Letter From The Gray Panthers


Gray Panthers of San Francisco      2940 16th Street, Room 200-4, San Francisco CA 94103   415-552-8800       graypanther-sf@sonic.net


KPFA Radio      1929 Martin Luther King Jr. Way    Berkeley, CA 94704

Dear Quincy McCoy,

As long time supporters of KPFA, members of the San Francisco Gray  Panthers are writing to tell you of our disappointment in recent management decisions at KPFA.

Because our members have supported KPFA monetarily over the years, we are only too well aware of the financial struggles the station is facing.

That said, we are also long-time supporters of Flashpoints, and deplore the $25,000 cut proposed in the new budget.  Flashpoints is a public affairs show with reporters on the ground conducting live interviews, for which it has won multiple awards.  How can KPFA cut  Flashpoints and propose in the same budget *adding* an additional wire service at a cost comparable to the Flashpoints cuts.  It is deeply problematic that KPFA proposes using money taken from quality on-the-ground live investigative reporting such as Flashpoints,  and using it for an additional news wire that will result in more news reporting read verbatim from the service.

In addition, given the financial status of KPFA, we are  concerned that the budget is also proposing an additional $40,000 for an automatic back-up answering service to collect pledges during KPFA and KPFK fund drives.  We have learned that the company is headed by a Tea party member. Each call to donate to KPFA or KPFK routes 90 cents a minute to this company or $3-5 per call.

This corporate call center is owned by Bruce Hough, an Oregon Republican who runs Impact Marketing, a Tea Party advertising and fundraising business. His partner is rabid Tea Party Congressman Sal Esquivel, who traveled to Arizona to stand with Michelle Malkin, the Minutemen and others in support of Arizona’s anti-immigrant  SB 1070.  Hough and Esquivel also funded vicious attack ads against local Democratic candidate and military veteran Jeff Scroggin. The ads were so disgusting that two out of three local Republican County Commissioners refused to endorse the Tea Party candidate associated with Hough’s Impact Marketing.   Hough and Esquivel were also labeled “Rogues of the Week” by the Willamette Weekly for an unethical scam to charge gullible voters to email Congress. Hough and Esquivel also  house conservative political action committees at Impact Marketing giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to local and national Tea Party candidates.  This flies in the face of what we have come to love and support about the Pacifica mission.

Lastly, Gray Panthers is concerned that the recent hiring process for the new Program Director was flawed.  We understand that rules of Pacifica hiring policies were violated as follows:

Section 1:  Specifying the number of Local Station Board members that must be on the search sub-committee.

Section 3: Specifying placement of advertisements for positions and distribution of applications for positions.

Section 5: Specifying notice of meetings and their open meeting previsions.

Section 8: Specifying voting procedures in the committee.

Section 10: Specifying disclosure of the selection process, once completed.

Section 12: Specifying the Local Station Board’s oversight of the committee’s process.

As long-time listeners and supporters of KPFA, we feel that precious resources should be spent on furthering KPFA’s mission of community radio, and that decisions over critical personnel matters should be made in accordance with Pacifica policies. Please respond to us addressing our concerns.

San Francisco  Gray Panthers Board

Patricia Jackson, Convener

cc via email: KPFA Local Station Board, Pacifica National Board



Bringing Peace to KPFA

Aki GraphicBy Akio Tanaka
[KPFA LSB Member 2006-2012]

Article as flyer:  Peace to KPFA

Underlying problems

Whenever there is a conflict, there is always an escalation in rhetoric, like when there was the divisive and inflammatory charge a few years ago that the Pacifica National Office engaged in union busting. We should avoid getting caught up in the rhetoric and address the real problems and concerns.

One underlying problem is financial. The trauma of the layoffs in 2010 was the consequence of the station increasing the payroll by 140% between 2000 and 2009. Even with the cuts made in 2010, income has not kept up with the expenses.

