Public Comment

Commentary: Support Free Speech and Open Debate in KPFA Election

By Carol Spooner
Tuesday October 30, 2007

We fought a long hard fight to win democratic elections for KPFA’s Local Station Board (LSB). One of the most important reasons for that was so that listeners could be informed by the candidates of the issues and problems and their proposed solutions. Imagine, if back in 1999 we had had the ability to communicate with all the members and to elect—and recall—the board of directors (through our elected delegates on the LSB). 

In 1999 Pacifica silenced its critics, fired them, took them off the air, arrested them, put armed guards in KPFA, boarded up the station and piped in music from Houston. 

Today, supposedly, the candidates have the right to lay it out as they see it, and the voters have the ability to contact the candidates (those who give contact information) and ask questions and make up their minds who to vote for. This isn’t perfect, but it is a hell of a lot more than we had back in 1999 when we had to ask the California attorney general for permission to sue to remove the Pacifica board of directors. 

I say supposedly because Pacifica’s current interim executive director, Dan Siegel, is now trying to silence a group of candidates for the KPFA LSB and to prejudice the election against them for their revelation of certain issues of real interest to the KPFA membership. Based on complaints from KPFA’s interim management and members of the “Concerned Listeners” slate of candidates for the KPFA LSB, all of the KPFA listener candidates’ statements have been removed from the “official” Pacifica elections web page at (I have just learned that they will soon be reposted but with non-alpha characters inserted in the names of persons mentioned in the statements. That will certainly make them far less helpful to voters in deciding how to vote.) In addition, the interim executive director has posted an “Open Letter to the Pacifica Community” on the KPFA Elections web page at in which he characterizes as “abusive” and “hateful speech” the statements of “a group of candidates running for the KPFA local board” whose statements, Siegel says, “contain little more than personal attacks on their opponents and station staff.” He has also conflated the KPFA “Peoples Radio” candidates statements with a racially inflammatory statement made by a WBAI candidate, and has smeared the KPFA candidates with the same stinky fish-wrap.  

First, Pacifica management is prohibited by law and the Pacifica bylaws from making prejudicial statements about the candidates. They are not permitted to use Pacifica resources (including web pages) to the advantage or disadvantage of any candidate or group of candidates. 

Secondly, the “Peoples’ Radio” slate candidates’ statements cannot by any standard be characterized as “hate speech” or “abusive” or “personal attacks.” They are not attacks on anyone’s character. They are factual assertions and strong arguments concerning the positions and actions of other candidates and the station manager and program director concerning station policies and the LSB. Vigorous debate about these issues is the proper purpose of the elections forum, so that the membership can make informed decisions when they vote. 

It is true that in September 2005 Brian Edwards-Tiekert (a staff LSB member currently running for reelection) sent an email to a group of people to schedule a meeting to discuss, among other things, “dismantling the LSB.” Among those people was Sherry Gendleman (a listener LSB member currently running for re-election on the “Concerned Listeners” slate), Lemlem Rijio (who was then KPFA’s development director and is now KPFA’s interim station manager), Sasha Lilley (who was then a producer for “Against The Grain” and is now KPFA’s interim program director), and Bonnie Simmons (who is a staff LSB member, the current LSB chair, and an endorser of the “Concerned Listeners” slate of candidates). 

This is a matter that should be of concern to the voters. “Dismantling” the LSB is not the way to get good governance for KPFA and Pacifica. I am glad that the “Peoples Radio” slate chose to publish it in their joint candidates’ statements. That e-mail was widely circulated among those close to the station when it first came out, and the fact that it is now a campaign issue should be a surprise to nobody. 

It is an outrage that the interim executive director is issuing prejudicial statements and taking candidates’ statements off the web page.  

So, while I believe more strongly than ever that it is essential that the “I-Team” candidates be elected to serve as a core of civility and sanity on the LSB and a “buffer zone” between the opposing factions, I also believe it is important to repudiate the executive director for his outrageous acts, and “Concerned Listeners” slate for demanding this censorship of other candidates’ statements. That can be done by ranking “Peoples’ Radio” slate members after the “I-Team” candidates. This will also preserve some balance on the LSB, as the “Concerned Listeners” hold a majority of the seats that were filled last year and are not up for re-election this year. I would certainly prefer that candidates be elected who support free speech and open debate, rather than those who are seeking to silence and censor it. 

Here is my recommended order of ranking: 

No. 1-No. 4 — the “I-Team” listed in alphabetical order—you choose your order of preference: Steve Conley, Chandra Hauptman, Tracy Rosenberg and Joe Wanzala. 

No. 5-No. 11 — the “Peoples Radio” slate listed in alphabetical order—you choose your order of preference: Bob English, Dave Heller, Atilla Nagy, Richard Phelps, Mara Rivera, Gerald Sanders and Stan Woods. 

No matter how you vote, please do be sure to vote so the election makes its 10 percent quorum. The ballots must be received (not postmarked) by Nov. 15. 

For more info on the candidates and their slates see their web pages: 

• The I-Team: 

• Peoples’ Radio: 

• KPFA Voices For Justice: 

• Concerned Listeners For KPFA: 


Santa Rosa resident Carol Spooner was a KPFA Local Board Member from 2000 to 2005 and a Pacifica National Board member from 2002 to 2005.