Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Carol Spooner: KPFK Election - analysis and endorsements

Hi. I saved this compelling history and argument in a final appeal
for your votes.  The history alone is worth reading. 
Carol Spooner, on her own, filed the listeners' law suit that ousted
the corrupt takeover regime of the 1990's, then joined by the Calif.
Attorney General. I'm not sure, but it may have changed California
Law in giving status to listeners.  From Santa Rosa, Carol emerged
in that struggle to become the most articulate, forceful voice of our
reform movement.  After we regained the network, she led reform on
the national level for 3 years.  Along the way and as her kids left the
roost, she became a lawyer, then developed a new life, keeping
in touch, mostly silently, not wanting to speak on things she was not
involved in. Those who know her understand the level of network
jeopardy which compelled her now to return to the Pacifica struggle
and write this painfully accurate evaluation. 
If you're persuaded by this, please pass it on.  Voting ends October 15th
so mail your ballots by next Wednesday, or hand deliver to the station. 
Both the KPFK slate and endorsers follow the text. 
Thanks, Ed
Letter from Carol Spooner
Hello All --
The five Pacifica radio stations' Local Station Board elections are here again.  You should have received your ballot if you are a member (if you gave $25 or more to one of the stations in the 12 months that ended July 15, 2009).
I have some recommendations for voters at KPFA, WBAI & KPFK, but first I'll tell you why I'm recommending them.  If you're impatient, then skip down to the bottom to read my recommendations.  : >)
From 2004-2008 Pacifica was seriously mismanaged from the top. Several Executive Directors (Dan Coughlin, Greg Guma, Nicole Sawaya and interim EDs Dan Siegel and Sherry Gendleman) and the Chief Financial Officer (CF0) -- with the support or at the behest of the Pacifica National Board (PNB) -- had brought the entire network to the brink of bankruptcy by the end of 2008.  [including to the brink of mortgaging the KPFK building to pay some of this debt with no plan for repaying the mortgage]]  There were a number of reasons for this.  But the primary two were: (1) WBAI was losing $100k/year and no corrective action was taken, (2) lawsuits at KPFA & KPFK over sexual harassment were mishandled and cost several hundred thousand dollars to defend and settle. There were other reasons, too, including falling listenership and donations at all five stations, and failure to develop new programming to keep and attract listeners.  
You can see these financial trends in graphs presented to the National Board last July by the Chair of the National Board Finance Committee here:
You can see the falling listenership trends according to Arbitron in graphs presented to the PNB last July here:
why was Pacifica facing bankruptcy?
You may wonder why the PNB and top management allowed things to get so bad.  I do, too.  It's really incredible, but they did.  I believe there were two primary reasons -- (1) unprincipled Race politics/baitingWhenever any attempts were made to make changes, cries of "racism" went up.  Since most of Pacifica's station management and the CFO were Black or Latino, it was impossible to replace them without firing people of color.  (2) Entrenched staff interests.  There was fear that if the National Office took corrective action at one station, then it could take action at any station.  So, although it was not in KPFA's interests to have its reserves depleted to cover the debts at other stations, three of the four PNB members from KPFA consistently voted to prevent changes in management at other stations. Their position was "local autonomy" over all other considerations.  However, complete "local autonomy" isn't possible at Pacifica stations.  Pacifica is legally required to pay the bills wherever they are -- and if WBAI doesn't have its rent money, then Pacifica must pay it from the reserves of some other station.  And KPFA is the only station that has had significant reserves.  So, KPFA has been "raided" for years.  According to the last independent audit, as of 9/30/08 the National Office had accumulated $1.4 million in debt to KPFA, and WBAI had accumulated $991,706 in debt to the National Office -- money it will probably never be able to repay. 
It was not until January 2009 -- on the verge of bankruptcy -- that the PNB faced these problems and began, finally, to take corrective action.  While there has always been a significant minority on the PNB that wanted to take action, the balance of power did not change until a new PNB was seated in January 2009 with changes in the make-up of the KPFK and WPFW directors' contingents (although 3 of the 4 directors from KPFA remain opposed to corrective actions).  In January, Grace Aaron (from KPFK) was elected Chair of the PNB (replacing Sherry Gendelman from KPFA), and she was appointed to act as interim Executive Director.  (Nicole Sawaya resigned as ED last September and a new ED has not yet been found.)  The CFO was fired and replaced by interim CFO LaVarn Williams.  The management at WBAI and WPFW was replaced, and both of those stations have begun to turn around financially.  Last spring WBAI had its first successful fund drive since 2003  and they repeated it in the summer fund drive.  (Successful = made or exceeded their goal.)  The corporate attorney was also replaced.
The cries of "racism" are false.  For example, Dan Siegel -- former corporate counsel and interim Executive Director and now a KPFA listener-candidate on the "Concerned Listeners" slate -- states in his candidate statement:  "in my opinion the Foundation's leadership is engaged in a campaign of eliminating African Americans from positions of leadership in the Foundation. Since January, Pacifica has fired its Chief Financial Officer, the stations managers at WBAI and WPFW, and the program director at WBAI, all Black men."  What he fails to state is that the CFO and station managers at WBAI and WPFW, and the program director at WBAI, have all been replaced by Black men and women.  This kind of inflammatory race-baiting has been a major factor in the decline of Pacifica and needs to be resoundingly rejected by the voters. 

