If you’re a KPFA member, you should gotten a ballot by now from the Pacifica Foundation that asks you to rank 29 candidates for nine seats on KPFA’s Local Station Board. Here are the people I’m endorsing (I’ll explain why below). You can read more about them at ww.concernedlisteners.org. In no particular order: Conn Hallinan, Dan Siegel, Andrea j. Turner, Mike Smith, John Van Eyck, Jack Kurzweil, Virginia Rodriguez, Pamela Drake, Donald Goldmacher, Mark Hernandez.
Here’s the situation: KPFA, and Pacifica (the nonprofit network that owns KPFA) are on the brink. Literally. When the economy tanked, it decimated fundraising across the network. That compounded long-term trends in Pacifica—stagnant audiences, rising costs—and has rapidly drained the network’s cash reserve.
Our only hope is to rejuvenate Pacifica’s programming, bring more listeners into the fold, and start to re-build.
So the question is: whither KPFA? There’s a group on KPFA’s board—they run under a different banner every year—that is hostile to the station’s professional staff, enamored of conspiracy theories, doctrinaire in their approach to public affairs, and sectarian in their approach to internal politics–they’d rather attack KPFA than improve it. They have sucked up a tremendous amount of the station’s time and energy, when it really doesn’t have any to spare. They’ve bogged the station down in petty infighting, and tried to blame most of the station’s problems on the people who’ve been fending them off as they try to improve things.
Then there’s the slate I’m endorsing: “Concerned Listeners for KPFA.” They stand for professionalism, unity, inclusiveness, and diversity at KPFA—and bring an impressive range of professional and movement credentials to the table: Here’s what KPFA’s accomplished under the slate’s stewardship:
Special Broadcasts. KPFA organized the ground-breaking Winter Soldier broadcasts, which filled a national media vacuum, won a Project Censored Award, and helped point the way forward for online multimedia synergy during Pacifica broadcasts.
New Programs. KPFA brought to the airwaves some of the best programs from its sister stations: KPFK’s Uprising, and WBAI’s Behind the News—a left economics program much needed during this turbulent economic time.
Political Coverage. KPFA led the rest of the network in organizing national coverage of the 2008 election, from the primaries through the conventions.
Special Series. KPFA organized the nationally-distributed series “Letters to Washington”—just back this week—bringing to the air much-needed critical perspectives on the beginnings of the Obama administration.
Expanded News Operations. KPFA and KPFK (its sister station in Los Angeles) have integrated their news rooms into a statewide newsgathering operation—one soon joined by KFCF in Fresno, a direct outgrowth of an LSB meeting in Fresno organized by Concerned Listeners members.
Rejuvenated local programming. KPFA’s given its morning show a complete makeover, increasing its audience and fundraising.
Infrastructure. KPFA has undertaken the first serious upgrades in years to its physical and technical infrastructure. Thanks to drainage improvements made last summer, KPFA’s studios no longer flood during heavy rain. Structural retrofits have made the building more stable. Retrofit work on KPFA’s entrance has mechanized the doors for better wheelchair access. A new booster in Oakley has expanded the reach of KPFA’s signal. And an air-chain upgrade currently underway will improve the sound of KPFA’s signal.
Finances. Under Concerned Listeners leadership, KPFA has produced the most-detailed budgets in the Pacifica network, amassed the largest cash reserves in the network, and—even in the current economic crisis—kept more money in its bank accounts than any of the other Pacifica stations.
KPFA’s gotten there because its board majority has supported professional management, realistic budgeting, and accountability from Pacifica National. Specifically, the Concerned Listeners have:
Raised thousands of dollars to help KPFA expand its signal
Brought a much-needed breath of civility to KPFA’s often-rancorous board meetings
Brought an unprecedented level of transparency and detail to the budgeting process.
Taken strong stands in support of financial accountability at Pacifica, the nonprofit that owns KPFA
Completed the hire of a permanent general manager after years of interim management
We’re not out of the woods. KPFA is currently running a deficit, and facing some hard choices ahead. The rest of the Pacifica network is in still-worse circumstances, and giving indications they may raid KPFA’s accounts to pay some of their bills.
KPFA needs a board that can support it (rather than attack it) through hard times, and stand up for their station in national Pacifica politics. That’s why I’m endorsing the Concerned Listeners for KPFA. I know the candidates, and they will be good for KPFA. Check them out at concernedlisteners.org.
No doubt there are other worthy candidates in the mix—I don’t know everyone who’s running, and I won’t endorse someone I don’t know. I’ve seen too many people cloak personal vendettas and hidden agendas in reasonable-sounding candidate statements to do otherwise.
It is vitally important that you educate yourself about the election and vote. Your ballot is due October 14th—turn it in now so you don’t forget.
Brian Edwards-Tiekert is KPFA Environmental Justice Beat Reporter Free Speech Radio News collective member and Staff representative and treasurer, KPFA Local Station Board