- What are the charges against Tracy Rosenberg and what are the facts?
- Is this recall really about Tracy Rosenberg?
No. It’s ultimately about control of the Pacifica National Board which is close to being evenly divided. By removing Tracy, they are one vote closer to being able to fire Arlene Engelhardt as Pacifica’s Executive Director, which is their stated goal (from the so-called “SaveKPFA” website “Facts on KPFA’s Crisis” and “Recall Tracy Rosenberg” web pages). After that, they hope a new Executive Director will hire a new KPFA General Manager who will bring back something similar to the old Morning Show, regardless of the expense and regardless of whether or not KPFA can afford that expense. More basically, it’s about the vision for KPFA (see “What is Really Going on” below).
- Why was the staff cut in late 2010?
KPFA’s listener support dropped by about 28% from a high of a little over $4 million/year in 2005 to a little under $3 million/year in 2009-2011. See Pacifica’s Financial Recovery. (For more detail, see Pacifica’s Audited Financial Statements – the info on KPFA is in the back pages.) Because about half of KPFA’s budget is fixed (electricity, phone, etc.) in order to keep a balanced budget, for every 1% drop in income there has to be a 2% reduction in the only variable item: payroll. For several years station managers failed to make these cuts and $1.4 million in reserve funds vanished. KPFA had to borrow money from KPFT in Houston to meet its Sept 15th, 2010 payroll. At that point, on instructions from the Pacifica National Board, Pacifica’s Executive Director, Arlene Engelhardt, made the necessary cuts. The NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) has ruled that they were made for “economic necessity” and in accordance with the union contract.
- How many staff positions were cut and what were the cost savings?
In the Fall of 2010, all staff were offered a voluntary severence package with one month’s termination pay. Seven staff members accepted it — mainly part time staff. In addition, two staff were involuntarily laid off (the hosts of the Morning Show). However, one of them reached an agreement to move to the News Department with reduced hours, and other staff also agreed to reduce their hours as well, so that he could stay on. The total staff reduction was, therefore, about 5.7 full time equivalents (ftes) with a savings of about $267k/year in salaries, benefits, and payroll taxes. In addition, in July of 2010, some staff hours were cut and one position was eliminated from Flashpoints (when her hours were cut below what she needed to support herself, Nora Barrows-Friedman resigned and was not replaced), for reductions of about 2.6 ftes and cost savings of about $137k/year. So, between July and November 2010, KPFA’s staff was reduced by a total of about 8.3 ftes for a savings going forward of about $404k/year.
KPFA’s current full-time equivalent staff is about 24.5 ftes, at a cost of about $1.7 million/year in salaries and related expenses.
- How much money will the recall cost KPFA?
It will cost approximately $20k to print and mail the ballot and arguments pro and con to KPFA’s 20,000 +/- members. It will cost an additional $1,500 to pay an independent outside election supervisor to oversee the election and count the ballots. There will also be KPFA staff time necessary to make sure the membership mailing list is current & accurate.
- Who is behind the recall?
We don’t know. Although the so called “Save KPFA” web site lists endorsers, it, as well as their postcard mailer, is anonymous. But it is reasonable to presume that some members of the current LSB majority as well as some paid staff members on their “endorsement” list are behind it.
- What positions does Tracy Rosenberg now hold?
Tracy is an elected member of the KPFA Local Station board (LSB) and the Pacifica National Board (PNB). She was elected by the PNB as board Treasurer for 2011.
- How are Pacifica National Board members elected?
The LSB members elect four PNB members each year from among themselves. Three are listener-sponsor members elected by proportional representation voting — so the LSB majority wins 2 seats and the minority wins 1 seat. One is a staff member which is elected by instant runoff vote — so the LSB majority wins that seat. The end result is that the LSB majority wins 3 out of 4 of the PNB seats, and the minority wins 1 seat which is currently held by Tracy Rosenberg.
- If Rosenberg is recalled how will her replacement be elected?
Because there willl only be one seat open, her replacement on the PNB will be elected by the LSB by instant runoff vote and the LSB majority will win that seat – effectively depriving the minority of a seat on the PNB and defeating the purpose and intent of proportional representation in Pacifica’s Bylaws. The PNB elects a new treasurer each year. Her replacement on the LSB will be the next person in order from the last LSB election in the Fall of 2010.
- What is really going on? What are the real issues between various factions?
The issue has been framed on the surface as a labor-management dispute. But the issues are much deeper than that and go back at least 20 years. Many of us see it as a struggle between the Community Radio vision of KPFA and the Public Broadcasting model. Some — but not all — KPFA paid staff favor a more NPR-style programming, with more paid on-air staff and more daily “strip” programs airing at the same time each day. Some — but not all — KPFA unpaid staff favor a more “community radio” style programming, with more diverse programs rotating through the schedule. Finding the right balance has been the source of many fights at KPFA for at least two decades, and throughout community radio stations across the country. Indeed, it was the source of the “purges” of many KPFA unpaid staff programs in 1995, and the move from staff union representation from United Electrical Workers (which accepted KPFA’s unpaid staff as members) to Communication Workers of America (which does not accept unpaid staff as members) in 1995. There is still much bitterness among the staff and community members from those events.
(For deep background, see Pacifica in Vincula written by John Whiting back in 1996. In the 1960′s John Whiting was a Production Director/ Program Producer at KPFA. Ironically, Pacifica’s Executive Director in 1999, Lynn Chadwick, who ordered the KPFA lockout, was a proponent of the strip-programming model and former head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s “Healthy Stations Project” that urged community stations to axe their volunteer staff and move to paid programmers — which, if fully implemented, can only be supported by corporate underwriting. For a libertarian analysis of the “Healthy Stations Project” see With Friends Like These written in 1997 by Jesse Walker and published by the Cato Institute.)
Another issue is access to KPFA’s airwaves and who the “gatekeepers” are. With more diverse program hosts and producers, there is some fear or hope (depending on who you ask) that more diverse views will be heard — Black radicals, Green Party members, “conspiracy theorists,” etc. Some fear that KPFA will lose “credibility” if those viewpoints are heard more frequently on the air. Others believe a wide range of views needs to be part of the mix in understanding our culture, politics, and the critical issues of our time — even views we don’t necessarily like or agree with.
Finding the balance is the necessary. It’s time for the players to stop fighting & screaming at each other and start listening and talking respectfully — and finding a way through this long-term identity crisis at KPFA. Both sides have good points as well as not-so-good points.
How do I contribute to the effort to stop the recall?
We would like to send a postcard to all 20,000 KPFA members. That will cost about $11k for printing and mailing. If we can’t raise enough money to do that, then we might mail to a partial list or put ads in newspapers. Please use the donate button on the right side bar. If you would like to make a large donation, please contact Carol Spooner by email at wildrose[at]pon.net. Give her your name and phone number so she can call you. See also What You Can Do.