KPFA, the PNB and “Local Control”

by Ann Garrison

 I can’t always respond to developments within the Pacifica Radio Network at the time they occur, so this is a look back at one of this year’s most noteworthy Pacifica National Board (PNB) votes. On 02/12/2015, the PNB voted to give the Pacifica Foundation CFO authority over the business managers at all five Pacifica stations.

This has remained on my mind because of its glaring inconsistency with the longstanding “local control” platform of the SaveKPFA majority on the KPFA Local Station Board (LSB) and their PNB delegates. I have never seen a SaveKPFA explanation of how this could be compatible with the “local control” they hailed five months earlier with “Finally, local control at KPFA,” a 07/12/2014 post to the SaveKPFA blog. This vote put newly re-hired CFO Raul Salvador in a position to hire and fire and give orders to the business managers at all five stations from coast to coast.

Janet Kobren, who ran for the LSB with the United for Community Radio caucus, introduced the motion. The SaveKPFA caucus then joined her in voting for it after Brian Edwards-Tiekert, a SaveKPFA staff representative, introduced this substitute wording:

The hire and/or termination of any Business Manager shall require approval by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

The CFO shall also directly supervise all accounting functions performed by Business Managers and shall participate in all evaluations of Business Managers.

The CFO may seek PNB approval for the termination of a Business Manager whose unit manager is unwilling to terminate him/her at the CFO’s recommendation.

How could this be “local control”?

Local control, the 2013 audit, and a million dollars in lost CPB funding

During Summer Reese’s tenure as IGM and GM, the accounting staff at the PNO charged that the 2013 audit could not be completed in 2014 unless KPFA’s Business Manager Maria Negret agreed to open KPFA’s books for the PNO’s lead accountant Maria Gaite. This audit had to be completed in order for Pacifica to receive the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)  funds that it ultimately did not receive in 2014.

At one point I became so exasperated by the back and forth about this that I wrote to ask former KPFA General Manager Richard Pirodsky what the real problem was, and this was his e-mailed response:

“That the reconciliations should have been done long ago is the start of the problem. But it has been overcome at other stations. (Maria G. and Joyce had to do all of KPFK’s work, and work at KPFT, WPFW, and WBAI had to be re-done. All this delayed the entire process.) The holdup at KPFA came from the Marias (G. & N.), [Maria Gaite at the Pacifica National Office and Maria Negret at KPFA], not being able to work together. Maria G. wanted copies of all necessary documents. Maria N. wanted Maria G. to come over to the KPFA business office and work with her. She offered access to the original documents and Maria G. (or a chosen PNO staffer) was free to make copies of any documents that needed to be taken back to the PNO. But Maria N. and Maria G. just don’t get along and don’t seem to agree on much. As with so many aspects of Pacifica, personality conflicts preclude even the discussion of compromise or cooperation.”

I have two responses to that message:

1)  Richard Pirodsky was KPFA’s General Manager at the time. This PNB resolution centralizing control of Pacifica’s finances in the national office had not yet been passed, so he was at that time Maria Negret’s direct supervisor. He was the local manager in local control, as the SaveKPFA caucus seemed to advocate, and a million dollars is a lot to lose over a “personality conflict between the two Marias.” Didn’t he feel compelled to tell KPFA’s Maria Negret that he expected her to cooperate with the national office to get the audit done, as all four other stations’ business managers had?

Apparently not, and now, despite the loss of a million dollars in CPB funding in the name of local control, KPFA’s local manager has even less local control than before.

2)  What could have been the risk in releasing KPFA’s books to the Pacifica National Office for the audit, as every other station in the network had?  And why, after the current Board majority ousted Executive Director Summer Reese and rehired CFO Raul Salvador, was the PNB majority, and more particularly the SaveKPFA caucus, so eager to throw “local control” out the window?  The only logical conclusion I can come to is that “local control” was a useful mantra only until the SaveKPFA caucus and its allies were able to put Raul Salvador back in charge of Pacifica’s finances at the national office.

If they can explain this otherwise, I’ll do my best to listen with an open mind.

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist, a contributor to the KPFA Evening News and a member of KPFA’s elected UPSO Council.

Love Letters from Sasha Futran

By Ann Garrison

Sasha Futran was the first speaker.

