in an apparent attempt to confuse voters about which candidates are running on which slate. Their incumbent board member have brought several board meetings grinding to a halt by screaming epithets at the top of her lungs. If other folks at kpfa got paid like Brian edward tikerd they would spend more time on indybay as well, and get more involved. However, since he is entrenched in these politics it has become a way to save his job to have this ability to comment on indybay.org to try to save his job, and keep a hold on his nice income to criticize eve the real progressives out in the community while he sits in a box looking at the news from the internet.
by Virginia Browning
Sunday Aug 22nd, 2010 1:05 PM
I'm sure someone has the tape from the meeting about a year ago where Mr. edwards-Tiekert himself finally said publicly what he and other board members knew for years: that some paid staff would have to be laid off or at least some new not hired in order for the station to become sustainable. I don't have time to dig out the tape, but it's there.

Others had said for several years that the LEVEL of paid staff at the station (42 Full-Time Equivalents recently, now down finally into the high 30s) had to change unfortunately. NO one (ok, maybe one person I don't know about) is calling for an all-volunteer staff. Tiekert also fails to acknowledge what he as treasurer knew: that much of the Pacifica National Board CURRENT expense is the cost for HIS and his colleagues' health and vacation benefit pay.

Under Edwards-Tiekert's allies voting on the Pacifica National board, it is true that some of what he alleges happened. He forgot to tell you he voted with the ones that racked up many of the costs.

As for some current board delaying a budget, I guess that's in contrast to the budget that was forced through the local board by Brian and his allies in 2009 that wasn't even yet allowed to be seen by some of the board members expected that day to vote on it. Edwards-Tiekert is a masteful presenter. And though I always had my criticisms of him, I didn't learn until after he was finally replaced as treasurer that his effective-sounding reporting was in fact hiding many important facts. The current treasurer's report is clear and transparent, but unfortunately he is not able to get cooperation for some of the facts either from the management at the station. Or he hadn't at the last meeting.

As to sounding more "professional" everyone EVERYONE I know wants KPFA's sound to improve and draw more listeners. Is the KPFA website a professional website for these days and times? Even CLOSE? Brian fails to tell you that volunteers have offered to HELP WITH (not take over) that site, but there is no mechanism for them to do it.

Brian is a master B.S. artist. He used is capable of being a top investigative reporter. I would like to see listeners vote in an ICR-rich board that assists Edwards-Tiekert in using that enormous skill that benefits more of the world which desperately needs good investigative reporting -- not only the intrigue-creating skill which benefits a few of his less-skilled friends who want to secure their positions of power. And it's another myth that we have called to fire them. We are workers too. Let's just "kick them upstairs" as one listener recently recommended so they can mentor some fresh creative story-presenters.
by repost
Sunday Aug 22nd, 2010 2:38 PM
Hello Brian,

One of the recipients of your somewhat impassioned endorsement email in the upcoming KPFA listener election took the liberty of forwarding it to me. While I would not normally go out of my way to respond, the personal nature of your very specific non-endorsement of *me* does seem to justify a reply.

I don't question your right to express your opinion. I do question anyones right to disseminate lies, exaggeration and misinformation. Doesn't help KPFA much. And more to the point, since my work largely concerns accuracy in media and a healthy progressive communications system, I really hate seeing garbage disseminated in the hopes of winning elections, here at Pacifica or anywhere else. And we all know a lot of garbage gets disseminated by people in the hopes of winning elections. A plague on our system in every way.

I'll mention here that you are a staff member and therefore are represented within Pacifica's system by the 25% of the delegates who are elected by the staff. Your role as an advocate for the interests of the staff is best served by your participation in the staff process. I will also note you are in the process of being subjected to a recall election by your constituency, the staff, some of whom do not feel their interests have been well-served by you. The charge is one of disseminating false information to the media - namely that Pacifica was raiding KPFA's bank accounts when no such thing occurred.

I agree with you that KPFA and Pacifica's audience is "stagnant". That is a very disturbing fact and one that has been true for many years. What do you propose to do about it? Is there a single unique program that has been generated at KPFA through any source but the 2002-2006 program council? Is there anything that did not merely rearrange the same voices on the somewhat stagnant air? No.

I do not bear any ill will towards yourself, Mitch Jeserich, or Phillip Maldari, but I don't see how moving yourself from the News to the Morning Show, Phillip from the Morning Show to the Sunday Morning program, Mitch from producing the Morning Show to producing Letters from Washington and importing programs from BAI in New York and KPFK in Los Angeles serves to invigorate and re-imagine Pacifica's programming. It's a bit like reshuffling the desk chairs on the Titanic.

