EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the original letter referred to by Matthew Hallinan in his Oct. 30 commentary in the Daily Planet.
Dan Siegal, the lawyer who was president of the Oakland School Board when that District was placed under the control of a state Monitor for mismanagement, has become involved in controversy at Pacifica Radio as interim Executive Director (while the newly appointed ED, Nicole Sawaya waits in the wings). Siegal, responding positively to KPFA management and Concerned Listener slate pleas to censor and censure the ballot pamphlet statements by members of the Peoples’ Radio slate, redacted the slates elections statements from the Pacifica web site. Suggesting that Peoples’ Radio election pamphlet statements are akin to “hate speech”, Siegal acted unilaterally without consulting Pacifica’s election commission. The Pacifica elections commission, after evaluating the situation, agreed—in part--with KPFA managers, that in naming names when criticizing managers and staff in their statements, the Slate had behaved inappropriately by violating the spirit of rules governing the local board elections but also found that there were no obviously slanderous comments, nor examples of hate speech. (my own reading, too, was that Peoples’ Radio had used this venue inappropriately but I find no inaccuracies of fact). The election panel ordered Siegal to return the statements to the Pacifica site. While Siegal’s initial actions gave a PR boost to the pro-management Concerned Listener slate, the impact of the reversal is unclear.
Carol Spooner, well known listener activist, lawyer and leader of the successful Listeners’ law suit of 1999, responded pointedly to Siegal’s actions, claiming them to be prejudicial interference against a group of candidates in the election. Where Spooner had previously endorsed a different group of candidates—the independent or “I” team made up of Chandra Hauptman, Joe Wanzala, Tracy Rosenberg and Steve Conley—Siegal’s actions caused Spooner to urge people to add some members of the Peoples’ Radio slate to their list after they prioritize the I team. In a related minor incident, key Wellstone Democratic Club members, despite my protests, labeled me a supporter of the Peoples’ Radio slate—which they have repeatedly alleged aims to wreck KPFA and with having only a disruptive impact on governance, management and staff. When I protested that I too had some criticisms of Peoples’ Radio and so had endorsed the “I” team and not endorsed the Peoples’ Radio slate the Club was told by one of its leading members that I was lying, and later by that leader and another that there is really no difference between the Peoples’ Radio slate and I team lists since both groups are equally critical of current management.
Clearly anyone critical of the policies or behaviors of current interim managers and core staff—even if their criticisms are reasonable, submitted at an appropriate place and time and factually based--is being labeled a disruptive element and an enemy of KPFA. These challenges reveal a battle over who gets to define KPFA, to represent it’s history, its program continuity and it’s future with respect to the political movement in the region. I have argued that no political grouping—not the interim managers, the core paid staff and the Concerned Listeners slate organized with management support, not the peoples’ radio, the justice slate, nor the I team group have any exclusive right or authority to lay claim to KPFA’s legacy or to control its future. KPFA’s strength has been it’s inclusiveness and eclectic character. Until there is a more formally united movement in the region, the left political movement in the Bay Area needs that this important independent station remains independent. And independent in this context means not only independent of corporate money and the power of the two major political parties but also independent of groups of a few hundreds or thousands of people attempting to use Board elections to establish an exclusive agenda or dominance allowing them to claim to speak in the name of the extensive non-participating KPFA audience.
All the protagonists around KPFA readily recognize sectarianism, even plots, by their adversaries. But few recognize their own side to this dialectic. While being accused of concealing my (nonexistent) support for the Peoples’ Radio slate, I was similarly also being chided for faking the appearance of an aloof neutral “Olympian” (presumably the Greek gods). However, I have not been aloof, nor concealed my views of management behaviors such as the attack on the on-air advocacy of a protest that occurred this year. That I have written several critical articles in the Daily Planet does not mean, per se, that this critic is unwilling or unable to work with or compromise with those he or she criticizes. Like the I team members I have more than once offered my assistance to KPFA’s managers—current and past--and likewise repeatedly offered to help Wellstone Democratic Club set up a public forum to focus on differing visions of KPFA’s future (not on past controversies). If KPFA’s station board will only be allowed the role of a ratifying body for the management and core staff, growth and diversity at the station will remain seriously hampered, if not stagnant. KPFA’s future in this complex political environment of reaction requires a kind of diversity and inclusivity that can foster trust and cohesion with powerless communities. That is why listeners ought to elect representatives to the Board who express a clear vision of KPFA’s future role with which they agree. I hope that this vision for KPFA will reflect serious evaluation of criticisms, as well as inclusivity, dialogue and compromise.
Marc Sapir, a local physician, previously directed the alternative polling group, Retro Poll, which focused attention on how Corporate Media distorts public perception.