network uses choice voting to elect local station boards
Berkeley Daily Planet
Today’s the Deadline For Pacifica Board
By Jakob Schiller
December 12, 2003
Long-struggling advocates of democratic governance for the
Pacifica Network and its member stations chalked up one more small
victory last Friday with the expiration of the deadline for
candidate applications for the upcoming board elections.
The election, which ends Feb. 5, resulted from a years-long
battle over the future of the popular listener-funded Pacifica
stations. When the smoke clears, the resulting new governance
structure will feature a democratically elected advisory board at
the network’s five members station: KPFA here in Berkeley, WBAI in
New York City, WPFW in Washington D.C., KPFT in Houston and KPFK in
Under the new model, listener members and staff will elect
candidates to the 24 slots on each station board. Each of the five
boards will then pick four of their own members to sit on the
national Pacifica board.
Pacifica’s 53 affiliate stations will elect an additional two
“It’s democracy not in a passive sense but in an active sense,”
said KPFA election supervisor Les Radke during a press conference to
announce the elections Monday. Joining Radke at the conference were
a handful of the approximately 50 preliminary candidates vying for a
spot on KPFA’s board.
Though the station widely publicized the press conference, this
writer was the only non-Pacifica reporter in attendance.
Radke said the structural changes were enacted to ensure that the
station continues to model the type of progressive and democratic
organization that has governed the network and its content since its
founding back in 1946.
The latest round of changes were sparked when the old Pacifica
board moved to consolidate and centralize power, prompting
protesters to fill the streets outside KPFA and other member
stations across the nation.
Listeners were outraged by policies enacted by a Pacifica board
which announced its intent to “mainstream” local stations and their
content. Specific gripes included the decision by the national board
to self-select its membership, ending the long-standing process that
allowed local stations to appoint the majority of the national board
members. Protesters also complained of financial mismanagement and
The new structure, proponents say, ensures democratic oversight
of all the network’s most important functions, effectively
forestalling the possibility of another power struggle lead by the
board. Nonetheless, they say they don’t expect the transition to be
“I’m actually nervous. Democracy doesn’t solve every problem,”
said KPFA General Manager Gus Newport, a former Berkeley mayor.
“Hopefully [the elections] will open the door to new ideas and
energy and accountability. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
Organizers say they’ve tried to democratize the election process
as much as possible by employing a “Choice Voting” form of
Choice Voting, they say, allows voters to rank candidates,
preventing power grabs by monolithic slates by preserving minority
representation. Instead of winning a majority, each candidate only
has to receive a set amount of votes and is automatically elected.
If a voter’s first choice already has enough votes to win, the
vote automatically transfers to their second choice, ensuring that
the vote counts. If the voter’s first choice doesn’t have enough
support to win a seat by the time the voter casts their ballot, the
vote will automatically be transferred to the next choice still in
At KPFA, 18 of the 24 slots will be filled by the 50-plus
candidates who turned in candidacy applications. The remaining six
will be filled by paid and unpaid staff. Only listener members can
vote on the 18 slots and only staff can vote for staff. A 25th slot
on KPFA’s board will be filled by someone from member station KFCF
in Fresno. Eligible to vote are listeners who have pledged $25 or
more in the last year or performed three hours of volunteer service
at the station.
Around 110,000 ballots are scheduled to go
out nationwide, of which 30,000 will go to KPFA members. The
election is valid if 10 percent of the registered members cast
For more information about KPFA’s election contact Les Radke at
848-6767 ext. 626 or by e-mail at [email protected].
KPFT's listeners cast votes for local station
Election could shape national network
January 11, 2004
One candidate is a self-styled "liberal
pagan." Another, who contracted polio as a child, describes himself
as "active with disabled-person access issues." Others in the
running are teachers, lawyers and left-leaning housewives.
All say they want KPFT-FM, Houston's Pacifica Radio station, to
promote peace, understanding and tolerance and to provide news not
found in mainstream media.
This month, 61 candidates are vying for 18 spots on the local
station board. Staff members will select the remaining six board
members from among 20 others. Ballots were mailed last week to about
10,300 "listener members," and they must be returned by Feb. 5, said
Robin Lewis, chairwoman of the KPFT elections committee.
The elections at KPFT and the four other Pacifica Radio stations
-- in Berkeley, Calif.; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; and New York
City -- could finally resolve a four-year struggle over control of
the nation's most influential left-leaning radio network.
Once selected, each local board will choose four of its members
to serve on Pacifica's national governing board. The governing plan
is designed to give members a voice in station budgeting,
programming and management, said Leslie Cagan, the chairwoman of
Pacifica's interim national board. Cagan said the process also
ensures that the listener-supported network continues to provide
news and other information not found in mainstream media.
"We're striving for a governing structure that allows all some
role in running stations," Cagan said. "We want people to turn on
those stations to find news and cultural information they won't hear
In statements on KPFT's Web site and aired on the radio, the
local candidates outline their visions and pitch their campaign
"The Pacifica mission statement, which calls for us to contribute
to a lasting understanding, provide access to nonmainstream news
sources, and to promote the resolution of conflict by understanding,
defines a mission that is quite obvious in times like these," one
For many candidates, campaign issues include making sure KPFT
promotes discourse respectful of others and that Amy Goodman's
liberal Democracy Now! program remains on the air and perhaps
moves up an hour so more people driving to work can listen.
"I soon discovered Democracy Now! and the dulcet tones of
Amy Goodman," says one candidate's statement."I began to arrange my
sales day so that I would be in my van from 9-10 a.m."
The candidate goes on to say, "I am a liberal pagan. I voted for
Nader. I did inhale. I'm pro-choice in ALL aspects of life. I
believe strongly in the sacredness of life and the right of each
individual to express themselves, regardless of their beliefs. I
believe that America is headed in the direction of a military state
without serious, committed, and IMMEDIATE intervention. I believe
Michael Moore should have a statue in Washington, D.C. My ultimate
belief is in the basic tenet of all known religions. Treat others as
you would like to be treated."
The elections are the result of an effort begun more than four
years ago to wrest control of the stations from Pacifica's national
governing board. A minority of board members claimed that the
board's majority was centralizing power, ignoring local advisory
boards and moving the network away from liberal-oriented news
reports toward mainstream programming.
The two sides agreed in late 2001 to call for the elections, set
up an interim national board, rewrite Pacifica's bylaws and settle
lawsuits that minority board members and listeners had filed against
the old board majority.
Dissident board members cited KPFT in Houston and WPFW in
Washington -- both of which were accused of dumping local news in
favor of more music -- as examples of how Pacifica stations should
not be run.
Houston Pacifica members protested outside KPFT offices in the
mid-1990s against programming choices by then-station manager
Garland Ganter, who critics said increased the number of listeners
but dulled the station's political edge. Members protested outside
the offices again a few years ago when they felt the national
governing body was usurping their power.
The Pacifica election is a study in proportional representation
that ensures each vote contributes to the election, said Terry
Bouricius, the elections' national supervisor. Rather than a
winner-take-all election, such as the U.S. presidential contest,
Pacifica members rank candidates in order of preference.
"The method of tallying votes is designed to facilitate each
voter having someone elected to the board that is acceptable to
him/her," according to the Pacifica Web site. "By ranking candidates
in order of preference (1, 2, 3, etc.), if your favorite candidate
has more than enough votes to win a seat, your vote will not be
wasted, but will instead automatically count for your next favorite
"The elections will reconnect the community and the radio
station," said KPFT station manager Duane Bradley. "Members will
feel a sense of ownership for the station."