One area of friction is programming. It stands to reason that a trade union looking after the financial security of its members will prefer programming which appeals to a more affluent audience. But the mission of Pacifica is to be the commons of the airwaves, to represent a broader and more diverse community, to include marginalized and under-represented voices. Read More

[Lew Hill, the founder of Pacifica, was a conscientious objector. One such program was the Morning Mix, which was a show begun in 2010 and produced by members of local activist community; however, in 2014 it was inexplicably replaced by a show produced in LA.]

Another area of friction is the working relationship between paid and unpaid staff. Originally, both were represented by one “industrial” union. In 1996, it was replaced by a “craft” union which only represented the paid staff. This created a class system resulting in an uneasy working relationship between the paid and the unpaid staff.

Possible Solutions

So what to do with these conflicting needs and interests? How does a union look after the financial security of its members in a non-profit organization that relies on donations by listeners, does not make profits and must live within a balanced budget?

The management and the union should work out a staffing level that is sustainable over the economic ups and downs, and avoid the temptation to add more paid staff during the economic boom times as happened in 2001-2006. Achieving a sustainable paid staffing level is a challenge, but it would help address the main source of tension. It could curtail the seemingly endless appeal for funds. It could put a stop to the unseemly practice of measuring the value of a program by the amount of money it brings in – a sad and ironic state of affairs.

The primary task of the station should be to fulfill the mission of Pacifica. We should bring back the locally produced show, the Morning Mix, during the morning “drive time.”

It is important to note that KPFA has always relied on a large number of volunteers who produce the majority of programming. At KPFA there simply is not enough money to pay all those who contribute to the station. Progressive organizations like KPFA should have one all inclusive union for everyone who works at the station. While the notion of workers’ rights resonates to all within the progressive community, it must be remembered that it is about respecting and honoring ALL workers.

Instead of taking sides, we as listeners should encourage the paid and unpaid staff to work together and help each other to produce the best in progressive radio. It is time for the staff, paid and unpaid, and for the listeners to embrace the democratic victory that was won in the legal and street battles of 1999-2001. It is time to stop dividing the station.

13 Years of KPFA Finances

1. Listener Support:  There has been a claim that cancellation of the Morning Show in fall of 2010 resulted in sharp decline in Listener Support.
The audited financials show that steep decline in Listener Support occurred between 2006 and 2010, before the change. (Adjusted for inflation, since 2010, Listener Support is back to the 2000 level, irrespective of the morning programming line-up.)

2. Salary and Benefits: Some have charged that Pacifica usurped local control and engaged in
union busting.
The audited financials show that between 2002 and 2006, under local control, the station added way too many people (the payroll more than doubled), and between 2006 and 2010, under local control, the station did not address the steep decline in Listener Support. By the fall of 2010, the station was in danger of insolvency, which is the only reason that the Pacifica National Office stepped in, to bring expenses in line with income. (Adjusted for inflation, even with the cuts that were made in 2010, Salaries and Benefits are still above the 2000 level.)

3. Central Services: There has been a claim that there was massive overspending at the Pacifica National Office. Central Services pay for network administrative services like FCC licenses, audit, insurance, legal, Pacifica archives, and national programming like Democracy Now! (Adjusted for inflation, since 2010, Central Services has been below the 2000 level.)


Chevron, the Richmond City Council and the Morning Mix

Chevron’s freedom to pollute vs. Bay Area residents’ right to breath

by Daniel Borgström

Chevron ToxicoOn Tuesday, July 29th, I went to the Richmond City Council meeting where the council was to make a decision on a proposed expansion of the Chevron Refinery. The City Planning Commission approved the expansion, but with conditions that Chevron didn’t want to accept. So Chevron appealed it to the City Council.

It was held in the large Richmond Auditorium to accommodate an expected crowd of Bay Area residents (and paid-by-Chevron speakers), 15,000 of whom were sent to the hospital following the huge refinery explosion in 2012. Chevron mobilized several hundred employees to attend the meeting, wearing blue and white pullover shirts, and waving signs saying “A Modernized Refinery” and “Richmond Proud” — slogans from Chevron’s PR campaign. The blue & white shirts made their supporters very visible, and at first it appeared that they overwhelmingly outnumbered people of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA).