Former KPFA Local Station Board member Sasha Futran was the only Save KPFA supporter who attended the Saturday, June 14, 2014 Local Station Board meeting to speak during the public comment period. Futran began by saying that she had written letters to the San Francisco Labor Council and the Gray Panthers, the first two organizations within KPFA’s fm signal area to pass resolutions calling for the return of the locally produced, locally relevant Morning Mix to its 8 am time slot.  Those organizations now include ILWU Local 10, East Bay Veterans for Peace, Sonoma County Veterans for Peace, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, and the Golden Gate Letter Carriers.

Futran said she would go over the main points of the letters that she had written, rather than read them in their entirety,  then proceeded to denigrate the Morning Mix and all those of us who had come to speak for its return to the 8 am hour.  She is the first speaker in the audio archive of public comment above.

Sasha Futrun

Sasha Futran

She also said:

“I suggest, and I didn’t put this in the letter, but I would suggest that those people who would like to be hosts go through the apprenticeship program and learn how to do radio, and not start out in drive time, the most precious time of the day.”

Who was she talking about?  Tuesday Morning Mix host Dave “Davey D” Cook, who has more broadcast experience and more of a national profile than anyone on KPFA airwaves? Anthony Fest, who has been a KPFA Evening News Anchor for 20 years? Sabrina Jacobs, who graduated from San Francisco State’s broadcast journalism program and has produced news and public affairs at KPFA for at least five years? Steve Zeltzer, who hosted the Labor Show many years before the Morning Mix, and now maintains his own website and Youtube Channel, the Labor Video Project?  Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff, the hosts of Project Censored, which has more national and international recognition than KPFA itself?

Or was she talking about Andrés Soto, who became one of KPFA’s most popular hosts almost as soon as Hard Knock Radio’s Anita Johnson brought him in? Andrés opened KPFA’s early morning air waves to voices of Contra Costa County residents struggling with Chevron’s refineries, potentially explosive crude-by-rail shipments from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale, and expanding oil storage infrastructure.

As for Futran’s letters to organizations who have passed resolutions in support of The Morning Mix at 8 am, I can only hope that they’re as thoroughly dissuasive as the bitter, acrimonious letter she wrote to chastise the San Francisco Green Party for endorsing her only as an alternate in the 2009 KPFA Local Station Board (LSB) election.There were at least two women present, Erika McDonald and myself, when LSB candidates came to our meeting to speak and ask for endorsements that year, but Futran claimed that only one woman had been present and that we had made sexist and “incredibly uneducated” choices. She also denounced most of the candidates we did endorse, even though she herself had chosen to run on the same slate with them, at least in 2009.

In the following year, 2010, Futran switched slates for the second time, joining Save KPFA, and she now appears to be one of its most active members. She spends a great deal of time at the station and even appears at staff meetings though she is not staff. When KPFA’s recent Interim General Manager Richard Pirodsky was introduced at a staff meeting, she was there to tell him that he was doing more harm than good and should resign.

Here’s Sasha Futran’s letter to the San Francisco Greens about our process and her own LSB slate mates:

From: Sasha Futran
Date: Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 2:15 PM
Subject: Re: [SFGP-A] [SFGP CC] From Sasha Furtran
To: Eric Brooks

I wanted to congratulate you on your excellent choice of candidates to endorse for the KPFA board. Just one woman, thank you and, fortunately, you had just one woman there to vote on the selection as well. Good work!

So let’s see:

One of the gentlemen you endorsed was banned from the station for two years because of scenes he caused at meetings and threatened physical violence. You see, he gets very testy with anyone who doesn’t agree with his precise view of the world.

Another is on the board and is prone to profanity and yelling while standing up; he also does that in restaurants and other public places.

Another lied incredible about his work background and KPFA history, and has been known to accuse people of being a government agent on national email lists; they aren’t.

Hmmm, two are on the board are completely silent, always. Never say a word or do any work. Three years and I wouldn’t recognize the sound of their voice.

One is not sure he can be on the board for more than 8 months because he is probably moving

One is so dumb you won’t believe it and, although, he has been running for the board for years now, he still can’t get anything about KPFA straight. He is one of several men you endorsed who weren’t there so you didn’t get a chance to hear him in action.

I think I’ll stop. Makes we wonder about democracy . . . and the Green Party . . .

Did I notice “feminism” as one of the things you support on a poster on your wall? Of course, you didn’t indicate that includes women so one can’t fault you on that score. Let’s have all male feminism. Never thought of that, what a creative idea!