Because Grace Aaron was the first Exec. Director who had the guts to replace these managers who were involved in driving Pacifica into bankruptcy &/or were not doing the jobs that they were being paid to do, she has been the target of many of these cries of "racism." and she is even being accused of being the cause of many of Pacifica's financial woes, even though she led the successful fight to stop the mortgaging of KPFK's building and for financial transparency at KPFK and Pacifica.

However, the road back is long and arduous.  The network reserves have been depleted.  A $300k line of credit (secured by KPFA's endowment fund reserves) taken out in August 2008 had to be repaid in August 2009.  Over $100k in back rent for WBAI's studios and broadcast tower had to be paid (WBAI had received a 3-day notice from the landlord!), and there were many other obligations that had to be met due to postponed bills and poor budgeting from the year before. 
So, there is a LOT more at stake in this election than the interminable bickering over local programming priorities.  This bickering plagues just EVERY community radio station in the country.  (I know because I have read the Grassroots Radio Coalition email discussion group for years).  Programming issues are important and engaging but, while it is difficult, they can be addressed through local programming councils and committees. But those are small issues in importance when compared to the very survival of the Pacifica network.  Bankruptcy could rapidly occur if the balance of power on the PNB shifts back to the old irresponsible crew who are clamoring for the return of the fired management.  And a bankrupt Pacifica network cannot improve its programming.  Instead, it's broadcast licenses could be sold to the highest bidder by the bankruptcy trustee.
Since the PNB is elected by the five Local Station Boards -- each station elects 3 listener-reps and 1 staff rep to the PNB from among LSB members who have served at least 1 year on the LSB -- it is crucial that the LSB majorities be people who will elect responsible PNB members who will support the continued efforts to bring Pacifica back to financial health.  
Based on their histories, the following slates have consistently elected PNB members who have opposed responsible financial management:  KPFA - the "Concerned Listeners" slate; WBAI - the "Justice and Unity" coalition; KPFK - the "Take Back KPFK" coalition.  These groups have consistently cried "racism" and opposed necessary management changes at the National Office, WBAI and KPFK. 
This is a "single transferable vote" election -- so please rank ONLY candidates you want to see elected and do NOT rank any candidate you do not want to see elected.  All or a fraction of your vote will be transferred to the next in order of ranking on your ballot if your first preference is eliminated for lack of enough votes or is elected with more than the necessary votes to win.  (The necessary votes to win is the number of ballots cast divided by the number of open seats + 1, + 1 vote.) 
Note also:  There may be some candidates running who are known to be good progressive people, but who are running on slates that have destructive voting records.  That's unfortunate.  Sometimes people are recruited for slates who have little or no knowledge of Pacifica or the slates which they are running with.  But, since these slates historically have voted as blocks in the election of PNB members , even if a candidate is otherwise well-known to be progressive, still please do NOT vote for them.  It is very difficult to endorse this position, but we have seen many otherwise good people get on the board and vote in ways that are destructive to KPFK, seemingly only because they were part of this slate, many of whose members are extremely counterproductive and often disruptive.

KPFK --Recommended* (in alphabetical order): 
Ken Aaron,
Luis Cabrales,
Chris Condon,
Kim Kaufman,
Fred Klunder
Dr. Chipasha Luchembe,
Ahjamu Makalani,
Sequoia Olivier Mercier,
Dutch Merrick,
Margie Murray,
Edgar Toledo,
Richard Vega,
Bree Walker, 
John Wenger. 
*The candidates supported by The Committee to Strengthen KFPK come from many backgrounds and hold many different positions on issues.  Neither the endorsers nor the committee endorses every position of every candidate.  We do believe, however, that these candidates will make fine board members and effectively advance the mission of KPFK and Pacifica.

NOT Recommended:  Kahlid Al-Alim, Chuck Anderson, Refugio Caballes, Luis Garcia, Tej Grewall, Ian Johnston, Joe Lawrence Matthews, Ruby Medrano, John Parker, Rudy Perez, Lawrence Reyes,  Fernando Roldan, Sandi Stiassni.

Slate ENDORSERS include:

Blase & Theresa Bonpane*, Office of the Americas,
Don Bustany,
Tom Camerella,
Jordan Davis*, President , Coalition of California Black School Board
Lila Garrett,
Jan Goodman*, Paul Robeson Communiy. Center.,
Vernicia Green,
Ian Masters,
Terrence McNally,
Barbara Osborne,
Shawn Casey O'Brien,
Ed Pearl,
Ricco Ross,
Mansoor Sabbagh*, Global Voices for Justice,
Henry Slucki
Carol Spooner,
Roy (of Hollywood) Tuckman,
Cristina Vazquez, Reg. VP. Workers UniteD (formerly UNITE/ILGWU,
Donna Warren*, Families to End 3 Strikes,
Noel Wiggins , President, Black America Political Association of California,
Roy Ulrich,
Jon Weiner,
Suzi Weissman,
Marcy Winograd,
Prof. Lamont Yeakey*, Robeson Center.
Thanks for reading, and for helping to support alternative radio all these years!
Best wishes,
Carol Spooner
Pacifica National Board Member (Jan 2002-Jan 2005)
KPFA Local Board Member (April 2000-Jan 2005)
Founder, Committee to Remove the Pacifica Board, and lead plaintiff in the listeners' lawsuit (July 1999-Dec 2001)

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