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Seeds of Change Stir at KZYX

Two thirds of the Board of Directors for KZYX attended the February 2nd meeting, held at the Redwood Coast Senior Center. Absent were Board President, Eliane Herring and Directors Page and Sakowicz.

Vice President Stuart Campbell chaired the meeting, citing personal reasons for the absences. Sakowicz, returning from a workshop in southern California was unable to connect with Campbell for the coastal commute. He did, however, access the meeting through audiotape.

As the first order of business, Campbell announced the candidates for the three open Board of Director's seats in the upcoming MCPB election.

At-large Candidates (not restricted by place of residence): Doug McKenty and Ed Keller

District 2 (Ukiah): Toni Novelli and Benj Thomas

District 5 (South Coast and Inland areas): Clay Eubank and Dennis O'Brien.

Ballots have been mailed and need to be returned in the envelope provided, no later than Tuesday, March 31st to be counted. An on-air Candidates Forum is scheduled for Thursday, March 5th at 7pm. Questions for the forum may be submitted in advance by sending them to

Synopsis of Candidate Statements 

Doug McKenty — Served as Programmer Representative on MCPB Board of Directors from 2011 to 2013. Hosted listener call in show, Open Lines, (2006-2013) and The Thursday Morning Report (2009-12). Currently working as a journalist covering local, national and international issues in collaboration with He hopes to bring the listening and facilitation skills developed as both the Open Lines host and as a member of the point committee for the Community Rights Network of Mendocino County (CRNMC) which organized the effort to pass Measure S in 2014 to help the station be more inclusive in its operational philosophy.

Ed Keller — Currently holds the District 2 seat on the MCPB Board of Directors. He is a semi-retired realtor and the past owner of a local small business. Was active in getting Measure H passed and getting the Ukiah Skate Park built. As a Board member he initiated regular tabling at the Ukiah Farmer's Market, assisted at various fundraising events and worked hard towards establishing an alternative site for the Philo studio. He supports a strong management team and feels the primary obligation of the Board is to get the station back to a strong financial foundation.

Toni Novelli — Helps run the e-commerce side of in Hopland as well as works as a freelance graphic designer. She is a certified permaculture designer with a teaching certificate from the Regenerative Design Institute and has completed RDI's Ecology of Leadership training. She sat on the Community Advisory Board for KXCI Community Radio for 2-3 years in Tucson, AZ and understands the challenges and opportunities of community radio. She has been the primary grant writer as the co-director of a Tucson based nonprofit and has experience in the development and management of project budgets. Believes in the importance of fundraising and collaborative solutions.

Benj Thomas — As a school teacher and administrator, he has developed skills in the areas of communication, consensus and when necessary, compromise. He was twice elected to the Ukiah City Council (2006-14) and served as the foreperson of the Mendocino County Grand Jury. He has been involved in public radio for 40 years — in Washington, D.C and as a music programmer for both KZYX and KMEC. He currently teaches poetry to three six grade classes at the Ukiah Unified School District and sits on several local Boards and committees including the Ukiah Poet Laureate Committee. He believes that boards should be wholly engaged in establishing and overseeing policy and have an essential responsibility for fundraising.

Clay Eubank — Has a passion for public radio and its mission. He has a 30 year history in news media with a BS in Business Management and a MA in Organization Development. He has held management positions in both volunteer and paid organizations, facilitating organizational change and helping to create shared visions. He currently works as Assistant Manager for the Anderson Valley Ambulance and as Training Officer for the AV Fire Dept. and has been appointed to the AV Health Clinic's Board of Directors. He believes that transparency and collaboration are important to nonprofit governance and in the right of all voices to be heard in a community organization.

Dennis O'Brien — Is a retired lawyer with experience in membership nonprofits and public radio. As a board member for the Mendocino Environmental Center, he helped obtain the FCC license for KMEC -LP. He will focus his energy on policies and procedures rather than personalities. He has outlined four principle areas for policy assessment-Freedom of Expression; Open Governance; Engagement with Members/ Public and Decentralized Power. He is committed to the practice of nonviolent communication and to serving the needs of the entire community.

* * *

Campbell gave an update on the FCC renewal of the KZYX license. A letter from the FCC's Audio Chief, Peter Doyle, stated that no determination on the merits of the Objections filed in 2013/14 had been made. A response was required regarding an allegation that management had violated the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Rule in its hiring of News Director, David Brooksher and also “freelance news consultant” Paul Lambert in the following year.

Evidence of several advertisements for News Director were supplied as well as the correct date of the hiring of Mr. Lambert, 7/1/12. In his declaration to the FCC, Coate states he terminated Brooksher and eliminated the position of News Director on 6/30/12 “due to financial difficulties.” He goes on to state that Lambert was a part time employee, did not have a titled position, was paid an hourly wage with no benefits. As such, with only four salaried positions, the station qualified for the small station exemption of EEO requirements and was allowed to hire Lambert without advertising the position.

In reviewing notes of the July 2012 Board meeting, Coate stated there were personnel issues with Brooksher “that he was not at liberty to discuss.” The final budget figures for 2012 show that only $1800 of the 3K budgeted for freelance news recruitment was spent. There was no discussion of the the elimination of the position of News Director with the Board at that time or the ramifications that such a decision would not only give the station exemption from EEO requirements but would save the station from a scheduled FCC audit. That decision also cemented Coate's control over the budget since there was no News Director to negotiate the budget of the news department which had also been eliminated over the course of several years.

