Surprising developments at the PNB meeting in Berkeley

PNB meeting audienceKPFA listeners and staff filled the July 20-23 meeting of the Pacifica National Board (PNB) in Berkeley past capacity, spilling into the hallway during public portions of the meeting. Listeners came from all over the broadcast area — Santa Rosa, Petaluma, San Jose, Oakland, and even Fresno and Los Angeles.

Dozens spoke up eloquently during public comment, opposing more cuts at KPFA, criticizing Pacifica’s current leadership, and challenging Pacifica Treasurer Tracy Rosenberg on her unproven budget claims.

“We need quality programming in order to keep listeners and subscribers,” long-time listener Ellen Jennings told the board. “I don’t believe KPFA can survive without quality programming such as UpFront, Letters & Politics, Against the Grain and the KPFA News team.”

6-10AM weekday fundraising averagesKPFA staff passed out this flyer explaining how further cuts to KPFA would hurt the entire network. One of several unpaid programmers who spoke, Glenn Reeder, said that austerity measures like the layoffs Pacifica was proposing “don’t improve institutions in the red — investing in people does.” Many of those present had already read the recent independent audits of Pacifica, showing a healthy KPFA, but massive financial problems in the mismanaged Pacifica National Office and at WBAI, the network’s New York station.

Listener Kate Gowen said that the conflict around the station had “laid bare two very different visions of what KPFA should be, and how the role of the National Board is to be defined.” Programmer Sasha Lilley told the board it would not solve Pacifica’s financial woes by cutting paid staff, because that would result in a loss of income and listenership, as happened the last time.

For many on the national board, it was the first time they’d seen KPFA’s listeners or staff face-to-face. And what a difference it made! Here are some major developments from the weekend’s meeting.

Victory: layoffs less likely at KPFA

Pacifica management had been trying to impose $1 million of cuts on its stations, and had been pressuring KPFA to reduce staffing by $300,000 – which could cost the station 7 to 8 positions, enough to take several programs off the air. Sasha Lilley at PNBPacifica management was insisting on the cuts even though KPFA is on track to have a six-figure budget surplus this year.

On the first day of its four-day meeting, the PNB took up a resolution by KPFA staff rep Laura Prives that called on Pacifica’s executives to disclose how much they wanted each station manager to cut, and to explain the rationale for demanding those cuts. Incredibly, Tracy Rosenberg and her board allies voted against this straightforward, sensible resolution, and as a 10 to 10 tie, it failed. The next morning, a lengthy resolution from Rosenberg that gave a free hand to Pacifica to cut wherever it wanted, also failed by a 10 to 10 vote

But then, things changed. During public discussions, it became clear that Pacifica’s executives — Arlene Engelhardt, the executive director, and LaVarn Williams, the CFO — couldn’t explain why they decided the stations should take $1 million in cuts. They had done no analysis on how layoffs might hurt fundraising efforts, and couldn’t articulate any plan for financial recovery. Public testimony from KPFA’s listeners and staff against further cuts was compelling and seemed to sway some board members.

On Monday, the PNB overwhelmingly passed a resolution by KPFA representative Dan Siegel calling on station managers to assess their individual financial situations, and submit financial plans for timely payments of all their bills. This is an important step forward for local control.

Siegel says the resolution commits Pacifica to a budget process that relies on “station management to monitor and control their budgets. This is just the first step. Somehow the National Office allowed $2 million in unpaid bills, including about $1.5 million to Democracy Now!, to accumulate,” said Siegel. “We have to figure out a way to pay off these bills without undermining the functioning of our stations. The third priority is to finally deal with WBAI’s $800,000 in annual rent, which has weighed down the entire network for years. I am pushing for a quick solution that involves moving to a cheaper location in New Jersey, Queens or Brooklyn, and use of a different broadcast tower,” Siegel added.

So long, Arlene Engelhardt?

