Public Comment

Disheartening Commentary by Mar

By Richard Phelps
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:50:00 AM

I found Warren Mar’s recent Commentary about KPFA and Pacifica disheartening. I had hoped that the recent staff and listener voters’ rejection of the Concerned Listeners (CL) dishonest and anti-democratic practices (de-tailed at'09_2 issues.htm), would have given CL pause to revaluate their methods of political struggle. Unfortunately, it appears to have caused them to dig their hole even deeper. Warren’s article is replete with accusations of ultra-left behavior by CL’s opponents without one concrete example or any facts. Defamatory hyperbole, without any facts, will not win over people or build a positive political culture and is not in the spirit of Pacifica. Then there are his factual distortions and deceptions, which I will expose one by one. 

  KPFA is not an affiliate of the Pacifica Foundation. The Pacifica Foundation holds KPFA’s license. All five Pacifica stations, WBAI, WPFW, KPFT, and KPFK are part of the nonprofit Pacifica Foundation, incorporated in California with National Headquarters in Berkeley next door to KPFA. Pacifica has numerous affiliated stations and their licenses are not help by Pacifica. The affiliates get programming for Pacifica stations and are not governed by the Pacifica Bylaws. The Pacifica Foundation is run by the Pacifica National Board (PNB) under authority granted by the bylaws. The PNB is made up of four directors from each station and two directors elected by the affiliate stations. The PNB hires an executive director (ED) and a chief financial officer (CFO) to run the foundation’s day-to-day activities. The ED in consultation with the Local Station Boards (LSB) hire the station managers. Warren Mar has to know this reality and I can’t understand why he is distorting the actual legal relationships that exist? Warren, what is your motive for this deception? If he doesn’t know by now, perhaps he should resign from the KPFA LSB or at least read the bylaws so he can speak from knowledge if he is trying to be truthful. 

  Mr. Mar’s concerns about problems at WBAI and with the current PNB are disingenuous at best. Up until 2009 the CL and its Justice and Unity (JUC) allies from WBAI and allies from WPFW controlled the PNB and did nothing to stop the tidal wave of red ink at WBAI from the previous several years. When they lost control of the PNB in 2009, WBAI was $1,000,000 behind in its contribution to the Foundation that each station pays for central services. (See my article on this that was in the Planet in May 14, 2009 at 2009-05-14/article/32873?headline=The-Pacifica-Financial-Crisis-Who-is-Responsible-.) 

Mr. Mar takes a really cheap shot at the National Election Supervisor (NES) and tries to make us think there were multiple incidents. The one that occurred involved Henry Norr. Henry made an online contribution in June 2009 that would make monthly payments on his credit card, which he thought would make him eligible for the election. The deadline was July 15, 2009. To be sure he later called the subscriptions department before the deadline and was told he was a member in good standing. Unfortunately, they were wrong since the monthly contributions would not have reached the minimum required by July 15, 2009. When this came up Henry stated credibly that if he had been told he was not qualified when he asked before the deadline, he would have immediately paid more. The NES called the subscriptions department and confirmed that Henry did call and check and thus gave Henry 48 hours to make the necessary payment, which he did. The NES sought legal advice and was advised that his ruling was proper under the long established doctrine of estoppel. Why Mr. Mar chooses to distort this reality is another question for him to answer. The NES held a public meeting at the station attended by several of Mar’s CL allies where this was all discussed and explained. 

In response to Mr. Mar’s generalized attack on LSB meetings, I want to point out that the CL has had absolute control of those meetings for the previous three years. They used their slim majority to elect all the officers and refused the minority viewpoints much space for discussion, if any, on some issues like the Nadra Foster arrest at the station.  

Mr. Mar then attacks an unnamed person for being in a “labor collective” without being an active union member. The person he is attacking is a retired union member with 20+ years as a union member and union activist. Does Warren Mar have something against retired union members or is he just talking outside the truth again? He then attempts to equate the labor movement with the labor bureaucracy and attacks the volunteers at KPFA, without whose labor it could not run. His comments about “professional meeting goers” sounds like something right out of Joe McCarthy or Rush Limbaugh. 

Warren Mar then talks about standards for people who claim to speak for the left and progressive movements. My most fundamental standard is “speak the truth” and give facts instead of hyperbole. I guess Mr. Mar and I disagree on that one. As important as winning a political struggle is how you struggle with other progressives/leftists. We must work consciously to build an honest and transparent political culture if we hope to get more people involved and make positive changes that are real and lasting, otherwise we become like the corrupt political parties that run our country, where winning is all that matters, not peace, justice or our environment. 

I challenge Mr. Mar to a public debate on these issues. Let’s see if he will make these accusations directly in front of the KPFA voters and general public when someone who knows the facts can expose him on the spot. We could charge a modest admission price and donate the proceeds to the Berkeley Daily Planet to keep it going during theses hard times. 


Richard Phelps is the former Chair KPFA LSB.