"Please don't ask any more questions about . . ."
Between the Minutes
at KPFA's Local Station Board
on December 1, 2012
by Daniel Borgström
For seven years I've been attending KPFA's Local Station Board meetings and, on occasion, writing Between the Minutes, a series in which I take up some brief incident which might dramatize, bring to life, or even humanize an otherwise tedious and lengthy board meeting.
Dramatic moments can be subtle, but not lacking, since the board consists of two opposing camps. One of these is the grassroots group, United for Community Radio, which I support. The other is "SaveKPFA," the status quo group with ties to the Democratic Party, and whose membership includes Pamela Drake. Pam is an activist who came to Occupy Oakland last year, then found a job with Mayor Jean Quan who was sending police to attack Occupiers.
Pam's activities looked like a conflict of interest. So I posted an article, "The Mayor Quan Connection at Occupy Oakland," in which I suggested that Pam's SaveKPFA colleagues might care to investigate her involvement and give us a report. Two weeks passed; so far no response. They didn't seem inclined to talk about it; just the same, I felt it might be worth asking them.
The KPFA Local Station Board seemed a logical place to present such a question, but is it proper to ask someone if she's a point person for the mayor in dealing with Occupy? This was a very delicate matter, and deserved to be presented in a way that would be directly relevant to the KPFA board itself. KPFA/Pacifica bylaws has a rule stating that anyone who's a member of government can't be on the board at the same time.
So I attended the December 1st meeting, placed my name on the list for Public Comments, and took a seat in the audience waiting for the session to start. About 20 board members sat around a conglomeration of tables configured into a U-shape. On the left were eight members of United for Community Radio. And on the right were ten or eleven members of "SaveKPFA." Among them was Pam Drake, only two seats from the end of the table, quite close to the audience section. Another of her SaveKPFA colleagues, Jack Kurzweil, sat at the very end, closest to me. He is a famously disagreeable person who seems to take himself very seriously.
The meeting began, the agenda was approved, and after a couple other preliminaries it was time for Public Comments. I was second to speak, and Margy Wilkinson called my name. Margy was the chair, a member of SaveKPFA. I stepped over to the table and picked up the mic.
"This is uncomfortable," I said, and it really was uncomfortable, but I felt it was important to bring it up. I took a deep breath and began: "I understand that we have some rule about being on the LSB and being in government at the same time. Now I understand that Pamela Drake, on the LSB, also works for the mayor, I would like to know in what capacity, what the particulars are."
Pam was sitting only eight or ten feet away from me. I looked at her. "I read this from your own website, and from various newspapers. That's where I got this information." I paused, glanced around at the others and continued. "I'm at Occupy Oakland and Pam is also at Occupy Oakland. And --"
Jack Kurzweil cut in, "That is a personal attack!" he shouted.
"I --" I tried to speak, but Jack was shouting me down. "The speaker is attacking an LSB member!" he yelled. Margy called for order, but Jack went on. Board members are not supposed to respond to speakers, and certainly not interrupt. But this had happened so often that I'd almost come to expect it. Anyway, I had the mic in my hand while all Jack had was his loud obnoxious voice, so I said, into the mic, "I'm raising a question! I'm raising a question!"
Margy called for order, saying. "I fully intend to allow Pam to respond when Daniel is done. Thank you!"
Momentarily brought into line, Jack went silent, and I continued.
"This is a question I'd like to raise. As I was saying, I'm at Occupy Oakland. I understand that Pam was quite active there, and that her job with the mayor, whatever it may be. . . I'd like to hear what it is. I think it was as a coordinator of a committee which you define as advising the mayor on various local issues. And I wonder if that includes strategies for suppressing Occupy." I paused and added, "I mean that's a personal concern with me."
"Okay!" Margy cut in, "Okay!"
I started to tell about what happened on January 28th, the day police mass arrested 400 of us, myself included. "I had a gun pointed at me! I would like to know --"
"Okay! That's enough," she said. "I understand. Do you have anything else?" She was laughing nervously; she seemed terribly uncomfortable. "I understand," she said again. "Please don't ask any more questions about Pam. I'm going to ask Pam if she wants to respond. But did you have anything else you want to say?"
