KPFA's Election and Green Sunday
daniel [at] danielborgstrom.com
Green Sundays are discussion events organized by the Green Party. I attended the event on October 8th to hear candidates for election to KPFA's Local Station Board (LSB). One of the Greens' concerns was the amount of KPFA coverage third parties get, and that was apparently why they held this discussion, appealing to the LSB candidates whom they considered most likely to hear their concerns.
The event began with introductory talks by LaVarn Williams and Joe Wanzala. Both are on the LSB and in the People's Radio group, associated with the Alliance for a democratic KPFA slate.
The Alliance candidates at this forum included: Bob English, Maxine Doogan, Sasha Futran, Dave Heller, Henry Norr, Akio Tanaka and Steve Zeltzer. Another member of the slate, Regina Carey, wasn't able to attend. Two independents affiliated with this slate, Nazreen Kadir and Aaron Aarons, were also members of this discussion panel.
Among the issues put forward by the candidates were transparency and accountability--meaning that the LSB must continue to have access to KPFA's financial records. Other issues included KPFA's declining listenership and the extreme difficulty of getting the station to accept new, creative programs. Pacifica National produces an elections special program "Informed Dissent," but it's not being aired by KPFA. Other Pacifica programs are also available. Meanwhile, listeners complain that excessive airtime--about 65%--is devoted to music.
This spring a group of KPFA programmers who made shows on labor topics was banned from the station for a period of one year. That issue, a complicated one, has been coming up month after month at LSB meetings for half a year now, still without resolution.
Bob English attributed many of KPFA's problems to an ongoing legacy from the Lynn Chadwick/Pat Scott era which didn't really end with their departure. "Values, programming grid and multiple damages of the old regime continue in Pacifica and little has changed at KPFA." he said.
Nazreen Kadir expressed concern about KPFA's financial situation. KPFA is already spending too much airtime supporting itself through pledge drives, she said. At the same time, she warned against reliance on corporate funding--which would undermine KPFA's independence. She cautioned that KPFA could slip away from the listeners and come under control of wealthy donors.
"KPFA, with only a handful of relevant and high-quality programs, has become stymied by the pro-private corporate-funding undercurrent that never went away," she wrote in her leaflet.
The question of foundation money seems like it may become a major issue in the future. But it doesn't often get mentioned, and I wasn't fully aware of it till I heard Nazreen speak that evening.
Two opposition candidates were also there. Ernesto "Tico" Chacin, and Jim Weber. They weren't part of the panel, but since they were there, they were invited to speak. Candidate Jim Weber is notorious for his newsletter and inflammatory speeches, calling People's Radio members on the LSB everything from Hitler-like to Trotskyists. That evening he toned it down and came off rather low key.
Ernesto "Tico" Chacin is a good speaker and a dynamic person. I wondered if he understood the ongoing struggle with the culture of the bad old days at KPFA when the station was run by a handful of people who were accountable only to themselves. My impression was that he may not, and that worries me, but I would have to know him better before saying one way or the other about him. He's running on the "Concerned Listeners for KPFA" slate.
LSB member Brian Edwards-Tiekert was there too, and he's also with the opposition, but is not up for reelection this year. Brian is member of the KPFA staff, who campaign for the LSB in a separate election in which only staff participate. Staff candidate Maxine Doogan is running on the Alliance slate and spoke on the above panel. But only KPFA staff members can vote for her.
The meeting was held in a small upstairs room at the Niebyl-Proctor Library. I didn't count the number in attendance, but it may've been around 20, not counting the candidates.
After the candidates spoke, people there, who seemed to be mostly Greens, asked questions and made comments. As was mentioned above, one of their main concerns was that third party candidates don't get sufficient coverage by KPFA.
It at first appeared to me that the Greens were taking one side and the Democrats the other. But it's not at all that clear cut. While the "Alliance" slate includes Greens and Peace & Freedom people, one member of the slate, Regina Carey, is an activist in the Democratic Party. Although the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club has endorsed the opposing slate, the "Concerned Listeners for KPFA," some members of the Wellstone Club are objecting to their party's taking sides in the LSB election. As for the Greens, they haven't formally endorsed anybody. Meanwhile, Aimee Allison, the Green candidate for Oakland city council, has endorsed both slates.
For me what's at stake in this LSB election is transparency and accountability. Our representatives on the board need access to KPFA/Pacifica records.
Only because LSB members LaVarn Williams, Richard Phelps and others of the People's Radio group dogged the national office, they finally and for the first time ever, or at least since 1999, gained LSB access to Pacifica's financial records. This is significant. We listeners are the ones who pay the bills.
For their efforts they've repeatedly been maligned by anonymous posters on websites. Candidates on the above panel, for choosing to line up with People's Radio, have also come under fire, some of it pretty nasty. It seems to me that by taking the step to ally with current board members who have worked hard for financial transparency, they have shown a serious commitment to continuing the struggle for accountability at KPFA.
Virginia Browning contributed to this article. As KPFA listeners, she and Daniel Borgström have been attending the monthly public meetings of the LSB
KPFA LSB ELECTION RESOURCES
I urge everyone to read the info on the websites of both slates as well as the KPFA election site.
Alliance for a democratic KPFA
Sasha Futran -- LSB Candidate, member of the Alliance slate
KPFA Elections: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy?
By Henry Norr
Concerned Listeners for KPFA
KPFA Meet the Candidates
If you're feeling this is a lot do -- going from knowing nothing about 22 unknown candidates to ranking and voting for 9 of them in less than a busy month that also includes a national election -- you're certainly not alone. Questions such as why on earth is the election in OCTOBER will have to wait for another day. But listeners CAN call/write the station and lobby for even 10 or 20-second spot election reminders to play throughout the day and month. Why isn't it being done now? That's a story for a longer article.
I would emphasize that being able to meet the candidates in person, dialog and ask questions would go a long way toward being able to make this difficult decision. People can organize "meet the candidate" events and/or call/email the election supervisor to hold such events. Henry Norr and Conn Hallinan have both offered to discuss "debate" the issues from their separate viewpoints (and separate slates), but need a forum for this.
The KPFA Election Supervisor is Tracy Rosenberg. Email or phone her and ask for more airing of election announcements and "meet the candidates" events.
ballot [at] kpfa.org
(510) 848-6767, extension 266