For a group that didn’t go for any Concerned Listener candidates, you did about as badly as you possibly could. Three of the people you selected are ones that the rest of us dread having on the board, even though they are on “our side” of the main issues because absolutely nothing will be able to be accomplished even if we are in the majority.  They will be fighting with everyone including each other, and the rest of our “faction” because they hate one another and anyone who doesn’t properly admire every little sound they make.

Just had to share because your endorsements are so incredibly uneducated, strange. the weirdest combination imaginable; simply an unbelievably disparate grouping.

Now, aren’t you glad you didn’t follow the legal, election supervisor’s format for keeping the KPFA election process fair and consistent and instead insisted on doing it your own way? Good for you! A strong man!!!  But hey, she’s a woman so what could she possibly know? I’m just a stupid, immaterial woman, too, so I know you will just flick this little email off like a piece of lint. Silly me, that’s what your wives and girlfriends are for . . .

Let us all hope, for KPFA’s sake, that you do not get your wish! Do take me off your alternates list, whatever that is, as I don’t want any part of this.


Sasha Futran

Ann Garrison is a KPFA and WBAI news and public affairs producer and a contributor to the Black Star News, Black Agenda Report, Counterpunch, Global Research, and the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper.

Article posted: June 24, 2014

KPFA: Radio Programs for the Community and Social Change, or for SaveKPFA’s Staff Allies and Their Jobs?

KPFA clock in orangeRecently KPFA/Pacifica management abruptly cancelled the Morning Mix (MIX), 8-9 a.m. M-F, and replaced it with Uprisings, a program produced in Los Angeles by a person who lives in Los Angeles. The MIX was five (5) separate programs, primarily focused on politics in local communities, workplaces, and unions. They were produced by several volunteer programmers who live, work and are politically active in the Bay Area.

This radical departure away from community based programming in the 8-9 a.m. prime time slot appears to be another consolidation of power by the SaveKPFA political faction. SaveKPFA with their long time ally, Justice and Unity at WBAI and allies at the other Pacifica stations, recently gained a narrow majority on the Pacifica National Board (PNB).

For a historical look at their destructive alliance see Pacifica Financial Crisis: Who is Responsible? Tyranny of the majority has been a mainstay of SaveKPFA’s MO. Abruptly taking away the 8-9 a.m. prime time from several community programmers, none of who are SaveKPFA allies, and replacing all of them with a program produced by one of their allies in LA is just the latest example. No poll was taken of the listeners’ desires. No public discussions of this major change were held and there was no discussion of this change at a full staff meeting. Another stark example of SaveKPFA’s tyranny of the majority is discussed in Without Due Process. This article exposes SaveKPFA’s current Pacifica National Board Chair, Margy Wilkinson‘s willingness to blatantly disregard the truth to push their unprincipled politics, denying due process to punish an opponent.  She may become the new Interim Executive Director.

Since the mid-1990s there has been a constant attempt by a small group of paid staff and some unpaid staff allies to control the allocation of air time and paid jobs to the benefit of their political friends and allies, regardless of the cost to KPFA and often in derogation of the Pacifica Mission. When the Pacifica management moved the station toward an NPR sound in the mid-1990s this paid staff group and their allies sat quietly watching as over 100 community programmers were taken off the air. Seven Long Years by Maria Gilardin is a history of these events covering 1992 to 1999.

In 1999 the struggle with Pacifica management went into the streets and then into the courts after a leaked document exposed the plans to sell a station. Out came new Bylaws with a democratic process for the governance of Pacifica and its stations. The SaveKPFA group, formally Concerned Listeners and KPFA Forward and often referred to as the “entrenched staff” (SK/CL), prior to the Wellstone Democratic Club joining with them, have done their best to dismantle the democratic process when they can’t control it.

Not everyone that fought against the “hijackers,” Pacifica management in 1999, did it for the same reason. Most listeners and community activists and some staff, paid and unpaid, fought for a democratic governance that allowed listener input. The entrenched staff fought the “hijackers” to be able to impose their own patronage and cronyism control at KPFA.  Ten Years after 1999 Hijack Attempt documents several of their moves to consolidate control for their group from 2003-2009.Today in Radical History

SaveKPFA is willing to dismantle the democratic governance, not refine it, if they can’t control it. An internal email from Brian Edwards-Tiekert to the strategy group for the entrenched staff was found at the station and it exposed their true feeling about the struggles at KPFA and Pacifica. You will find this email and a discussion about how their selfish politics have hurt KPFA/Pacifica in an article titled, ‘Me First’ Politics and Financial Responsibility.

