Sunday, October 21, 2007

KPFA Local Station Board Election

An endorsement letter for the KPFA Local Station Board Election was posted in the Portside "Tidbits" post. This is my response

Moderator at Portside
Re KPFA Election Tidbit of 10/20/07

Since Portside Tidbits has waded into the KPFA election I feel compelled to write a response and to speak for alternate endorsements.

I consider myself to be a friend of Mary and Jon Fromer, having worked closely with Mary Fromer on SEIU related projects when I was a Local 707 union member (steward and vice president) and she a Local 707 staff field agent. However, IMO, she and Jon are backing the wrong horse in their endorsement of the so-called "Concerned Listeners" slate for KPFA. There are at least four "slates" in the elections including the other three: "The I-Team" (I for Independents), "People's Radio", and "KPFA Voices for Justice." Information about all 4 slates can be found at: as well as comparative information about what the repeat candidates said in previous elections. The official KPFA election website is at however, it is woefully behind in making the candidate statement information available.

For the nine open listener candidate seats, I'm endorsing the following candidates from three slates: Steve Conley, Joe Wanzala, Chandra Hauptman, Tracy Rosenberg, Gerald Sanders, Bob English, Dave Heller, Sureya Sayadi, and CC Campbell-Rock.

Listeners of KPFA should know that the "Concerned Listeners" slate is the "listener" group that most supports the entrenched staff group that is fighting to maintain the status quo at KPFA. The "Concerned Listeners" are indeed "concerned" that other listeners do not get to exercise any democratic control over KPFA management and station policies. All of the three other slates are independent of the staff controlled agenda.

Unfortunately, the way KPFA station politics works, the KPFA staff use their connections with their progressive guests (see the names on the list of "endorsers") to endorse those "listener" candidates who will not challenge the staff hegemony on the Local Station Board or in governance of KPFA. These endorsers know their friends on the staff and I must conclude, good people that they are, that they are simply acting in self interest to support who their staff friends tell them are worthy candidates. It is a sad day to see these progressive endorsers stoop to become just an example of cronyism on the left. They have now become progressives who are intervening in a listener election in order to not jeopardize their own air time on the station. I'm most embarrassed to see Kevin Danaher's name on the list as I thought he was more savvy than that.

A brief history of the issues: As one of the people intimately involved in the democratic evolution of KPFA and Pacifica from a self-selecting board of directors to a listener and staff elected board of directors I know where of I speak. When I was on the committee that designed the first election for the KPFA Local Board we debated the role of staff in station governance. On the one side people argued that staff should have no role in governance and that the listeners who paid for the station should have all seats on the governing boards as the local station and national director levels. I argued on the other side that staff presence, as designated seats in governance, and that staff ability to elect their own representatives was good for worker democracy as a model as well as essential to getting staff to "buy-in" to the new democratization of the nonprofit corporate structure. The side for staff inclusion won. This debate was subsequently reproduced in the debate over the new Pacifica Corporation bylaws and again the staff-inclusion model won out. Staff now have a guaranteed designated 25% of seats on the local station boards and on the national board of directors.

However, after witnessing what has happened since I argued for this percentage of staff representation I have had strong doubts about it. As a matter of principle for democratic worker involvement in governance, I still support it, but over and over again I have witnessed staff misuse their power to stifle any change from the status quo. Staff have blocked program committees from functioning to provide any evaluation or change in programs.

Staff have prevented any effective management oversight by listener representatives on the local board. They have only been able to do this with the collaboration of the listener representatives of the so-called "Concerned Listeners."

A recent example of how staff operate occurred with a policy motion regarding on-air premiums such as speeches. Frequently the station will air a speech from a well known progressive and then stop the speech before it ends and tell listeners if they want to hear the whole speech they can subscribe and receive the speech as a "premium" for their donation. Listener representatives on the KPFA Local Station Board presented a motion to that would set policy to guarantee that any speech or similar recording broadcast on the air -- but not aired in full -- and offered as a premium to listeners only if they subscribe, would be aired in full at a later date for those listeners who either couldn't afford the subscription amount required or who had already subscribed on other programs and did not want to have to donate for "premiums" in order to hear the whole of every such program used during the fund drives. The so-called "Concerned Listener" slate allied itself with staff to vote down this listener-friendly policy motion.

Thus, though staff have only 25% of seats (staff are not homogenous, but only a small amount of staff are listener-friendly) the staff sycophants of the "Concerned Listener" slate provides the voting support to pretty much rubber stamp the staff supported status quo on most issues.

As a minor note, Conn Hallinan is already on the KPFA Local Station Board as a member of the "Concerned Listeners" slate and now they are attempting to add his brother Matthew to the Local Board. This kind of "progressive" nepotism within the "Concerned Listeners" is just another example of human nature at work on the left. It should not be endorsed. Aren't there other candidates among KPFA's approximately 20,000 voters who could run on their slate without needing to have two brothers on the board? (With a smile I note that I would not take this position if siblings were on competing slates, so that this appearance of nepotism would not be present.)

Specifically, among the current "Concerned Listener's" slate I would council against reelecting incumbent Sherry Gendleman who is among the mostegregious pro-status quo rubber stampers on the Local Board.

I haven't yet decided on my final order of ranking the candidates I endorse and intend to vote for. Voters should know that your vote is ranked and counts most only for those at the top of your list so it is important that you rank your votes in order of most favored first for your vote to be meaningful in the way you intend.

A final note about the election: I am proud to have been in some measure instrumental at KPFA in helping to establish the proportional representation voting method, including IRV (instant runoff voting), for the election of the Pacifica local station boards and their directors. Votes for candidates are ranked according to preference and your first ranked preference will get your whole vote and your following preferences will get a piece of your vote if your top candidate receives an excess of votes needed to get elected, and if your top candidate doesn't receive enough votes to get elected then your whole vote goes to your next ranked candidate. This model provides that representation will be based on percentage of support rather than on 50.1% controlling the entire result. Thus any slate will get the percentage of support that it has in the election. For more information on proportional representation election models see the FairVote website at

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