The RPA was indeed outnumbered, but not as badly as it had at first appeared. Judging from the amount of applause that speakers from each side received, I could tell that there were a sizable number of people there to support the RPA or who supported their position.

For the past two decades, the RPA has been standing up to Chevron, which has always dominated Richmond. At this hearing the RPA called for the City Council to affirm the Planning Commission’s conditions to impose environmental standards and limit pollution.

There were about 80 speakers. A friend and I stayed only for the first two hours. Most of the speakers during this time expressed concern about air quality and health problems; these included Asian community members who had been hospitalized as a result of inhaling toxic fumes during the refinery fire. Some of the refinery’s critics wore signs saying: “I’m not paid to be here.” — that was in reference to reports that Chevron supporters at the previous meeting had been paid to attend. A reporter from KPFA found a woman with a clipboard checking off names of Chevron’s acolytes. The clipboard lady of the previous week was also at this meeting. Another KPFA reporter got a photo of her.

The people sitting around us included people from both sides. Interestingly, several times I noticed some of the people in blue and white applauding speakers who pointed out the environmental hazards created by the refinery. That surprised me; I didn’t know what to make of it, or what it might imply.

Canadian activists block highway to Chevron refinery to protest Chevron’s participation in the Pacific Trail Pipeline and the destructive gas fracking it proposes using to supply the pipeline to the coast.

Canadian activists block highway to Chevron refinery to protest Chevron’s participation in the Pacific Trail Pipeline and the destructive gas fracking it proposes using to supply the pipeline to the coast.

We left at about 8:30 p.m., before the city council made its decision. Afterwards I heard the news, that the council acceded to Chevron’s demands. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles abstained over the failure to fund the hospital which had treated people during the 2012 Chevron fire.

Richmond has been a company town throughout its existence. First it was a Standard Oil town. When Standard Oil was broken up, it became a Chevron town. During the 1980s and 90s it spread less money around, probably because of corporate tax breaks making it less tax wise, and that made an opening for the RPA. When the RPA made gains and Chevron realized they’d lost control, Chevron began a campaign which included spreading money around as part of a “community benefits” agreement — one way that Chevron gets nonprofits on their side.

It left me wondering if Chevron might’ve also invested some of its PR budget money in KPFA, encouraging the clique who run the station to take Andrés Soto off prime time. Andrés had been a very effective show host of KPFA’s Morning Mix; and an RPA activist with Communities for a Better Environment. He often focused on news about the Richmond refinery and its environmental effects — the 2012 refinery explosion and resulting pollution which sent 15,000 people to hospitals, as well as the hazards of the dirty crude which was being brought into the town in railroad tank-cars. He was also tuned into Chevron’s affect on Richmond politics and talked about who is in Chevron’s pocket. Andrés Soto’s show is hardly something that Chevron would care to have broadcast across Richmond as they try to reclaim it as the company town it was before the rise of the RPA

Ann Garrison and Steve Gilmartin contributed to this article.

To read more from Daniel Borgstrom:

Andrés Soto’s program, now titled “Afternoon” can be heard from 3:30-4 pm on Thursdays at KPFA, 94.1 fm, or streaming at kpfa.org.  His program was cut in half and given a more obscure time slot when the Morning Mix was taken off the air..



Is KPFA Community Radio Going Extinct? by Eric James Anderson

Originally printed in Oakland Local http://oaklandlocal.com/2014/06/kpfa-community-radio/

Reprinted in SF Gate


Is KPFA Community Radio Going Extinct?

With its recent street protests, office occupations, and renegade broadcasts, Berkeley’s community radio station KPFA (94.1FM) typifies what people mean when they use the word “Berserkeley.” However, these confrontations are not merely some beatnik brouhaha, but in fact represent an existential threat to the future of community radio, and implicate one of Oakland’s current Mayoral candidates, Dan Siegel.

