November 22, 2010
Arlene Engelhardt, Executive Director
1925 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley CA 94704
Dear Ms. Engelhardt:
We wish to express our deep concerns about the way in which recent program changes were made at KPFA. We understand that KPFA and the whole Pacifica radio system are experiencing serious financial difficulties. However, it appears to us that certain steps taken by the Pacifica management violate both the spirit and the letter of the democratic constitution of Pacifica¹s unique experiment in listener-employee run radio.
The listeners, staff and the local management of KPFA were all caught by surprise by the precipitous layoffs of The Morning Show staff, the station’s most popular locally produced program. This show, hosted by Aimee Allison and Brian Edwards-Tiekert served as an important civic forum for the San Francisco Bay Area – a place where election issues were thoroughly debated and where those of us in office were provided an opportunity to talk to and hear from our constituents. By exploring issues that don¹t get aired in the mainstream media, the Morning Show performed an essential service for Northern California’s vibrant progressive community.
There are a number of troubling elements in this decision. Why would the station’s best fundraising program be canceled in the name of cost cutting? Was this move motivated more by political than financial reasons? One of the show’s hosts is a prominent and outspoken member of a slate that opposes the political faction that currently holds a majority on the Pacifica National Board.
We are also troubled by the way Pacifica has disregarded the authority of the local station board in budgetary matters. The local board is charged in Pacifica’s own bylaws with the task of reviewing and approving KPFA’s budget. The board had approved a budget drawn up by the local management and unionized staff that proposed a number of ways that costs could be cut without drastic layoffs. The Pacifica board rejected that budget without discussion with the local board, and went on, in clear violation of the bylaws, to draw up and pass an alternative budget without even showing it to the local board.
We do not believe this is the best way to move forward. The heavy-handed manner in which the layoffs have been made has triggered a showdown with KPFA’s staff union, CWA Local 9415. It could result in costly lawsuits, turmoil, and deep dissension within a community whose positive energies are needed during these hard times.
There is another path. We call on you to respect the democratic will of KPFA’s listeners and staff and to seek mediation: sit down with the union and local supporters of the station and negotiate a collective solution that will be fair and acceptable to all: cancel the layoffs and start over. California’s State Mediation and Conciliation Service provides professional mediation in employer/union disputes for free.
We have chosen to speak out about this dispute because of our desire to preserve this cherished institution of Northern California’s progressive community. Now, more than ever, we need the independent voices and alternative viewpoints KPFA makes available. We hope that Pacifica can hear this plea: that it will approach this problem not in a way that will sow division and acrimony, but that will instead bring credit to the community it represents.
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates
State Senator Loni Hancock
Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan
Albany Mayor Joanne Wile
Berkeley Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan
Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore
Berkeley City Councilmember Maxwell Anderson
Berkeley City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli
Albany City Councilmember Robert Lieber
Albany City Councilmember Marge Atkinson
Emeryville City Councilmember Ruth Atkin
San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos
Peralta Community College Boardmember Nicky Gonzalez Yuen
Peralta Community College Boardmember Linda Handy
Peralta Community College Boardmember Abel Guillen
California State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano
Ron Rosenbaum, President of the Albany School Board
California State Assemblymember Sandré R. Swanson