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Avoiding a Faustian Bargain at KPFA
by Akio Tanaka
Thursday Oct 1st, 2009 12:55 PM
We should remember that ENACTMENT of peaceful conflict is a founding purpose of Pacifica; we must learn to bring forth and articulate what underlies our antagonisms in order to resolve them in a way that will benefit all of us.
The KPFA board elections are in full swing and the ballots are due October 15. I was struck by couple of developments.

First, in their endorsement of the Concerned Listener slate the Alameda Labor Council endorsement states: "(the Concerned Listeners are) ...also strong supporters of KPFA's professional staff, who are members of CWA Local 9415--unfortunately, other elements of KPFA's board have attacked the station's unionized staff, and called for replacing them with volunteers." Second, an email from long time Morning Show host Philip Maldari said: “The following request from the CWA 9415 paid union staff at KPFA is to all of the board candidates. The union staffs at KPFA are facing layoffs because of growing deficits... We would like you to pledge that, if elected, you will fulfill your fundraising duties, and refrain from actions that undermine that goal.”

I am not aware of any board member who has called for replacing unionized staff with volunteers. It is of course totally understandable that the paid staff will be concerned about fundraising as it is their livelihood.

The platform/statement of the ‘Concerned Listeners’ says: “As for raising money: all of us are political organizers, many of us with 40 or more years of experience. We know how to organize and fundraise.” So one can understand why the paid staff will be supportive of the ‘Concerned Listeners’. But exactly who are the ‘Concerned Listeners’?

The first thing I noticed is that there is a heavy Wellstone Democrats Renewal Club stamp. Current member Matt Hallinan is co-founder of the WDRC, and three of their candidates hold leadership positions in the WDRC: Pamela Drake, Local Political Coordinator; Jack Kurzweil, Administrative Coordinator; and Donald Goldmacher, Voting Rights Task Force. Problem is that WDRC is a Democratic Party enterprise. I make this point since the 1999 takeover was carried out by active members of the Democratic Party. Mary Francis Berry, then Pacifica chair, was a political appointee of President Clinton; Roberta Brooks, then Pacifica secretary, became legislative aide to both Ron Dellums and Barbara Lee.

I do not mean to suggest that anyone on the Concerned Listeners are the same as those Democrats, but some of them still move in the same circles for political support and fundraising. One cannot help noting this in light of their platform claim to be able to “organize and fundraise”. Conn Hallinan, who is Matt Hallinan’s brother and current LSB chair, was part of the ‘host committee’ for a fundraiser for Congressional candidate Jerry McNerny in 2006 with aforementioned Roberta Brooks.

Many Pacifica listeners are registered Democrats, but they are aware of the venality of the Democratic Party leadership. Most know that when Tony Coelho began the practice of taking money from corporate lobbyists the Democratic Party became corporate vassals not unlike the Republicans, which is the reason many of them joined to fight their hijacking attempt of 1999.

I have been on the board for three years now and I am baffled by the secrecy and lack of transparency. Why are the management and the Concerned Listener Board members so intent on keeping the operation of the station hidden from our stake holders, the listener subscribers? Why are there no town hall meetings, why did they reduce the number of meetings by half, why do they never post the minutes of the meetings, why did the management disband the Program Council and derecognize the Unpaid Staff Organization? Most glaring of all, why did they schedule a fund raiser right in middle of the board election and preempt election coverage? Why are they marginalizing each segment of the KPFA community?

Brian Edwards–Tiekert, in support of Concerned Listen slate says: “There’s a group on KPFA’s board—they run under a different banner every year—that is hostile to the station’s professional staff, enamored of conspiracy theories, doctrinaire in their approach to public affairs, and sectarian in their approach to internal politics – they’d rather attack KPFA than improve it.”

Well, I am running against the CL majority and I am none of the things Brian says. I appreciate all the staff, both paid and unpaid and their commitment in the low paying field of community radio. And I also totally understand the paid staff concerns for their jobs; I also appreciate their understandable misgivings about the possibly intrusive/disruptive involvement of the “Listener Board” as expressed in their open letter to the LSB in 2004. No one denies that democracy is a messy endeavor and that disagreement can be tiring, but we know too well what lies at the end of the impulse to silence others.

Progressives bemoan corporate control of our two mainstream political parties for reasons that we do not need to restate here. But we cannot permit our independent, corporate free KPFA to become a puppet manipulated by a corporate party – no matter how well intentioned the individual members of the immediate group may be. We need to keep KPFA truly independent and FREE OF CORPORATE MONEY influence – no matter how remote. That is why I am running against the ‘Concerned Listeners’ and with ‘Independents for Community Radio’.

We need to bring community back into Community Radio. An inclusive open station is going to be healthier and stronger in the long run. We need to reconnect and build trust among ourselves as listeners, with the listener subscribers. We should remember that ENACTMENT of peaceful conflict is a founding purpose of Pacifica; we must learn to bring forth and articulate what underlies our antagonisms in order to resolve them in a way that will benefit all of us.

The candidates that are endorsed by the Independents for Community Radio are (in alphabetical order): Banafsheh Akhlaghi, Shara Esbenshade, Sasha Futran, Ann Hallatt, Adam Hudson, Lara Kiswani, Rahman Jamaal McCreadie, Henry Norr, Andrea Prichett, Evelyn Sanchez, and Akio Tanaka.

Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
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Knowing History Will Help Us Make The Right ChoicesRichard Phelps, former ChairKPFA LSBSaturday Oct 3rd, 2009 8:53 AM

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