Given that, why the fear of the program council? Why act to decimate it and work so hard to avoid reinstating it? New ideas and an open door is what is needed. All I have seen in over a decade of involvement with KPFA is an intense desire to slam the door shut on new people and new ideas. It is simply not working.

Pacifica is community radio. Its your mission. You made up the term and defined it. All community radio and much of community media walks in the footsteps of KPFA and Pacifica. Its a bit of a sad testament that nowadays a lot of it is more effective, more exciting and more radical than Pacifica itself.

The nightmare of the Healthy Station Project cost Pacifica the ownership of its flagship program Democracy Now, which after being assaulted by the professionalizers of the 1990's, ran away to save itself. The mantra of professionalization has only served to hurt community media. Its sad to see you upholding what has so clearly failed both radical media voices and radical media audiences.

KPFA's financial problems aren't rocket science. Listener donations are declining, largely because of a disastrous economic collapse, but also due to the stagnation you correctly identify. When you have less revenue, you have to cut your expenses. Or you do not survive.

As the board treasurer, you presented budgets calling for $300,000 in staff reductions in 2008 and $425,000 in staff reductions in 2009. But then you and the rest of the Concerned Listeners- Save KPFA board majority sat on your hands like a bunch of mindless sheep and allowed the management to fail to make those expense reductions during the 14 month period from October 1, 2008 to December 5, 2009. Until Concerned Listeners - Save KPFA lost the board majority to Independents for Community Radio.

Between 10/08 and 3/10, one million dollars of listener funds left the building. One million dollars. KPFA's entire cash in the bank. Paying salaries that KPFA could not afford in this recession and would have to eliminate sooner or later. It broke my heart to watch.

To this day, I hear only three things from you and the Concerned Listeners - Save KPFA crowd. Three things so essentially stupid that if anyone really believes them, they need a brain transplant.

1) The whole reason for any funds shortfall is the election and the cost of the boards. Namely that a $1,000,000 deficit was caused by a $40,000 election. That a foundation with 200 million dollars in revenues since 1999 has been destroyed by spending 1% of that on democratic governance. The other 99% of expenses have nothing to do with it.

2) Nonprofit boards play no role whatsoever in holding management staff accountable for carrying out budget plans and implementing them, nor in taking action when there are large operational deficits. Any board that insists budgets be followed or expenses be reduced in the face of a large deficit is out of control and a threat to the professional staff.

3) When large sums of money are not in the bank accounts they are reported to be in, and donor checks sit in desks for more than a year until they have expired, there is no problem and no action should be taken.

Well yes, I do not buy this garbage.

Finally with regards to your somewhat lengthy non-endorsement of my candidacy in particular; I recognize your former high hopes for me.They are, of course, based in my long-term previous service to the station, as an employee, program council facilitator and election supervisor. You are correct that I have tried for a long time to build consensus and avoid unnecessary turmoil that damages KPFA. You are wrong that my work with KPFA was uninformed by a deep commitment and set of principles that serious changes were necessary and long over due.

I see no point in going through a line-by-line refutation of specious accusations. We all make choices. KPFA management could have made the choice to work collaboratively with their large unpaid workforce: instead they derecognized the bargaining unit, interfered with unpaid staff voting rights, and called the police on Nadra Foster for trespassing where she had worked for over a decade. Save KPFA-affiliated board members could have chosen to honor basic confidentiality provisions regarding personnel matters : instead they encouraged news staffers who disagreed with the board to broadcast them. Finally you, yourself could have chosen to raise your uninformed concerns about KPFA bank accounts at a finance committee meeting : instead you chose to raise them in the Berkeley Daily Planet newspaper.

Choices always have consequences.

Even things as petty as changing the name of a group of candidates from Concerned Listeners to Save KPFA and forgetting to buy the domain name savekpfa.net.

Vote Independents for Community Radio. http://www.voteindyradio.org

Less garbage. More change.

Best,

Tracy Rosenberg
Executive Director, *Media Alliance
Member - KPFA Local Station Board
Member - Pacifica Foundation Board of Directors
Member - *Media and Democracy Coalition Board of Directors
Member - *Alliance for Community Media, Western Regional Board of Directors
by Repost II
Monday Aug 23rd, 2010 2:25 PM
by LSB Member
Sunday Aug 22nd, 2010 11:04 PM
First kudos to Tracy for this excellent posting. You know the only reason Brian Edwards-Tiekert goes after you is that you are one of our most effective board members, a hard worker on behalf of both KPFA and Pacifica.

I understand what you are saying, Peter, but it is really hard to resist responding with the facts when hit with such an onslaught of lies and half-truths by Edwards-Tiekert. Let me take a stab at making this easier for the average person who isn't all engrossed with the many lies to straighten out as well as skull-drudgery that Edwards-Tiekert offers up.

