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KPFA Election 2010 Will Decide Progressive Network’s Future
by Randy Shaw
Tuesday Sep 21st, 2010 3:17 AM
The future of KPFA radio is now in the hands of its members, who have until September 30 to cast ballots in Local Station Board elections. KPFA and Pacifica Radio have faced many “moments of truth” since progressives defeated a corporate takeover of the network in 1999, but the financial challenges and internal infighting have never been worse.
KPFA Election Will Decide Progressive Network’s Future

by Randy Shaw,

The future of KPFA radio is now in the hands of its members, who have until September 30 to cast ballots in Local Station Board elections. KPFA and Pacifica Radio have faced many “moments of truth” since progressives defeated a corporate takeover of the network in 1999, but the financial challenges and internal infighting have never been worse. On one side is the Save KPFA slate of candidates, who believe the station should be the voice of the entire progressive community, and must expand listenership to help broaden the progressive base. This slate is opposed by the Independents for Community Radio (the “Independents”), who believe the station should primarily speak to its core base – prioritizing “wildly unpopular perspectives that could never get on the air anywhere else.” A victory by the Independents will likely usher in massive downsizing at KPFA, eliminating popular programming and replacing the current paid, unionized on-air staff with all volunteers.

Since my story last March about the growing crisis at KPFA and Pacifica, the situation has worsened. KPFA’s unionized radio staff is facing continued attacks from those favoring an all-volunteer station – leading a large contingent of prominent progressive and labor activists including Norman Solomon, NUHW leader Sal Rosselli, Dr. Carlos Munoz, and Pratap Chatterjee to publicly endorse the SaveKPFA slate (I am among the slate’s many endorsers).

The reason so many activists have decided to go public supporting a KPFA Local Station Board candidates slate is that the radio’s network ability to broaden the progressive movement is at stake. The two leading slates offer a choice between a vision of a professional operation that seeks to expand public exposure to progressive campaigns and ideas – and one that prefers to “speak to the choir,” believing that KPFA’s and Pacifica’s mission is to give voice to stories and ideas regardless of their broader interest.

Independents Misread KPFA’s Legacy

Tracy Rosenberg, a candidate of the Independents who has written extensively on the dispute, recently wrote a piece for the Berkeley Daily Planet that reflects her (and perhaps others) profound misunderstanding of KPFA’s historic legacy.

According to Rosenberg, the Independents are the true heirs of Pacifica founder Lew Hill’s vision for KPFA. Noting that Hill was a “World War II pacifist who went to jail rather than fight in ‘The Good War,’” she argues that “he founded this place particularly and specifically to broadcast wildly unpopular perspectives that could never get on the air anywhere else.”

Rosenberg is partially right; Hill did promote perspectives out of the mainstream of the time. But what Rosenberg overlooks is that Hill sought to include a wide spectrum of views – rather than allow the sectarian left to monopolize coverage, which Rosenberg and her allies prefer.

Reviewing some old KPFA program guides (known as the Folio) from the 1960’s, I was surprised how much of the programming was devoted to classical music. There was a regular show on Israel hosted by a staffer from the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and many speeches and addresses from academic conferences. KPFA also regularly broadcast melodramas, such as Sophocles and Homer.

Far from being a radio station run by and for the sectarian left, Lew Hill’s KPFA even had Republican Caspar Weinberger (who went on to serve in the cabinets of Nixon and Reagan) on the air. Hill wanted KPFA run as a staff collective, and would never have supported Rosenberg’s goal of putting listeners – rather than radio professionals – in charge of programming.

Rosenberg is the Director of Media Alliance, and has used that position to advance her agenda at KPFA, often without disclosing her personal interests. For example, she recently wrote a Huffington Post article that attacked the Save KPFA slate without disclosing her own candidacy on a rival slate; that seems odd for someone who runs an organization focusing on media ethics.

Rosenberg is openly critical of many staff, and even worked behind the scenes to recall Board member Bonnie Simmons, host of the popular Bonnie Simmons Show on Thursday nights. Simmons is a leader in promoting Bay Area musicians, and from her days as program director of KSAN in its 1970’s heyday to her present role at the Bill Graham Foundation and with Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, she is one of the music industry’s most respected members.