Mitch Jeserich at PNBSaveKPFA readers will remember Arlene Engelhardt: she’s the heavy-handed Pacifica manager who killed the Morning Show — at the time, KPFA’s most popular program and the station’s biggest fundraiser — and then refused pledges of over $60,000 from KPFA listeners who wanted to help. LaVarn Williams is the network’s CFO.

After a long, closed-door session, PNB chair Summer Reese read this statement: “At its meeting on July 22, the Pacifica National Board decided to open searches for the positions of Foundation Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer. The contractual terms of the incumbents, Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt and Chief Financial Officer LaVarn Williams, conclude on November 30, 2012. The Board invited Ms. Engelhardt and Ms. Williams to apply for new terms in their positions.”

margy with crowdKPFA’s local board chair Margy Wilkinson commented after the meeting: “We’ll need to talk about what this means, but I’d like to think that a majority of the PNB recognize that Pacifica is in terrible shape and these two executives cannot provide the leadership to begin to solve the problem. We’ll have to keep talking but I’m feeling better about Pacifica than I have in a long time.”

This good news is due to the hard work, persistence and support of the thousands of you who have signed petitions, sent emails, joined protests, and attended meetings. Thank you!

Support KPFA’s fund drive

kpfa logoRight now, the most important thing you can do to fight cuts to the programs you care about is to donate to KPFA’s Summer Mini-Fund Drive currently underway so the station stays in the black.

PLEASE NOTE: this fund drive is the last chance you have to become a KPFA member or renew your membership in time to vote in the upcoming general elections. SaveKPFA will be fielding a set of candidates, and we’ll need your vote. But you can’t vote if you haven’t donated, so please pledge at least $25 now!

This weekend: Come to PNB meeting to demand no more cuts!

It’s been three years since the Pacifica National Board met in Berkeley — and the first time the board has had to face our community since Pacifica killed the Morning Show, claiming financial necessity. The board is coming here this weekend.

At this moment, Pacifica is trying to impose $300,000 in new cuts on KPFA. KPFA’s manager estimates this would entail cutting 7 to 8 positions. He hasn’t specified which, but it would be enough to eliminate Letters & Politics, Against The Grain, UpFront and Hard Knock Radio — nearly every daily program produced at our radio station.

These cuts are completely unnecessary. KPFA’s financial statements show that, as of June, KPFA’s bottom line is slightly better than budget, and the station is on track to run a six-figure surplus by September 30, the end of the fiscal year. (See this Pacifica audit story for a fuller picture of the network’s finances.)

The 22 members of the Pacifica National Board need to hear from KPFA listeners, when they meet July 20-23 at Berkeley’s Durant Hotel, 2600 Durant Avenue (@Bowditch in Berkeley | MAP). Pacifica hasn’t posted an agenda yet, and sadly, it looks like the board may spend most of its time in “executive session,” behind closed doors. Some of these board members refused to even read KPFA listener emails earlier this year.

SO PLEASE JOIN US AT THE BOARD MEETING SATURDAY AFTERNOON, 7/21 — that’s when we expect the board to have open sessions and take public comment. Come then and you’ll meet up with KPFA staffers like Letters and Politics host Mitch Jeserich, Against the Grain co-host Sasha Lilley, KPFA News anchor John Hamilton, and many other SaveKPFA supporters who will be at the meeting.

There is also an OPEN RECEPTION for the board at the station Friday night, 7/20 from 7-10pm. (Address: KPFA, 1929 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley) Please attend if you can – you’ll be able to talk directly with PNB members there!

Pacifica’s long-awaited audit shows where the money goes

get out of bed with scott walkerPacifica’s audited financial statements for the years ending September 2010 and 2011 have finally been released. You can download the reports at Pacifica’s website. The independent auditor raises “substantial doubt” that Pacifica can continue as a “going concern” without making changes in the way it operates.

The audit shows that of the network’s five stations, KPFA is the wealthiest, with net assets of $3.2 million. KPFK in Los Angeles is the only other station in the black. The rest are underwater. Worst of all is WBAI in New York, which has been operating under Pacifica-installed management for nearly four years. WBAI has a current net worth of NEGATIVE $3.3 million — with a deficit of $750,000 in 2011 alone.

