Local radio station sends out recall ballot after lengthy delay

Gracie Malley/Staff

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After an almost seven-month delay, ballots were sent out Thursday to Berkeley-based radio station KPFA’s staff and members to vote on the recall of one of the station’s local board members.

The staff of the listener-sponsored radio station has been divided into two factions since 1999: SaveKPFA and Independents for Community Radio. SaveKPFA has been trying to recall Tracy Rosenberg, treasurer for the Pacifica Foundation as well as local board member, since 2011.

Ballots were scheduled to be sent out in December. Pacifica, the station’s parent organization, was responsible for producing the ballots and conducting the election but did not hire an election supervisor until March.

The two factions have been divided over Rosenberg since the termination of KPFA’s lucrative and popular program, The Morning Show, in 2010. After laying off three of the show’s four hosts, Pacifica’s board replaced the program with a volunteer-run segment called The Morning Mix. Rosenberg’s involvement with the replacement has been a source of contention ever since.

In accordance with Pacifica’s bylaws, in September 2011, SaveKPFA received hundreds of signatures to recall Tracy Rosenberg, and on Nov. 1, 2011, each person who signed the petition became a certified KPFA member who could vote to recall Rosenberg.

Sasha Futran, a former KPFA program host and 30-year vice chair of the local station board, said she believes that replacing The Morning Show with the Morning Mix resulted in a decrease of funds and listenership.

“The Morning Mix took the most valuable air spot, which is from 8 to 10 a.m.,” Futran said. “I tuned in one day last week for 15 minutes, and I didn’t know what the subject matter under discussion was, and I had no idea who the host was talking with. We can’t afford to have two people chatting. At that time of day, people want news and information.”

However, Rosenberg said the Morning Show’s hosts were let go because they were the lowest on the station’s seniority list. She added that the station saved $375,000 as a result.

“The recall proponents have put out a lot of accusatory and false statements … and it has taken some toll on me professionally and personally,” Rosenberg said.

Aki Tanaka, a member of the local board and of Independents for Community Radio, said she supports Rosenberg and believes she is only guilty of reporting the truth to Pacifica regarding KPFA’s budget deficit.

“She did point out to the management of Pacifica that KPFA had a $500,000 deficit,” Tanaka said. “She was simply the messenger that brought the bad news.”

According to Tanaka, the decision to lay off KPFA employees was completely logical because KPFA developed the $500,000 deficit after hiring too many people before the recent economic recession.

Futran and other SaveKPFA board members also object to Rosenberg’s usage of the member email list. Futran said donors are told that their personal information will not be used by the station in any way but that Rosenberg used the email list to send newsletters promoting The Morning Mix, leading to a drop in membership and funding.

Margy Wilkinson, chair of the local station board and SaveKPFA member, said she is upset that the ballots to recall Rosenberg’s positions were delayed to such an extent. The almost seven-month delay in sending the ballots may impact the outcome of the vote, Wilkinson said, but she is unsure of how large the impact will be.

“Some people may have lost interest in the issue because it has been dragging on, but ultimately the effect of the delay will only show up in the results,” Wilkinson said.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Pacifica Foundation Treasurer and local board member Tracy Rosenberg terminated KPFA’s popular program, the Morning Show, in 2010. In fact, the decision to replace the show was voted on by the Pacifica board.