The majority of the programming is done by unpaid staff, like the MIX producers. The small group of paid staff that works with SaveKPFA to maintain control takes advantage of all the volunteer labor to support their paid positions. The article KPFA’s Working Majority Gets Screwed by CWA Job Trust reviews their practices from a labor perspective.

In 2003 after the US invaded Iraq there was no question that Democracy Now! (DN!) was the most popular/listened to program on the air.  However, it was not given prime time status since prime time, 7-9 am, was reserved for the “entrenched “produced Morning Show. It is long established radio knowledge that you put your most popular program in prime time to increase your audience when the most people are listening. During 2003 KPFA had a Program Council. After continued attempts by the “entrenched” to stop a discussion of a DN! time change to prime time, it finally got on the agenda. The program council voted to move DN! to prime time.

The issue was taken up by the newly-elected Local Station Board (LSB). At a meeting in April 2004 the DN! time change to prime time was on the agenda and the “entrenched” and their allies on the LSB stalled the meeting until it ran out of time before getting to the DN! time change motion. Sarv Randhawa, an “entrenched” ally continually made amendments to the motion after each one was voted down. You could see Sarv writing down each new amendment as the previous one was being voted down. Many of us always wondered about Sarv’s politics and our concerns were reinforced when he appeared on TV at Republican fundraisers for the 2012 election. At the May 2004 meeting of the LSB, the motion to move DN! to prime time was thoroughly debated and passed. As in April the room was packed with listeners, the overwhelming majority in favor of the DN! move to prime time. The time change was not instituted since the Interim Station manager, an entrenched ally, refused to make the move.

Roy Campanella Jr

Roy Campanella Jr

With a slim majority the SK/CL selected Roy Campanella Jr. to be the new permanent station manager. His tenure was going along so so until he announced that he was going move DN! to prime time in the spring of 2005. Roy had worked in media and understood how important it was to put your best/most listened to program in prime time. The proverbial shit hit the fan!

All of a sudden there were flyers up around the station demonizing Roy. Claims that he was sexually harassing staff appeared. There were two investigations of these claims; one by an Human Resources expert and one by the LSB who hired Dan Siegel to do the investigation. As an LSB member, I suggested a woman professional investigator who had a PhD in criminology and who was not on any side in the dispute. I felt that the alleged women victims would be able to talk more openly to a woman investigator, but the SK/CL folks wanted their man, Dan Siegel, on the job. Both investigators found no evidence of sexual harassment.

The LSB voted 15-5 against firing Roy. The entrenched staff message was clear: mess with “our program schedule” and you will regret it. After all the turmoil created by the unfounded accusations and the posting of demonizing flyers around the station Roy left as station manager and LemLem Rigio was appointed interim station manager. She was one of the recipients of Brian Edwards-Tiekert’s 2005 email discussed and linked to above.

SaveKPFA and their allies have used their power over the program schedule to punish those at the station that don’t go along with their desires to maintain control. At an LSB meeting discussing the hiring process for a new station manager in 2007 a couple of women who work on the Women’s Magazine program, the only program specifically for women’s issues, suggested during public comment that qualified women candidates should be given consideration and at the same time they stated that they didn’t think the current interim station manager, Lemlem Rigio, a SaveKPFA/Concerned Listener ally, should be promoted to permanent manager.

Recent Women's Magazine guest, radical queer writer & activist, Yasmin Nair

Recent Women’s Magazine guest, radical queer writer & activist, Yasmin Nair

Not too long after that meeting a new pilot program produced by a SaveKPFA ally was put on the air for a test run. It was given the Women’s Magazine time slot for several weeks before it was given a Monday – Friday one hour time and the Women’s Magazine was allowed back on the air. It should be noted that when this was done there were 30+ music programs on the air and only ONE program covering women’s issues. The message was again quite clear; don’t speak out against any of the control group’s plans for control or you will pay. But for the numerous complaints that came in when their program was abruptly replaced, it is quite possible the Women’s Magazine would have been kept off the air. So much for KPFA being a “Free Speech” radio station, at least internally.

