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Lawsuits may restore old model

By Judith Scherr Daily Planet staff
Monday November 05, 2001

The troops – more than 150 spilled off of the sidewalk and into the street – were called back to KPFA at noon on Sunday. 

They came to the Martin Luther King Jr. Way station empty handed, leaving their old, used picket signs, chant sheets and leaflets at home. 

They came ready to party – well, they called it: “pre-party.” 

As reported in the weekend Daily Planet, lawsuits filed by station staff, listeners and local advisory board members from four of the five listener-sponsored Pacifica stations went into mediation Thursday. The outcome is likely to return the network to a democratic model, with a least some of the national board members elected by listeners and representing the various listening areas. 

That’s what former Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry, a new Pacifica board member, disclosed on Friday. Those representing the plaintiffs in the consolidate lawsuit, including attorney Sherry Gendelman, who chairs the KPFA Local Advisory Board, said, however, that mediators were sworn to secrecy until the final agreement had been signed. 

Still, speakers said they wouldn’t be there and ready to “pre” party unless the outlook looked good. 

Feasting on cake, mounds of candy and soft drinks, the crowd listened to upbeat statements made by the visibly light-hearted speakers. 

“We’ll turn Pacifica back to its mission,” Gendelman told the cheering crowd. 

“It never occurred to (the Pacifica management) that we’d have the power to take it back,” said programmer Robbie Osman, who was taken off the air by the Pacifica management two years ago, as the fight to democratize the network grew. 

In the mood to celebrate, long-time programmer Kriss Welch recalled the cancellation of the station’s 50-year anniversary celebration, which was to have taken place soon after Pacifica management’s dismissal of popular station manager Nicole Sawaya in March of 1999. “I hope I can wear that black dress I bought,” she said. 

Some cautioned that the final agreement had not yet been signed and that the fight could break out all over again. But that did not worry KPFA activist Barbara Lubin. 

“If it doesn’t work out, we’ll go out and fight again,” she said.