The most recent dispute is over the abrupt replacement of the locally-produced 8 a.m. show The Morning Mix with a radio program from LA called The Uprisingostensibly because the new show will generate more revenue during pledge drives. In response to being rescheduled and shortened, the hosts of The Morning Mix held protest rallies outside the KPFA building and took over the studio on May 26 to air their concerns.

According to Andrés Soto, one of the hosts of The Morning Mix‘s five rotating shows“I was really displeased that the morning mix has become a political football between rival factions…the morning mix, as an expression of authentic community voices, is what deserves to be heard.”

But, according to Richard Pirodsky, the Interim General Manager of the station, “The problem was that even though it had been on the air for three years, only one of the five Morning Mix shows was generating enough listenership and audience to even come close to justifying being in that golden hour.”

Supporters of The Morning Mix are organizing to attend the Community Advisory Board meeting in Oakland this Saturday, as well as hosting a “Save The Morning Mix” barbecue in Berkeley this Sunday, in hopes of pressuring the station to restore the show. While this disagreement and protest may not yet sound worthy of the “existential crisis” label, the story gets much deeper.

The radio station, founded by conscientious objector Lewis Hill in 1949, was the first of what would become the Pacifica Radio network: five stations across the country that are independently operated without any corporate sponsorship. While the accomplishments of this network are many, the predominantly listener-funded, locally-produced shows have struggled to contend with NPR’s corporately-underwritten programs, and with their own ideals of democratic, community-oriented radio.

In 2001, after 3 years of protests and lawsuits following an email leak, the Pacifica board signed a settlement that democratized the governance of the stations, allowing listeners to elect the members of their Local Station Board. Each LSB is comprised of 18 elected listeners and 6 elected staff members. These 24 “delegates” are tasked with forming the annual station budget, filling station management positions, and ensuring the mission of community radio. From these delegates, 4 “directors” are elected yearly to represent their station in the Pacifica National Board, which sets network policy from offices next door to KPFA.

While this settlement was intended to create a truly representative and listener-directed model of community radio, the reality has been more challenging. Chronicbudgetary problems (and their disputed “causes”), opposing visions for the future of the station, and abrasive implementation of management and board decisions (as in abruptly firing the former Executive Director Summer Reese, or canceling The Morning Mix), has led to regular confrontations among the various staff cliques, who at this point openly refer to themselves as “factions.”

At KPFA, the central rift is between the Support KPFA — United For Community Radio (UFCR) faction and the Save KPFA faction. UFCR is the more radical, community-oriented group, while Save KPFA is aligned with the views of management and directors, and, importantly, Dan Siegel, who has a long history with the network and, according to savekpfa.org, was a “representative on the Pacifica National Board until he stepped down in January to run for Mayor of Oakland.”

Many of those sympathetic to the UFCR faction accuse Dan Siegel and Save KPFA of bullying, ignoring legal conflicts of interest, and trying to take over the network in order to sell off the East Coast stations. On the other hand, Save KPFA has accused UFCR of union-bustingsabotage, and trying to take over the network in order to, well, just to take it over.

This is where the existential threat comes in. UFCR is afraid that the station is going to lose sight of its community-radio mission to represent diverse and underserved points of view, and that the historic Pacifica network will be dismantled in the process. On the other hand, Save KPFA is afraid that the governance of the station and the network are excessively democratic, to a point where compromise on the revenue vs. community issue is unattainable and that UFCR will lead Pacifica into bankruptcy.

As Richard Pirodsky, the IGM who made the decision to replaceThe Morning Mix, put it, “they have in some ways been so mission-driven in terms of trying to bring diverse programming that you can’t find elsewhere on the dial, almost to the exclusion of worrying about whether we can afford to continue to do it.”

