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Why you should vote for Save KPFA in the Local Station Board election
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.
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.
Co-Host,”The Morning Show”, KPFA 94.1 FM
Staff representative, KPFA Local Station Board