Sadly, Rosenberg’s attacks on Simmons are symptomatic of her misguided perspective on the station.

Members Must Vote

If it’s so obvious that the progressive community is better served by the SaveKPFA slate, than why did the Independents narrowly win the last election and could also prevail now?

The answer is twofold.

First, interpretations of election rules have distorted voting for the staff positions on the Board. For example, each individual member of a large collective that works together on a show that may run for just a half hour a month gets equal voting rights with a full-time staff person. This occurred with the show Pushing Limits, whose half hour shows runs twice a month, and is on air for only around an hour a month, and yet was awarded 10-12 voting collective members.

Second, and more importantly, a large number of KPFA members do not vote.

People financially support KPFA, because they like what they hear on the radio. Most want nothing to do with governance, and do not return the local station ballots.

The result is that only 14 % of members, a little under 3000, voted in the last election. And as the right-wing proved in the 1994 mid-term elections and hope to prove again this November, when only a small, unrepresentative minority votes, the majority will can be frustrated.

Voting continues until September 30. You can find out more information on the SaveKPFA slate at and the Independents for Community Radio at

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and has publicly endorsed the slate.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by repost
Tuesday Sep 21st, 2010 6:21 AM

Sep. 20‚ 2010

To the Editors:

Wow, you print an article by Randy Shaw,with a photo that includes Dennis Bernstein, and Miguel Gavilan Molina (responding here), as if we support the content of an article, that endorses a slate we totally oppose. This is straight up disinformation, and a an overt and outright visual lie.

But this does clearly represent the way in which the elitist ruling clique at KPFA,the crew Shaw is fronting for, operates. They'll cheat, censor, threaten, dissemble, and lie publicly, as witnessed by this visual lie you printed -- indeed do almost anything to maintain power at KPFA. Remember, these are the one who supported the former management, that called the cop into KPFA, and had a black mom, and seasoned producer,roughed up and dragged out in a restraining jacket, because her child was using a computer without permission.

The good news is: All the cop-callers are now gone. The bad news is that the women, Nadra Foster -- whose felony charges have been dropped, was permanently wounded. These are the folks Shaw is apparently willing to lie for: We use to have a lot of respect for Shaw, but we'll never believe another word he says.

Hmmmm: Your Blog is the alternative to the SF Chronicle? If this is how you operate -- in the tradition of CIA disinformation -- then we'll take the Chronicle over you guys any day of the week. We demand a retraction and an apology.

Dennis Bernstein,
Executive Producer, Flashpoints and Flashpoints in Espanol


Dear BeyondChron Editors Shaw and Hogarth,

I'm truly disgusted with both of you, almost beyond words. The visual you chose for your article has no connection to the slate you are endorsing and which is now confusing voters by running under another group's name. ("KPFA Election Will Decide Progressive Networks Future," 9/13/2010) Your use of a 1999 photo of a different group is beyond disingenuous.

Not only was the slate you continue to promote not members of Save KPFA in 1999, they stand for the exact opposite of what we wanted for the station. (I was a member of the steering committee of the original Save KPFA.) A slate's sudden change to use of another group's name in the current KPFA board election is misleading to voters. You, and they, aren't stupid so I would guess you all know that.

Not only was the photo you chose a misrepresentation, your article was also filled with misinformation.

Several of us currently on the board and still involved with KPFA were organizing activists in 1999 as well and a part of the original group That includes one of candidates running with the Independents for Community Radio, another slate and one with which I am affiliated. Tracy Rosenberg kept the tent city that slept outside the station organized in the 1999 era of demonstrations. Those demonstrations led to a democratic change at the station and ended management's lockout of KPFA's staff. Do not state or insinuate that either Ms. Rosenbeg or the rest of us are against the paid staff. Do not malign us with your misrepresentations that are beyond all but right-wing media tactics. Do not attempt to further baffle voters.

Let's look at your first paragraph and description of your favorite slate: "On one side is the Save KPFA slate of candidates, who believe the station should be the voice of the entire progressive community, and must expand listenership to help broaden the progressive base."