And this is where the “Berserkeley” side of this situation comes in. Save KPFA currently has enough of a majority with the Pacifica national board to preempt democracy by firing who it wants to fire and cancelling the shows it wants to cancel, leaving UFCR no other options besides protest, occupation and litigation.

There seems little chance of this situation being peaceably resolved, and realistically, this feud poses the greatest threat to the future community radio, but at least we can savor the irony of Save KPFA’s decision to replace The Morning Mix with The Uprising.

Think Globally, Report Locally

Green Party-collageFrom the San Francisco Green Party to KPFA General Manager Quincy McCoy, KPFA Staff, and the KPFA Local Station Board:

The San Francisco Green Party joins the San Francisco Labor Council, the Gray Panthers, ILWU Local 10, East Bay Veterans for Peace, Sonoma County Veterans for Peace, ILWU Local 10, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, and the Golden Gate Letter Carriers in calling for restoration of the KPFA Morning Mix to its 8 am weekday hour. “Think globally, act locally” is as relevant today as it was in 1915, when Scots biologist, sociologist, and town planner Patrick Geddes wrote Cities in Evolution.  “We need locally produced, locally relevant programming to help us make specific connections between our daily lives and politics and those of the international community and the planet.”

We find it difficult to understand why you replaced The Morning Mix with syndicated programming produced in Los Angeles, because locally produced programming about politics, art, culture, and the environment in a station’s fm signal area is the heart of community radio. We need to understand the realpolitik immediately around us, in the San Francisco Bay Area, not just in Iraq, the Ukraine, Nigeria, Los Angeles, or the distant chambers of Washington D.C. or the United Nations.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the movement towards community-based and/or regional renewable power infrastructure has reached a critical stage. We need to understand every step forward or backwards as this story unfolds on the ground, in our City Council and County Board of Supervisors offices, in public agencies and at public gatherings. San Franciscans need to know what is happening in the City of Richmond, in Marin, Sonoma, and Napa Counties, and in East Bay and South Bay counties where citizens are attempting create renewable energy infrastructure.

Despite a California State mandate to produce at least 20% renewable power by 2010, PG&E is still producing only 19%, four years later, and doing whatever it can to stop Bay Area communities from creating clean energy buyers’ co-ops, or banding together as one and eliminating its dirty energy monopoly. PG&E strategists may have been most successful at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, where they have used the San Francisco Mayor’s office – which they traditionally control – to block the implementation of our renewable power plan Clean EnergySF for two years, even after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimous vote for it.

PG&E has also been able to activate its union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 1245, to oppose CleanPowerSF; this calls for the attention of a local labor reporter like Morning Mix host Steve Seltzer.

Uprising host Sonali Kolhatkar lives within Southern California Edison’s monopoly and cannot possibly cover this as our local hosts can. We need diverse voices of hosts and reporters in touch with those on the ground, not the lone voice of Brian Edwards-Tiekert and/or his pinch hitter, Marie Choi, much as we appreciate the addition of Marie’s voice to the morning hours.

This is not a “narrowly focused, local issue,” as KPFA Interim General Manager Richard Pirodsky suggested the Morning Mix hosts had typically covered. in his parting lecture to the KPFA Local Station Board. We’re thinking globally and acting locally, for the survival of the planet and a sustainable peace rather than never-ending dirty energy wars. The same can be said of efforts to create municipal and regional mass transportation networks,local agriculture, just criminal justice, and other central elements of sustainable culture.

Local Police Issues

Every municipality in the Bay Area struggles with criminal justice issues including racial profiling, police brutality, police accountability, whether or not to arm police officers with tasers, whether to allow stop’n frisk, whether to allow Police Departments to report juveniles to immigration authorities, and police shootings of minority youth like Oscar Grant, Alan Blueford, Alex Nieto, and Andy Lopez. These police issues are all part of a national discussion, but local decisions determining how they play out here are made at multiple local levels every day. .