You can also see from these audits that Pacifica’s National Office raises very little of its own funds. The lion’s share of Pacifica’s budget — $2,001,298 — comes from imposing a “levy” on the 5 stations (KPFA, KPFK, KPFT, WPFW and WBAI), of which KPFA pays roughly one quarter.

Where’d Pacifica’s $2 million go? The National Office doesn’t produce any programming of its own, but it carries personnel costs of about $1.1 million — mostly in management-level salaries. And it’s been spending increasing amounts on “legal fees.” In 2010, legal fees came to $328,433. In 2011, they grew to an astonishing $538,417. Some of it has been spent on expensive lawyers fighting legal actions sparked by Pacifica’s heavy-handed tactics at its member stations. In addition, SaveKPFA’s review of legal bills reveals that Pacifica has paid attorneys up to $500 per hour to come up with legal strategies for obstructing the KPFA recall election currently underway, and blocking dissident board members’ legal right to inspect records (such as legal bills).

Since 1999, the costs of supporting Pacifica’s national bureaucracy has grown from 9% to 20% of the network’s total income. To give some perspective, the National Office’s budget is twice the size of either KPFT or WPFW, and it’s nearly the same size as each of the other three stations (KPFA, KPFK and WBAI). Pacifica was meant to be a coordinating body to provide support and reduce costs, but it has become the opposite of that. It produces no radio programs, but spends huge sums on executive salaries and costly, unproductive board meetings. KPFA could operate much more easily if it did not have to pay 20% of its listener contributions to Pacifica.

PLEASE JOIN US AT THE BOARD MEETING SATURDAY AFTERNOON, 7/21 — that’s when we expect the board to have open sessions and take public comment. Come then and you’ll meet up with KPFA staffers like Letters and Politics host Mitch JeserichAgainst the Grain co-host Sasha LilleyKPFA News anchor John Hamilton, and many other SaveKPFA supporters who will be at the meeting.

There is also an OPEN RECEPTION for the board at the station Friday night, 7/20 from 7-10pm. (Address: KPFA, 1929 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley) Please attend if you can – you’ll be able to talk directly with PNB members there!

For background, read Brian Edwards-Tiekert‘s open letter on layoffs and our report on Pacifica’s demand for $1 million in cuts at the stations.

Endorsements for the YES campaign continue to roll in

Here’s a sampling of the latest YES endorsements (all titles/organizations for ID only): CHRIS KAVANAGH, former elected Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Commissioner (2002-2008), former Green Party of Alameda County Central/County Council member * EMILY ALMA, Chico Peace and Justice Center, Butte Environmental Council, Occupy Chico, Chico Palestine Action Group * SCOTT CAMIL, activist * HELENE KNOX, poet, KPFA listener/volunteer * EDDY PAY, KPFA music programmer * SASHA FUTRAN, member, KPFA local station board * FRANCESCA ROSA, member, SEIU 1021, delegate. SF Labor Council * BILL HARVEY, former president, Alameda County Labor Council, AFL-CIO* GENE COYLE, economist & listener * LAWRENCE DAVIDSON, former co-host of Probabilities, a KPFA show * MARY TILSON, host, America’s Back 40 * LAYNA BERMAN, unpaid programmer, Your Own Health & Fitness * LISA KERMISH, Vice President, UPTE-CWA Local 9119 * CARLOS ECHEVARRIA, listener, Inglewood CA * JAN ETRE, KPFA Crafts Fair coordinator * CELIA REYES, listener, Oakland * JACK SAWYER, President, Parker Street Foundation * SHARON MALDONADO, listener * RAMSEY KANAAN, KPFA unpaid staff, founder AK Press & PM Press * GUADALUPE LEDESMA, listener 30+ yrs * LESLIE TOWNSEND, college professor * ROBERT LONGER, EVP, CWA Local 9421. | See COMPLETE ENDORSERS’ LIST HERE and ADD YOUR NAME