Are you sure they can do that with a slate of primarily white males over the age of sixty on a slate put together by a group of Democratic Party activists? Many of their group – both presently on the board and currently running for the board – are also related or work together. I'd be interested in hearing how you think they are representative of the diverse Bay Area and can speak for people not only of their generation, ethnicity, or political affinity, but also not members of their family and office staff as well.

Let's move on to what you insinuate we, Independents for Community Radio, want to do – without checking with us; another mistake that an honest journalist wouldn't make – "A victory by the Independents will likely usher in massive downsizing at KPFA, eliminating popular programming and replacing the current paid, unionized on-air staff with all volunteers."

First, let's remember that I already pointed out that we were the ones involved with ending the lockout of paid staff in 1999. Now on to the present. The group you are so fond of held the board majority for three of the not quite four years I have been on the board. As such, they passed station budgets that had known spending deficits each year in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. They ran through KPFA's entire cash reserve of a million dollars as a result. They were told by Pacifica to cut spending and instead added paid positions and moved staff around that benefitted people on our board and members of their group or supporting them within the station. They ended up with new or better jobs at KPFA. KPFA ended up with more, not less, expenditures.

Today we are dealing with that legacy. This week the station borrowed money from another Pacifica station to meet the payroll. Will there need to be a different budget or can we continue spending at the same rate? The answer should not be beyond your comprehension. Before I forget, I guess that little detail about borrowing money also does away with your favorite slate's claim that KPFA is supporting other Pacifica stations .

Will the now unavoidable budget cuts have an effect on paid staff? Of course, since salaries and benefits are the single largest budget item by far. Will that happen if your favorite slate is in the majority? Of course, since salaries and benefits are the single largest budget item by far. Who brought us to this point? Of course, your favorite slate.

We can't afford this public political board election bickering. Think fox and hen house. We need to move beyond thinking those who have almost killed the station will keep it alive in the future. Every effort will be made to keep as much paid staff as possible by Independents for Community Radio and to remove the foxes.

Your willful disregard for how KPFA got to its present precarious state does not belong in journalism even if it is only on a a blog site and pseudo-journalism. It is beyond the pale.

Sasha Futran
Member, KPFA Local Station Board and
Independents for Community Radio


To the Editor:

I have endorsed the Independents for Community Radio Slate because they speak about and practice inclusion. Save KPFA (formerly Concerned Listeners) slate believes they are the only ones with the radio and managerial expertise to manage KPFA, and that is simply not true. We do need everyone who loves KPFA to vote. Then we need everyone from all slates to work with each other after the election.

SAVE KPFA representatives spent a million dollars on staff salaries, rather than make some obvious difficult decisions. It is time to give something different a try. Please read the entire Berkeley Daily Planet article, rather than judge by Randy's clever use of quotes. A correction. One correction: Pushing Limits has had a large training aspect in the past. Unfortunately, at the time of the voting deadline, only three producers qualified to vote in this election.

Adrienne Lauby
Cotati, CA


To the Editor:

I find your article about the upcoming KPFA LSB elections hopelessly biased and ethically problematic in its selective coverage of relevant issues and KPFA history. Where does the "Save" KPFA slate and its mostly white backers stand on, for example, the management decision to invoke violent police action at the station to forcibly remove a long-time volunteer and single parent woman of color?

Just ask your slate's paid staffers such as Sasha Lilley, who was instrumental in inviting police violence into the station ("We called the police"), and Mitch Jeserich and Aileen Alfandary, both of whom considered the unprecedented violence at the pacifist station "not newsworthy." It's the same kind of position you'd expect from folks who would eviscerate the Program Council and silence community input in general if they had their way, this at the first community-sponsored radio station in the country, no less.

It's clear what is meant by your slate's euphemisms of "professional," "quality programming," and "broadest possible audience" (i.e., anti-democratic corporatism), and the truth is, for those of us KPFA listener members who DO vote, we don't need the station we support to be turned into yet another corporatized, centrist, NPR affiliate clone whose programming is dominated by the concerns of privileged white people (white status both honorary and otherwise) who see themselves as progressive and yet insist on a traditional, top-down institutionalization of hierarchy founded on exclusionist values of whiteness and class privilege, the very antithesis of the democratic values the station was indeed founded on.