This was about the first time a chair ever cut a speaker off during Public Comments at a KPFA board meeting. Public Comments is a forum where people get two or three minutes to address the board. Speakers can say anything on any subject, and though it should be about KPFA, it doesn't have to be. It doesn't have to be nice, polite, or laudatory either. In the past, Margy had consistently respected my right to speak. Today was a first. But I had said enough for now, and I said. "Thank you for listening to my question."
I passed the mic to Pam, who said, "Thank you, Daniel." Pam said that very sweetly.
Margy spoke, "I would like to point out that Pam Drake is--" she paused. "Go ahead Pam. You may respond."
"I do not work for the mayor and that's all there is to it," Pam said calmly. "And I do go to Occupy because I've been very involved with that too. And that's it."
Not working for the mayor? Despite what she had said in her own bio about advising the mayor? Pam's denial surprised me. And her present involvement with Occupy? What could that mean? With all that echoing back and forth in my mind, I hardly listened to the following speaker who spoke for the next three minutes, then lay down the mic, which was retrieved by Jack.
"I have a motion," he said.
"Go ahead Jack," Margy told him.
"I move that Daniel Borgström be prohibited from addressing this KPFA Local Station Board for the next year."
Huh? I sensed a huge collective gasp from the entire room. This was truly a groundbreaking first. During all the seven years I've been attending KPFA's board meetings, I'd never before heard a motion to ban anyone from Public Comments.
"Do I hear a second to that motion?" Margy said.
For a long instant, I held my breath. The SaveKPFA crowd had a majority and could pass it. Too bad. No, not too bad -- it'd be just great! That would really make my point.
Then I heard laughter. The United for Community Radio people across the aisle from Jack were laughing, as was the woman sitting next to me. Tears seemed about to start rolling down her cheeks. I realized that I was laughing too.
"Okay! I'm asking for a second to that motion." It was Margy again. But from the SaveKPFA side of the aisle there was no response, only embarrassed silence.
"The motion dies for the lack of a second," Margy announced. "We're now ready for announcements."
AUDIO of the KPFA Local Station Board meeting of Dec 1, 2012
The above segment is about 20 minutes into the audio.
working for, coordinating for, advising, or what?
It seems beyond dispute that Pamela Drake coordinated a committee which worked on behalf of Mayor Jean Quan. The original purpose of that committee was to oppose an attempt to recall the mayor. If it was a political action committee rather than a part of the mayor's administration, Pam's coordinator role may not have violated the KPFA/Pacifica rule which prohibits a member of government from being on the board.
And while Mayor Jean Quan was not popular, the recall effort against her did not have much traction among progressives. Not even Occupy endorsed the recall. So Pam Drake's opposition to the recall was not the issue.
However, according to Pam's own bio, her job included more than just stopping the recall. So the question is: did the "many local issues" on which she advised the mayor include Occupy?
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Newspapers & Websites
Numerous articles in the SF Chronicle and the East Bay Express identify Pamela Drake as coordinator of a committee called "Stand with Oakland." Here are a couple of them.
SF Chronicle Sunday, March 18, 2012
Stand With Oakland coordinator Pam Drake
East Bay Express March 19, 2012
Pamela Drake, a coordinator for the group
The "Full Biography for Pamela A. Drake" (6/5/2012) listing her as a candidate to be on the Democratic Party County Central Committee of Alameda County, states that Pamela "was staff to the effort to elect Jean Quan as Oakland's first woman mayor. She continues to serve as a member of Stand with Oakland, a committee which advises the Mayor on many local issues."
Pam Drake announced her break with Occupy Oakland in an article she posted on her own website, dated Jan. 26, 2012
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UNITED FOR COMMUNITY RADIO
KPFA 94.1 FM is one of five stations of the Pacifica radio network which are located in major cities across the country. The other stations are WBAI 99.5 in New York, WPFW 89.3 in Washington DC, KPFT 90.1 in Houston, and KPFK 90.7 in Los Angeles. There are also about 160 affiliate stations.
Labels: 94.1 FM, Concerned Listeners; (CL), ICR, independents for community radio, KPFA Worker, KPFAworker.org, Pacifica Foundation, Pacifica Radio Network, Save KPFA, SaveKPFA.org, UCR, united for community radio