KPFA’s local board chair urges YES vote

Original KPFA radio dial, circa 1949

Original KPFA radio dial, circa 1949

“Let me paint a picture of where KPFA is now — because it should concern all of us — no matter which side we’re on,” writes Margy Wilkinson, chair of KPFA’s local board in an open letter to listeners. Wilkinson cites evidence of the dramatic loss of listenership following Pacifica management’s purging of the station’s most listened-to program, the Morning Show, produced by a crew of young, diverse journalists. What follows is a tale of stunningly undemocratic dirty-tricks, financial mismanagement and anti-union maneuvers that have caused KPFA listeners to demand an immediate change in Pacifica’s management — starting with the recall of Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg. | READ WILKINSON’S  ENTIRE LETTER

Still no ballot? Here’s how to make sure your vote counts

We’ve been getting calls and emails from KPFA subscribers who still have not received ballots. What should you do?  REQUEST ONE IMMEDIATELY from Pacifica’s election supervisor at kpfarecall@gmail.com or (323) 375-4126. And please also let SaveKPFA know, by email or phone.

If you were a KPFA member at any time between November 2010 and November 2011, you should have received a ballot . Ballots must be received by AUGUST 3 at this address: KPFA Recall Election, P.O. Box 11708, Berkeley, CA 94712. If you haven’t yet, vote YES now and mail ASAP.

Here are some voting tips. First, you must FILL IN THE ENTIRE YES SQUARE on the ballot for your vote to be counted. Also, please RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO WRITE ANYTHING on the ballot other than your vote. If you made a mistake marking your ballot, contact the recall supervisor and request a replacement ballot right away (and we’d appreciate it if you’d copy SaveKPFA).

IMPORTANT: Keep your PIN ballot stub as proof that you voted. All ballots in KPFA elections have PIN barcodes on them, so that no subscriber may vote more than once. If there are issues with the fairness of the vote process, we’ll be asking you to help us prove that, and your PIN stub may help. The PIN numbers also mean when you request a duplicate ballot, your first ballot will be discarded and only your second one will count.

If you have voted, please take a moment to let us know you have done so. Use SaveKPFA‘s convenient online survey, or simply contact us by email or phone. You’ll be helping us document the vote in case there are challenges to the process. Ballots must be received by August 3. | MORE ON BALLOTS HERE

Send a strong message to Pacifica by voting YES on the recall

Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg claims that she “saved” KPFA from bankruptcy, but as KPFA News co-director Aileen Alfandary writes in an open letter released today, “a close examination of that claim shows it doesn’t hold water.”

Alfandary continues: “Virtually the entire reduction in staffing in 2010 was from union members who took voluntary layoffs. When the dust settled, and Pacifica was forced to rehire Brian Edwards-Tiekert, the only involuntary layoff that occurred in 2010 was that of the other Morning Show co-host who had been paid for a grand total of 27 hours a week. It’s absurd to claim that this small salary saved KPFA from bankruptcy. It’s quite the contrary. The reduction in fundraising from purging the Morning Show cost us dearly and drove listeners away from KPFA.” | READ ALFANDARY’S ENTIRE LETTER HERE

Noted Tracy Rosenberg endorsers withdraw support, YES on KPFA recall endorsers list growing

David Barsamian, host of Alternative Radio, who was initially listed as an endorser of the “no” recall campaign, now says that it was a “total error on his part.” He told KPFA staff that he retracted his endorsement once he found out more about the issues.

KPFA staffer Davey D of Hard Knock Radio, in response to a listener query, has also said he did not take a position against the recall.  Nevertheless, his name still appears on the anti-recall site as a staff endorser.