Based on the generous donations during 2003 after Iraq was invaded based on lies about Weapons of Mass Destruction, the entrenched increased the paid staff by 50%, mostly with their friends and allies. The payroll went from 28 to 42 full time equivalents. Many of us in the minority on the LSB constantly suggested that we needed to cut down the payroll. KPFA’s payroll was the largest in Pacifica. Our pleas were ignored despite reduced revenue and lower membership numbers each year until the crisis got very serious and layoffs were necessary. The SaveKPFA folks and their staff allies consistently accused us of being anti-union for wanting to have layoffs if necessary for fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget.

During an LSB meeting discussing the budget in the Fall of 2010, Shahram Aghamir made a motion to have the budget coordinated with the union contract if any layoffs were required. This would mean that layoffs would be done by seniority, unless there were exceptional circumstances. The SaveKPFA response was a major surprise given their constant anti-union charges against all their political opponents for almost any criticism. The SaveKPFA LSB members ALL voted NO! They obviously didn’t want to follow the union contract seniority rules. They wanted to control any necessary layoffs in the same patronage and cronyism manner that they have ran the station for years. More information on their duplicitous pro-union rhetoric can be found in this article, Playing the Union Card.

Prior to getting involved in KPFA and Pacifica I worked in commercial radio, AM and FM, doing music programs, public affairs and some news casts. One of the many things about radio that I learned in those 5+ years was that cross promoting helps build your audience. When I became involved with KPFA I encouraged consistent cross promoting to build our audience and create more loyalty. What the SaveKPFA folks have done at the station I would call sectarian cross referring. During the entire time of the MIX I never heard Brian Edwards-Tiekert or any of their allies mention the MIX other than to say when his program ended the MIX is next. Always when he was pitching during DN! from 6-7 he would promote his upcoming 7 am show and never mention the MIX at 8 am.broken Transmitter tower

SaveKPFA’s sectarian practices take other forms such as how the Evening News, SaveKPFA allies, report on LSB elections. They only interview folks from their slate. When I was Chair of the LSB and brought back to life the monthly LSB Report to Listeners, I would always invite people from their side to be on the program and give them equal time to state their positions on any issues before the LSB or station. When they took over the majority and producing the LSB Report program they didn’t always do a monthly LSB Report and generally when they did it was tightly controlled as to who would be on and who got to speak, almost exclusively their allies.

Their practices don’t square with the KPFA Mission which is to allow the expression of minority opinions in our society to be aired, especially the ones that those in power don’t want the people to hear. From all my experiences at KPFA, I must conclude that the SaveKPFA folks have run and want to run KPFA and Pacifica with the same anti-democratic methods that our ruling class uses: Win power by controlling the information the masses receive; preach democratic principles and practice tyranny of the majority and deny due process to your opponents whenever possible.

…the SaveKPFA folks have run and want to run KPFA and Pacifica with the same anti-democratic methods that our ruling class uses: Win power by controlling the information the masses receive; preach democratic principles and practice tyranny of the majority and deny due process to your opponents whenever possible.

KPFA and Pacifica are in deep financial trouble, primarily due to sectarian practices by SaveKPFA and their allies at other stations, always putting their power, control, jobs and airtime, over and above the health and survival of KPFA and Pacifica. During these tenuous times please ignore their rhetoric and judge them by their consistent unprincipled actions, detailed above, that are always designed for their benefit and most often to the detriment of the Pacifica Mission and progressive movements.

These neo-progressives, folks that espouse progressive politics but practice like Karl Rove, (winning power is Rove’s only principle), must not be allowed to destroy KPFA and Pacifica. Taking off the Morning Mix and replacing it with a program by one of SK/CL’s Los Angeles allies is just their latest attack on the Pacifica Mission and the need for progressive community radio that is responsive to the day-to-day struggles of people in the Bay Area who are fighting for social and economic justice every day.

Demand that the Morning Mix be put back on the air and if there is a LSB election; please do not vote for any SaveKPFA candidates.

Richard Phelps, KPFA LSB Chair 2005-2006. The history I present herein from 2003 on is based on my own direct involvement. 

Feel free to forward this article.

Richard Phelps
Member, California Academy of Distinguished Neutrals
405 14th Street, Suite 511
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 268-9919, Fax (510) 268-0368