While Pacifica’s old guard is desperately clinging to its power at the national level, KPFA’s local board is moving forward.
The first new Local Station Board (LSB) in more than two years took office at its January 12 meeting. In December, SaveKPFA‘s candidates won a landslide in elections – a majority that was reflected in the local election of board officers and delegates to the Pacifica National Board (PNB).
Burton White was elected chair of the local board, and Carole Travis, vice-chair. Craig Alderson was elected secretary. Barbara Whipperman continued as the appointed treasurer. Margy Wilkinson, Dan Siegel, and Brian Edwards-Tiekert were elected as delegates to the Pacifica National Board. All 7 are SaveKPFA activists.
Last month’s election was the first held since Pacifica’s former executive director Arlene Engelhardt overrode KPFA’s local management, purged the station’s popular Morning Show, replaced it with an all-volunteer lineup, and then put notorious union-busting law firm Jackson Lewis on retainer to deal with the backlash. In 2012, the PNB decided to let Engelhardt’s employment contract expire. The board is currently considering how to move forward to find a new executive director.
An Alameda County judge has granted Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg‘s request to block any counting of the thousands of ballots in the recall election against her cast by KPFA members this summer.
The election was triggered after more than 800 KPFA listeners who signed petitions seeking Rosenberg’s removal from the Pacifica National Board over her role in killing the Morning Show, misappropriating members’ email addresses, and other abuses. At the time, the Morning Show was the most listened-to program produced at KPFA, and the station’s biggest fundraiser.
Rosenberg delays vote, then sues over delay
Shortly before the ballot count was to take place, Rosenberg filed suit against Pacifica, whose national office she effectively ran by proxy during the tenure of the soon-to-depart executive director Arlene Engelhardt. Rosenberg’s suit said there was an illegal delay between the cutoff date for voting eligibility and the date ballots actually hit the mail.
Pacifica’s filings did not dispute the fact that its conduct of the recall election against her had broken the law — instead, it argued that Rosenberg used her position on the Pacifica National Board to contribute to the delay of sending out recall ballots, and that she knew about the deadlines being used for the election, but waited until the last possible moment to file suit over them.
Pacifica offered to correct its violation by sending out additional ballots to people who would have been eligible to vote if not for the early cutoff — but Rosenberg’s attorney rejected that proposal. That’s not the conduct of someone who wants to fix an election — it’s the conduct of someone who fears she’s lost the vote, and wants to keep it from being counted.
The judge’s decision does not bar Pacifica from sending out new recall ballots, as long as it uses a new eligibility date. Rosenberg’s own court filings suggested Pacifica could save money by mailing out new ballots in the same package as the general election mailing set to go out in early November. Now that the path is actually cleared to do so, look for Rosenberg to reverse course and try to block or delay the recall, again.
Meanwhile, Rosenberg is currently using her position as Pacifica’s treasurer to try to impose harsh austerity on KPFA. She scuttled a no-cuts budget drafted by KPFA’s local management, and approved by KPFA’s elected Local Station Board (this was after she and her allies walked out of the local board meeting scheduled to discuss the budget.) Despite the fact that KPFA’s currently running a surplus, Rosenberg led the charge to impose line-by-line cuts, including staff cuts, on KPFA. Her legal challenges may have bought her enough time to see that process through to whatever end she has in mind. Rosenberg and her allies have renamed their “Independents for Community Radio” slate as “United for Community Radio” for the 2012 KPFA elections.
The big picture: democracy when?
Rosenberg’s success at delaying her own recall election calls into question the very foundations of Pacifica’s democratic reforms. The recall provisions currently in Pacifica’s bylaws were created as a check on unaccountable boards run amok — like the board that, in 1999, locked out KPFA’s staff and boarded up its studios.
Many KPFA listeners felt similarly betrayed when Rosenberg attacked KPFA’s union, orchestrated the purge of its biggest fundraiser, and hand-picked her own political allies to fill the Morning Show‘s timeslot. But even after KPFA’s listeners gathered more than double the number of signatures needed to trigger a recall, Rosenberg, and Pacifica, have delayed the election for close to a year. Stay tuned for the next step, which we hope to announce soon.
Changing the dynamic at Pacifica Radio is up for a vote in this fall’s election for Local Station Board members at KPFA and the other four Pacifica stations. In order to participate in these upcoming elections, you need to be a member of your local Pacifica station as of Thursday, September 13. The minimum membership contribution is $25 between Sept 13, 2011 and Sept 13, 2012.
At KPFA, if you haven’t made a donation between those dates, you can do so by paying online with a credit or debit card at https://secure.kpfa.org/support. A pledge by itself is insufficient; you must actually have paid your pledge by close of business September 13 to be eligible to vote. So please don’t delay!
If you aren’t in the Bay Area, you can support Pacifica stations that you listen to in other areas. If you are a New York City listener, become a member of Pacifica’s WBAI. In Los Angeles, it’s Pacifica’s KPFK. In Washington, DC, jazz and public affairs fans alike pledge to Pacifica’s WPFW. And in Houston, Pacifica’s outlet is KPFT.