While you may try to paint a picture of your opposition as narrowly sectarian, in fact their platform is about ensuring access to the station by a rich diversity of communities through a truly democratic process. In reality, the "Save" KPFA slate is about eliminating that diverse access, centralizing power and catering to centrist interests such as those of the Democratic Party through homogenized, corporatist, NPR-like programming (e.g. contrast your slate's KPFA Evening News or Letters to Washington with the truth-telling courage and integrity of shows like Flashpoints, Hard Knock Radio, and Democracy Now).

Biased coverage such as yours only undermines your slate's credibility, not to mention that of your own blog. Why is it that what you report is so at odds with what has been reported elsewhere? Instead of only using quotes out of context that demonize your own slate's opposition, why not actually try to at least give the appearance of fairness and accuracy in your reporting? Why not include reasonable quotes from KPFA personnel like Anthony Fest or Robbie Osman, both of whom have written intelligent, informed pieces about the issues at stake?

Why not mention paid staff and "Save" KPFA slater Brian Edward-Twieckert's refusal to share his regime's problematic budget with the Station's own Board, or his own actions to undermine, if not dismantle, the Board itself? Or Sasha Lilley's and Lemlem Rijio's targeted gutting of Flashpoints? Or how your slate's allies succeeded at de-recognizing the Unpaid Staff organization? Why not consider the question that perhaps the current "crisis" could in fact be due to the cumulative mismanagement under the "Save"-allied leadership of Rijio/Twieckert/Lilley et al? Given the damage that they have already done, how could you honestly report that more of the same (i.e. the status quo that your slate represents) would be beneficial to the station or its listeners?

There's a reason your slate lost (and a reason why it had to change its name from Concerned Listeners, no doubt) and it has everything to do with a corporatist status quo-oriented denial of what really makes KPFA vibrant and essential to its community of truly concerned listener-members and voters.

Scott Tsuchitani
San Francisco


To the Editor:

It's pleasantly ironic that when I went looking for this article on the Beyond Chron site, the cover story was about Emmitt Powell and the "Fight to Save Powell's Place." As you know, Emmitt is the long-time KPFA host of the Gospel Experience. He is endorsing the Independents for Community Radio slate in the KPFA election and his co-host Gabrielle Wilson is an ICR-aligned staff candidate. Small world.

I hate to tell people this, but downsizing at KPFA has nothing at all to do with which slate they vote for. Downsizing at KPFA has to do with red ink. Caused by the Save KPFA slate which failed to implement their OWN budgets, which called for modest downsizing in both 2008 and 2009. Result: a million dollars in reserve cash spent, an empty bank account and a 2010 budget with an $800,000 hole.

Voting doesn't make money appear in the bank when it isn't there. Speaking of Lew Hill: the man went to jail rather than fight in WWII. And then founded a radio station to put on air what could never get on the air anywhere else. His words, not mine. Hill was extremely interested in what the listeners had to say about programming and operations at KPFA. Here he is - again in his own words - from a 1952 Report to the Listeners:

"There was such a letter in the mail this morning, from a San Francisco physician. To indicate the importance of this for the substance of our weekly Report, I might add that next week at this time I plan to comment on the questions the letter raises. The gentleman writing states that he feels KPFA's whole program is a fine well-rounded one culturally speaking, and he wishes he could believe a large audience would stop and listen to it. But he doesn't. And for this reason he advances specific suggestions for changes in our medium, from FM to AM, in our hours of broadcasting, in the types of our programs, in our signal power, and in our publicity procedures. He concludes by saying that he believes we at KPFA are very stubborn and set in our conviction that we are doing the job in the best way, and that he does not expect we will adopt his suggestions, but wishes us well anyway and hopes to cooperate to any extent possible in what the project is doing. Needless to say this communication is very challenging and sweeping, and also a very warming one. Next week perhaps you will join me again for a discussion of it."

