Public Comment

Commentary: Some Observations and Thoughts from the KPFA Election Campaign Trail

By Richard Phelps
Thursday October 01, 2009 - 09:39:00 AM

There are 29 candidates for 9 seats. We have had several events to meet the candidates all around the Bay Area. There has been much more promotion of the election on the air this year based on a Pacifica National Board (PNB) resolution. Concerned Listeners (CL) elected to the PNB voted against this inclusiveness resolution. CL allies in management recently took the candidates’ recorded statements off the air. 


The CL currently has a slim majority on the LSB. The CL slate has consciously avoided the  many “Meet the Candidate” events with usually only one of their 10 candidates showing up and sometimes none. This despite their mailer saying: 


“Inclusiveness: KPFA as a forum for progressive dialogue and debate…” 


CL candidates don’t seem to want to have any in person dialogue or interchange with the listener/voters. This also shows disrespect for the efforts of the LES and the Election Committee, who have put together events in SF, North Bay, Marin, the Peninsula, South Bay, East Bay and Vallejo. It doesn’t speak well for the kind of governance they will be likely to practice. This does coincide with their reducing the LSB meetings from once a month to every other month. Reducing contact and accountability to the people that elected them.  


The Alameda County Central Labor Council has entered the election contest with a major dirty trick. They endorsed CL without inviting any other candidates to address them. But that is not the worst of what they have done. They sent out an e-mail blast on September 9, 2009 that stated in part: 


“…other elements of KPFA's board have attacked the station's unionized staff, and called for replacing them with volunteers.” 


This is a McCarthyism scare tactic. There is no truth to it what so ever. It is shameful that a labor organization with a long history of supporting working people would stoop to use the “bosses” methods and to attempt to deflect political criticisms by calling them “attacks.” No candidate is advocating replacing the entire paid staff with volunteers. Given the CL Management Group’s $300,000 deficit there may need to be some staff reductions. This same management group increased the paid staff by approximately 50% in the last few years despite advice that the fund drive money could not sustain these increases. 


Perhaps the fact that CL member and LSB Secretary, Susan Mc Donough, works at the Alameda County Central Labor Council in a management position explains the back door endorsement and the defamatory attack on others. candidates have an 80+ % attendance record at election events. I have only missed two, while out of the country on a trip planned in 2008,  long before I decided to run. If I had been here we would be at 90+ %. We have appeared on all the on air events. We have also gone to all major KPFA sponsored events to talk with the voters and hand out campaign information and Berkeley Daily Planet Articles about KPFA/Pacifica. 


Unfortunately several others have not attended many events. The Independents For Community Radio (ICR) candidates have had only two consistent participants, Henry Norr and Aki Tanaka. 


Newcomers to KPFA, Evelyn Sanchez, Shara Esbenshade, Lara Kiswani, and Banafsheh Akhlagi have been essentially no shows at these community events that I have attended. Banafsheh came to the SF event and left half way into the program. Their other candidates have a mixed record of partial attendance. Some of these folks have missed on air events. 


Finding out what the listeners want and think is very important if you are going to be a real representative. I think this would be very important to the ICR no shows and part timers since most have no prior experience with KPFA governance. 


The real campaign mysteries with ICR are why is Annie Hallett on their slate and why did they rank Henry Norr sixth (6th ) out of their top seven (7) ranked candidates on their mailer? Many listeners have raised these questions to me. Annie Hallett voted with the CL/KPFAForward folks 85-90% of the time when on the LSB. Including voting with them against a Program Council and against moving Democracy Now! to prime time. Hallett’s statements at the election events are often closer to CL positions than ICR positions. 


Steve Zeltzer of Voices for Justice Radio has made less than half of the events. His slate mate, another newcomer to KPFA, has consistently attended, as has Judith Gips and Jim Weber.  These four have consistently appeared for the on air events. Judith is a real independent candidate. 


Jim Weber is a shill for CL despite the fact CL won't put him on their slate. Weber’s only endorsements are four hard-core CL folks.  Weber’s repeated theme is that everybody is demonizing CL and their management allies. It is a weak attempt to allow CL and their allies in management to deflect criticism and avoid accountability. 


Campaign financing has become a real issue. In this election we have had two large slates send out expensive slate mailers. Under current Supreme Court rulings money = speech. I disagree with this pro-corporate ruling. Unfortunately the current law prohibits us from curbing spending. However, we can and should demand transparency. The same as we have in regular election campaigns. We all have a right to know whom the thousands of dollars for these expensive mailers are coming from! 


Please consider this a formal request to CL and ICR to disclose in detail where the money came from to pay for their expensive slate mailers and how much they spent. 


Please study the issues and vote if you are a KPFA subscriber. Rights are like muscles; if you don’t exercise them you lose them.  


Ballots are to be mailed in and must be received by October 15, 2009. If you are a subscriber and have not received your ballot, e-mail the Local Election Supervisor (LES) at or call (510) 848-6767 ext.626. 


Richard Phelps, former Chair KPFA LSB, current  candidate along with Stan Woods, Gerald Sanders and Jim Curtis.