Meanwhile, the YES campaign is adding endorsers daily, including (titles & organizations for ID only): Paul George, Peninsula Peace & Justice Center; Gloria Frym, writer; Jane Heaven, KPFA producer/host, Vic Bedoian, Pacifica Evening News reporter; Eric Klein, former Flashpoints tech producer; Andrea Turner, Pacifica board member; Richard Walker, radical geographer; Charlotte Sáenz, community artist & educator; Kathleen Weaver, poet, translator; Steve Early, labor journalist; Summer Brenner, author of Richmond Tales; David Martinez, filmmaker; Iain Boal, social historian of the commons; Cal Winslow, labor historian, author, Rebel Rank and File; Cathy Campbell, President, Berkeley Federation of Teachers, and many others. | ADD YOUR ENDORSEMENT HERE | SEE THE ENTIRE YES ON RECALL ENDORSERS’ LIST

Recall supervisor: not so neutral

Last week, the supervisor Pacifica hired to run KPFA’s election, Matt Ward, threatened SaveKPFA that he would refuse to send out ballots unless we participated in an on-air debate — on two days’ notice. He also declined to give SaveKPFA any details on the ground rules and format for the debate until just before airtime. Once the debate started, he interrupted SaveKPFA‘s debater three times during her opening statement: telling her she couldn’t discuss the layoff notice KPFA’s union has just received, accusing her of hyperbole, and threatening to take away her time.

Then complaints started coming in from listeners who had called the studio to voice pro-recall positions and were rejected after a call screener asked what they wanted to say. We believe this is the first time KPFA has ever screened calls-ins for content during an election debate. When one pro-recall voice did get on-air — and started to explain why she had stopped supporting Tracy Rosenberg — Ward started interrupting her almost immediately. He let all other callers go on at length. Ironically, Ward had published a rule that KPFA staff members could not participate in the debate — then he let two pro-recall unpaid staffers on the air to speak uninterrupted, even after they identified themselves as staff members.

Then ballots hit mailboxes. Ward had modified the text of SaveKPFA‘s recall petition before printing it in the ballot package: contrary to Pacifica’s own recall procedures, he took out three topic sentences summarizing the charges against Rosenberg, as well as the entire concluding paragraph of the petition. Now the ballot language doesn’t match what over 800 KPFA listeners had signed onto (here’s the original recall petition that listeners signed and the actual ballot that mailed). So much for a fairly-run election!

Make sure your vote is counted!

HELP US MONITOR THIS ELECTION! Please let SaveKPFA know when you get your ballot and have voted by contacting us at votesavekpfa@gmail.com or (510) 969-9373. Or, if you prefer, you can answer this convenient online survey. You’ll be helping us document the vote in case there are challenges to the process.

IF YOU DIDN’T GET A BALLOT, or if it is lost or damaged, contact election supervisor Matt Ward at kpfarecall@gmail.com or (323) 375-4126. We’d appreciate it if you’d copy SaveKPFA at votesavekpfa@gmail.com or (510) 969-9373.

Ballots were mailed June 28 to KPFA listener-members in the Tracy Rosenberg recall election. We urge you to join these endorsers in voting YES on the recall. Here are some KEY VOTING POINTS:

1. Fill in the WHOLE “YES” square on the ballot in black or dark blue ink. That is, don’t just make a check mark or “x”, but fill it all in completely.

2. Resist the temptation to write anything else on the ballot or mark it in any way other than the vote box. If you made a mistake marking your ballot, contact the recall supervisor and request a replacement ballot right away (and we’d appreciate it if you’d copy SaveKPFA).

3. IMPORTANT: Keep your PIN ballot stub as proof that you voted. All ballots in KPFA elections have PIN barcodes on them, so that no subscriber may vote more than once. If there are issues with the fairness of the vote process, we’ll be asking you to help us prove that, and your PIN stub may help. The PIN numbers also mean when you request a duplicate ballot, your first ballot will be discarded and only your second one will count.

4. Mail your ballot so it is received by August 3 (preferably in the provided return envelope) to: KPFA 2012 Recall Election, PO Box 11708, Berkeley CA 94712-2708

5. DO NOT drop off your ballot at the station. Ballots are only accepted by post and must be RECEIVED BY AUGUST 3.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO WITNESS THE BALLOT COUNT, come to the public ballot pickup at the Berkeley Post Office on August 4, 10 am. Votes will be counted at the Pacifica National Office, 1925 Martin Luther King Jr Way in Berkeley at noon the same day.