Rather than being angered and threatened by listener input into the radio station - Hill is "warmed" and eager to discuss it. Quite right for a community-based organization, if you ask me. Ethics can be an interesting thing. The article was about a week of encounters with what the Colbert Report calls "truthiness." One of those was a benefit for the slate called Save KPFA also known as Concerned Listeners. The benefit was described as "KPFA's benefit to help it survive till the end of the year." But KPFA was not the beneficiary of any of the funds raised at the benefit. It all went to pay for a glossy election mailer. Like I said, truthiness. Otherwise known as lack of ethics.

There is also lack of taste. Pushing Limits, a show that was awarded a Best of the Bay prize by the East Bay Express, is a show by and for disabled Bay Areans. I know it can be hard to believe, but it is harder and it takes longer to produce radio shows when you are suffering from one or more disabilities. It takes many people to put together the show, but they do it as volunteers because it matters so much to them. I guess you could award the Pushing Limits producers 3/5 of a vote, but I thought that kind of thing went out of style in the 19th century.

Tracy Rosenberg
Executive Director, Media Alliance
Member, Pacifica National Board
Board Member, Media and Democracy Coalition
Board Member, Alliance for Community Media, Western Region
Oakland, CA

by Three Cheers for VFJR
Tuesday Sep 21st, 2010 7:49 AM
At least this September 13, 2010 Democratic Party hit piece by Randy Shaw has excellent responsive letters in opposition in one comment. Shaw willfully, with malice aforethought, avoids another excellent slate, endorsed by Dennis Bernstein, Voices for Justice Radio. You can hear another endorser, Jeff Blankfort, speak and meet the Voices for Justice Radio slate on
September 24, 2010 7:30 PM
522 Valencia St./16th St. (near 16th St BART station)
San Francisco, CA

Randy Shaw's union busting is described at: (thank you Steve Zeltzer and Labor Video Project)

And on the lack of credibility of Randy Shaw is at:

BY FAR THE BEST CANDIDATE FOR LOCAL STATION BOARD IS STEVE ZELTZER, followed by the rest of the Voices for Justice Radio slate, Dr. Sureya Sayadi, Jaime Cader, Felipe Messina
Their endorsers are:
Cindy Sheehan, Anti-war activist
Cynthia McKinney, Former Congresswoman
Gayle McLaughlin, Mayor of City of Richmond, California
Peace and Freedom Party California
Green Party of Contra Costa County Council
San Francisco Bayview Newspaper
Education Not Incarceration, SF Chapter
Idriss Stelley Action and Resource Center (ISARC)
Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (TWSC)
Mary And Willie Radcliff, Publisher, San Francisco Bayview Newspaper
Gray Brechin, UCB Geography Department and Author "Imperial San Francisco"
Genoveva Calloway, Vice-Mayor, City of San Pablo
Jovanka Beckles, The Richmond Planning Commission
Trent Willis, Former Vice President ILWU Local 10
Clarence Thomas, Former ILWU Local 10 Secretary Treasurer
Francisco De Costa, Executive Director of Enviromental Justice Advocacy San Francisco
Roger Scott, Past President AFT 2121, Professor San Francisco City College
Bill Carpenter, Professor, San Francisco City College, Videographer
Todd Davies, Lecturer, Stanford University (endorsing Steve Zeltzer only)
Rick Hauptman, Chair, North Mission Neighborhood Alliance
Mary Ellen Churchill, Videographer and media activist
Lotus Fong, Community Activist
Philip Santos, Muscian, member of American Federation of Musicians
Ralph Schoenman, Co-Producer Taking Aim
Cynthia Servetnick, Member IFPTE Local 21, Save the Laguna Street Campus
Lisa Milos, UCSF CWA-UPTE Member
Mary Ann Ring, UCSF CUE 9 Delegate
Russ Miyashiro, ILWU Local 34 Assistant Dispatcher
Brad Wiedmaier, SEIU, Architectural Historian, 113 Steuart St. Labor Center Project
Jemahl Ämen
Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, Phyisican, Environmental Activist
Charles Smith, AFSCME 444 Chief Steward
Diane Brown, President of United Teachers of Richmond, CTA/NEA and Progressive Teachers Caucus of Richmond
Riva Enteen, former Chair KPFA Local Station Board
JR Valery, Producer of the Black Report (endorsing Steve Zeltzer only)
Skip Charbonneau, member SEIU 1000
Regina Carey, Community Activist Marin County
Lynda Carson, Freelance journalist & tenant activist
Peter Philipps, Founder of Project Censored and Professor Sonoma State University
John Mifsud, Artistic Director of Diversity Productions
Anore Shaw, Green Party member
Roger Hill, Founder-Director of Mental-Rev Productions
Jeff Blankfort, Radio Producer
Dennis Bernstein, programmer KPFA Flashpoints
Anne Garrison, endorses Steve Zeltzer
Organizations after the names are identification only