What does an LA or New York broadcast host know about the San Francisco Re-entry Council, which created a model for re-integrating ex-offenders that is now studied nationally? What do they know about former San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessey, current Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, and Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s groundbreaking work in rehabilitation and re-entry?

How much can they know about Oakland’s infamous police corruption or the Oakland Domain Surveillance Center proposed barely a year after Occupy Oakland grabbed the national and international stage?

How much can they know about the Richmond Progressive Alliance and Contra Costa County’s struggles with the Chevron refinery, crude-by-rail shipments, and expanding oil infrastructure?

Citizens are working to stop potentially explosive crude-by-rail shipments from the Bakken Shale all over the U.S. and Canada, but shouldn’t we be specifically informed about the crude-by-rail shipments threatening our own communities here? If not for KPFA Morning Mix host Andrés Soto and the Richmond Progressive Alliance, many residents of the Bay Area might not even realize that crude-by-rail shipments now threaten their own communities, not just Contra Costa County’s.

This may not be of concern to KPFA’s wealthier subscribers who never have and never will have to live next to an oil refinery, a crude-by-rail transit line, an oil storage tank, or any of the radioactive and otherwise toxic sites that the U.S. Navy abandoned all around San Francisco Bay. They may never have to face any number of other injustices in their daily lives, but if KPFA is to foster real community within the fm signal area it claims to serve, in accordance with its mission, it must consider these injustices to some as injustices to all. It must not exclude them from the station’s early morning hours.

Coverage of Local Green Issues

The KPFA Morning Mix and Hard Knock Radio were the only KPFA hours that reported any of the following issues that San Francisco Greens have worked on in any depth:

*Twitter tax break
*Proposed 16th Street and Mission luxury condo development
*Waterfront highrise condo development
*Toxic artificial turf soccer fields
*Saving San Francisco City College
*Advocacy for Chelsea Manning as Grand Marshal for LGBT PRIDE 2013
*The cost of high tech company shuttles and their effects on transit and gentrification
*Ellis Act reform
*Legality of AirBNB, Lyft and similar services
*Clean Power
*Homeless policy

Every city and county in the Bay Area is dealing with similar issues and we want to hear their news as well. We love Davey D and Anita Johnson’s Hard Knock Radio as well, and would particularly like to thank Anita Johnson for bringing Andrés Soto in as a host, but Hard Knock also has a unique commitment to covering Hip Hop culture and the City of Oakland for a national audience. They can’t do it all.

This statement approved by the San Francisco Green Party at its monthly meeting on June 25, 2014.


KPFA News Reporter Ann Garrison: “iGM Richard Pirodsky’s parting lecture addressed to the entire LSB, UCR and Save KPFA”

There have been claims in various online forums, that departing iGM Richard Pirodsky’s farewell lecture to the KPFA Local Station Board was directed only at United for Community Radio (UCR), not at our station board’s other faction, Save KPFA.

It did seem that way to many members of UCR, because Richard was obviously arguing that we should all roll over and accept the LA program that displaced coverage of politics, art, culture, and the environment in our own fm signal area.  However that is not how Richard explained it to me in the e-mail that I’m attaching a screenshot of.  He said that all but three LSB members, whom he did not identify, had been seething with him after the lecture.

This e-mail should also expose the lie that Save KPFA’s LSB members and supporters have not attempted to tell KPFA’s manager how to run the station; he says here that the entire LSB has been telling him how to run the station ever since he arrived.  Former LSB member Sasha Futran even appeared at the initial KPFA staff meeting with Richard to tell him that he was doing more harm than good and should resign.

 Here’s what Richard said, for anyone who can’t open the screenshot:

As for the rest of your email, clearly you and I were at different meetings on Saturday.  I told the truth and ticked off everyone, not just UCR.  With about three possible exceptions by my count (and those three may be so pleased that I am almost gone they feel they can be magnanimous), the entire LSB was seething that after telling this iGM for over a year how he should manage the station, he would (while physically exhausted, mentally drained, and emotionally spent) have the temerity to tell them how they should govern.