Concerned Listeners, now using the name Save KPFA is a con group. It's playing a shell game. Let's start with its name which belongs to another group that stood for the exact opposite of what the present ensemble believes in.

These folks had control of both the Pacifica National Board and Executive Director position as well as the Local Station Board and KPFA General Manager until recently.

While the con-cerned Listeners had control, through actions on the part of both boards and management positions, they hired a General Manager who ran through a million dollar cash reserve, hired an office temp bookkeeper as Business Manager, did not deposit a $375,000 donation allowing the check to expire instead but reported it as deposited in a specific bank account to the board. They both approved of and liked these actions as they frequently stated during board meetings when those of us from ICR raised questions and issues. When presented with budgets that had built-in $300-400,000 deficits, as the majority of the board, Con-cerned Listeners passed those budgets without qualm. Now we live from on air fund drive to on air fund drive with no cash reserve.

ICR has had a one vote majority on the board for eight months. We managed to get rid of that General Manager, reinstate the Program Council that had been functioning well for years and was disposed of two years ago by Concerned Listeners and their staff, reinstated a working Community Advisory Board, got honest budget reports to the board . . . all in that short time.

We are currently waiting for the staff to produce the next fiscal year's budget and it is quite late. The budget will still need to have cuts similar to what should have been in place in prior years, in other words, in that same $300 - 400,000 range. It is quite possible that the staff at KPFA does not have the expertise to produce the budget and that is why it is so late. The board does not create the budget. The board reviews, makes suggestions for changes, and approves it or not.

So we are in a fiscal crisis not because of ICR (Independents for Community Radio) of which I am a part, but because of Concerned Listeners now running a slate of candidates under the name of Save KPFA. We don't have a budget in hand not because of ICR but because of the staff Concerned Listeners hired.

ICR board members are searching for ways to cut costs that will effect the paid staff as little as possible. That said, payroll is a large part of the budget and one place that will certainly need to be cut.

"Professional" sounding radio is something that ICR is in favor of and we have never called for an "unprofessional" sound. That does not mean that only people collecting a pay check can provide a "professional" sound. Frankly we do not pay anything remotely close to what others working for NPR stations, let alone commercial radio, get paid for hosting and producing programs. The difference between what the paid and unpaid staff make is not that great. So if one were using dollars, as Edwards-Tiekert does, as a method of determining how "professional" the sound is, KPFA's paid staff is darned "unprofessional."

ICR believes that better programming is the key to having more listeners and bringing in more paying members and dollars as well. Unlike the other faction, however, we do not believe that sounding like an NPR station is better programming. There's an awful lot of fluff on KPFA these days and, frankly, they have some of the same guests as our local NPR stations, people who are currently making Bay Area media rounds. Nothing creative, investigative or bringing alternative news to our audience there.

ICR believes in KPFA's mission which is to bring news, information and perspectives not available elsewhere; the real story behind the headlines heard and read elsewhere that never gets told.This certainly does include communities who are acted upon by those in power and reported on by those in power in a very superficial and self-serving manner. Mock that if you would like, Edwards-Tiekert, but just because members of those communities are not white males does not mean that they are not intelligent, creative, and able to be excellent hosts and producers of radio programming. Just because they have been excluded does not mean they are incompetent. Their exclusion is a result of this country's economic power structure.

We don't think that those making decisions need to be white, male and over 70 either. Look at the difference in the slates! ICR has people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s. We have seven women and three men running. We have the gamut of nationalities. They are scholars, journalists, heads of non-profits, lawyers. Competent and smart and from communities underserved by mass media, they are willing to give the enormous amount of time needed to help KPFA's board make better decisions, create meaningful programs, and remain solvent.

Having elections costs more money than not having elections. On the surface it would appear that dictatorships are cheaper than democracies, however I would argue, not in the long run. It is not what we are about either. We stand for working democratically. As such, great efforts are being made to keep down the costs and 1 - 2 percent of our budget is not too high a price to pay for holding elections and running board meetings.

For the last decade, a small number of people have been running things at KPFA. They are not necessarily managers. Some are radio hosts. They pass on jobs to their friends. Some have been on the air for decades. They protect their turf and don't allow much needed change. The staff keeps out anyone who won't go along with them.

The board under Concerned Listeners was run much the same way. CL brought to the board two brothers, a husband and wife and one of their employees. Currently they have a brother and sister running for the board and the employee of yet another of their board members. It's a tight little clan just like your typical corporation or country run by dictatorship. Of course, they want to do away with elections and complain about the cost of democracy as an alleged sensible reason.

KPFA needs something very different. It needs Independents for Community Radio, a group of people who have come from different backgrou