For all the candidate statements, see:

You can meet the candidates or hear them on the air as stated below, but whatever you do, please mail your ballot by September 25, 2010, at the latest. Otherwise, you will have to walk it to the station.

Next best after Voices for Justice Radio are some of the candidates on the Independent Community Radio slate at:

YOUR VOTE IS IMPORTANT. At least 10% of the 20,000 listener-subscribers must vote to make the election valid, and it is always a struggle to meet that threshold, which is outrageous and unconscionable. ALL 20,000 LISTENER-SUBSCRIBERS SHOULD VOTE, AND NOW IS THE TIME TO GET OFF THE DIME AND VOTE AND MAIL THAT BALLOT THIS WEEK!

You can hear the candidates on air or meet them off air as follows:
You can meet the candidates at the following forums or hear them on KPFA:
For transit info or carpool to any forum call 510.332.7181 or email les_kpfa [at]

Thursday, September 23 at 7 p.m. San Jose Peace & Justice Center, 48 South 7th St. San Jose, CA

O N A I R F O R U M S:
Third and Final Round:
Monday Sept. 27th: 8-10pm
Tuesday Sept. 28th: 8-10pm
Wednesday Sept.29: 8-10pm
by Richard Phelps, former Chair KPFA LSB
Tuesday Sep 21st, 2010 8:11 AM
.... Board member Bonnie Simmons, host of the popular Bonnie Simmons Show on Thursday nights. Simmons is a leader in promoting Bay Area musicians, and from her days as program director of KSAN in its 1970’s heyday to her present role at the Bill Graham Foundation and with Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, she is one of the music industry’s most respected members.

Bonnie Simmons most frequent statement at PNB meetings was "Could you repeat the motion again." When the JUC/CL folks wanted to stall out the time to get nothing done. Most of the motions she continually wanted repeated had been sent out via e-mail. She could show the US Senate how to filibuster. Bonnie's music history is well known as is her anti-democratic practices by those that attend or listen to PNB/LSB meetings. And what is wrong with being openly critical of staff if you believe in free speech. Do they get a free pass? I don't think so since the CL folks often criticize the staff that doesn't agree with their vision of KPFA>NPR light.

by Akio Tanaka
Tuesday Sep 21st, 2010 8:19 AM
The website for the Independents for Commuity Radio is:

by Aaron Aarons, Candidate for LSB
(kpfa2010 [at] Wednesday Sep 22nd, 2010 1:52 AM
While I agree pretty much with the various responses above to Randy Shaw's Democratic Party hit piece, I want to add a few points.

1) The best way to keep the Concerned Listeners / phony 'Save KPFA' gang from getting back in control of the LSB is to vote for EVERY candidate that is NOT on their slate, and only those candidates, in whatever order you choose.

2) To make as strong as possible a statement in favor of a more radical, critical direction for KPFA, especially the rather lame News programming, you can vote as your first choice the only LSB candidate who mentions capitalism and/or imperialism in his Candidate Statement. That candidate is yours truly, Aaron Aarons. You can see my Candidate Statement at and my blog at

BTW, please note that, thanks to the Single Transferable Vote system used in this election, you don't "waste your vote" by voting for somebody who may seem unelectable, since, if that person really doesn't get elected, your vote will be transferred to your next choice, and so on down your list.