Democracy when? Still no ballots and paychecks bouncing

Still nothing from Pacifica on when ballots will go out in the  recall of Tracy Rosenberg. As a reminder: Pacifica’s own rules for recall elections required it to send out ballots no later than December 30, 2011. That’s nearly 6 weeks ago!

One thing Pacifica’s delay has accomplished (probably by design): it’s bought Rosenberg time to build a campaign machine, and for the Pacifica-imposed interim manager at KPFA to start using station resources to support her efforts.

Thank you to those who have signed the online petition (over 1100 currently) or written letters to Pacifica demanding an impartial recall supervisor. SaveKPFA is also considering legal options for forcing Pacifica to comply with its own rules.

Now Pacifica’s bouncing paychecks, too has published an email from KPFA’s union, CWA Local 9415, sent to Pacifica management. The message spoke to two issues: bounced paychecks and the network’s illegal withholding of retirement contributions. Several employees across Pacifica’s stations — including one at KPFA — took their paychecks to the bank in January and got nothing to show for it but a bounced check fee. There’s been no explanation from management to staff about why it happened, or what Pacifica is doing to prevent a recurrence. Bouncing paychecks is a criminal offense.

This comes on the heels of revelations by KPFA’s union last fall that Pacifica had been diverting workers’ contributions to their retirement plans in order to pay other bills. At the time, Pacifica promised workers it would 1) catch up on payments to their accounts — which it eventually did, 2) pay them the legal minimum interest rate on the catch up payments — which it hasn’t yet, and 3) make timely contributions in the future. On that last point, KPFA workers report that their retirement accounts should have had two deposits from Pacifica in January — they’ve had none.

The high cost of bad management: longer fund drives

In his last newsletter, KPFA interim general manager Andrew Leslie Phillips released first-quarter financial figures for KPFA with little comment. One year ago, the station’s first-quarter results showed it better than budget by $237,000. This year’s figures show the station has fallen $60,000 short of budget in just three months. Yikes!

The plunge is mostly due to a drop in fundraising during the morning hours. But the situation is actually much worse than it looks. SaveKPFA‘s analysis of KPFA’s fundraising calendar shows that the station made up from the fundraising plunge during morning hours by massively lengthening KPFA’s fund drives. In the 12 months after the Morning Show was cancelled, on-air time spent fundraising jumped by 19 days, a 30% increase. And time spent fundraising is budgeted to increase still further this year. By contrast, less than two days of normal fundraising would raise enough money to pay the salary and benefits of Aimee Allison, the only Morning Show staffer whose reinstatement Pacifica has managed to block.

This is a serious problem. Long fund drives are more than just annoying: they drive away listeners, which means, eventually, there are fewer people left to ask for money. Other stations — most notably Pacifica’s WBAI in New York City — have followed this path into a downward spiral. WBAI now spends one out of three calendar days in fund drives. Yet, in a signal area with three times the population of KPFA’s, it has fewer listeners, raises less money, and runs the largest deficits in Pacifica.

Pacifica National Board votes to waste listener dollars

The Pacifica National Board met in Los Angeles during the last weekend in January 2012, spending the majority of its time in executive session consultations that were closed to the public.

Of the actions reported publicly, there are two concerning KPFA. First, the board  authorized its chair, Summer Reese, to appoint an elections supervisor to run the KPFA recall vote — something that should have happened two months ago. Reese said she’d “try” to do it within two weeks.

Secondly, Pacifica’s board has decided to appeal the court injunction that compelled it to seat SaveKPFA representatives Laura Prives and Dan Siegel last year. Such appeals have a very low likelihood of succeeding. What’s more, Siegel and Prives have already completed the terms the injunction applied to — and been re-elected to the national board — so the issue is now moot. We would call this another bid to disenfranchise KPFA’s duly-elected representatives, but it actually looks like something more petty: a quixotic waste of listeners’ money and SaveKPFA‘s time.

KPFA’s Local Station Board met on February 4, and among other actions, overwhelmingly passed this resolution with bi-partisan support criticizing Pacifica’s board for its money-wasting legal appeal and demanding it reverse course. The vote was 14-2 (the two voting against the measure were Anthony Fest and Janet Kobren). You can listen to the entire 5-hour-long KPFA board meeting here: part 1 | part 2

Donate to KPFA now!

Given how Pacifica is treating KPFA’s voting members right now, this is going to sound a little weird, but it’s still true: you need to give money to KPFA. Here’s why:

  • First, Pacifica will use any shortfall in KPFA’s fund drives as a pretext for more layoffs.
  • Second, your pledge is your vote. If you want a chance to vote in this recall election, or to run in next fall’s Local Station Board elections, you have to be a paying member of KPFA. (It takes a minimum of $25 per person per year to join.)
  • Third, KPFA — warts and all — is well worth it. Where else are you going to hear the Great Recession dissected by a Marxist economist? The social justice implications of scientific breakthroughs described by an theoretical physicist? A live broadcast from inside an Occupy demonstration? The world needs KPFA, and that’s why we’re in this fight — but KPFA still needs money to carry on.

PLEDGE FOR KPFA ONLINE at, or pledge during your favorite show, and feel free to add a comment with your pledge.

If you would also like to support SaveKPFA‘s work to keep management accountable, please visit our online donations page.