In other matters, the Board addressed a request for a membership list on behalf of candidate, Dennis O'Brien which the California Corporations Code clearly states is the right of members to obtain. Campbell cited a section of the Federal Communications Act which appears to be contradictory to state law, specifically prohibiting the distribution of a donor list unless notification is given that personally identifiable information can be disclosed to a “non-afilliated third party” and the opportunity is provided for the donor to opt out of such disclosure.

In an effort to reconcile the conflicting statutes, the Board has agreed to have a mailing sent to the members using the contractor who mails out the station's election ballots with the following restrictions: the printing and mailing costs are the responsibility of the individual or group requesting the mailing; neither the station's trademark call letters nor MCPB can be used as part of the return address on the envelope.

Campbell stated a concern that candidates who choose to go outside the two avenues the station provides for member information on station candidates — the mailed candidate's statements and the on air forum — raise the possibility that anyone with money (vis á vis the Citizens United decision) could tip the results of the election in their favor.

On the other side of the question of access to the membership is the fact that control of information to the members is not limited to the parameters set by either the station's Election Coordinator or the MCPB Board. The process of screening questions for the candidates by advanced online submissions set up by Campbell as Election Coordinator in this and last year's election has received criticism for unequal access to the process by members, the anonymity of the person posing the question (no voice recognition) and the distinct ability of the Election Coordinator to choose from the field of questions asked. With a seven-second delay in place to protect against inappropriate behavior, there is no longer the necessity to prevent direct access to the candidates from called-in listener questions. While much has been made of “keeping a level playing field,” it appears that there is a real home court advantage to the process as it is currently set up.

The Board had still another sticky situation to work through.

A complaint was made by one of the candidates against the General Manager, John Coate, for making a demeaning remark about the candidate on the programmers listserve — a private communication meant to be used exclusively among the station's 108 programmers. The complaint alleged Coate had improperly used his position and station resources to influence the election.

Campbell quoted from Coate's employment contract (also a private document) that Coate's job description included “support to the Board in its governance through recruitment, orientation ,training and evaluation activities.” Campbell, as acting chair of the Board, claimed that Coate was acting within his contract in getting involved in recruiting Board candidates and had free speech rights which provide that anyone's speech is not subject to restriction. He called the programmer's listserve “a somewhat public forum” concluding that its use did not constitute misuse of the station's resources. He further remarked that had Coate made statements on air or on the website, he then would have inappropriately misused station resources.

The problem not addressed is the fact that the programmer's listserve is a private, not a public forum. Additionally, this is not the only time Coate has been outed for making negative and false statements of people who had no access to presumed confidential emails. Therefore, it seems more than a little askew that the Board would be concerned about a level playing field in the context of membership access but accept the one sided advantage of Coate availing programmers of his personal bias. Since the 108 programmers compose a disproportionate block of members, they also have a greater capacity to affect the election's outcome.

Considering that the General Manager has a stake in the election results in being directly answerable to the Board and only to them, it would seem that a public stance of GM neutrality be of primary importance to the Board in assuring an untainted election.

As Board liaison to the station's Community Advisory Board (CAB), Campbell then tackled the CAB's recommendation last July to have on-air informational spots of station business as a way to improve relations between the station and its listeners. He incorrectly stated that the CAB recommendation included improving communication through use of a digital newsletter. That idea was introduced at last year's membership meeting when the Board announced Director Lambert's new role as Media Coordinator. A long discussion ensued related to Lambert's unsuccessful efforts to promote the guests of public affairs programs in print media. Director Jane Futcher asked if it was possible to ask members, either through a question on the ballot or during the pledge drive whether they would be interested in receiving a station e newsletter.

As Ms. Ellen Saxe was the only member of the CAB present, Campbell suggested a combined committee of Board and CAB members to work out details of how the recommendation could be implemented.

Under the agenda item, Matters from Board Members, Director Futcher stated she felt under utilized as a Board Member and thought that not much was being accomplished through the reading of emails from the Executive Board and infrequent meetings. She recommended a Board retreat without staff attendance to focus on setting priorities for what accomplishments the Board hoped to achieve. She also suggested reviving the committee system that had fallen into disuse during the chairmanship of the last three Board Presidents. She felt that each member of the Board should serve on at least one committee and mentioned an Elections Committee and a Fundraising Committee as starting points. Her suggestion to begin working on a Strategic Plan for the station that included members of the community to work together with the Board was met with applause from the audience.

The current Board President's response to me when I mentioned the lack of a Strategic Plan over an eight year span was to say that there were no time restrictions in the station's Bylaws. In her declaration to the FCC, Herring clearly stated that “Along with others on the Board, I have formed the opinion that Mr. Coate was not just a competent day to day manager: that his real passion lay in formulating and implementing a strategic direction for the station.”

Directors Courtney and Lambert also favored moving in a forward direction rather than being reactive to demands and complaints.

Director Madrigal said she would like to see an Infrastructure Committee formed.

Courtney also stated she was committed to put the responses to FAQ's (frequently asked questions) on the website to prevent needless repetition.

The Board agreed to move Public Comment to the place behind the GM's report. It also voted to table a discussion on a proposal brought by Director Sakowicz until he was able to present his argument before the Board.

General Manager's Report 

Of primary interest were the problems the station had been experiencing in late January. Coate reported that increased interference in the 90.7 signal caused the station to use a back up STL (Studio Transmitter Link) which failed and left only the web stream functioning. Through the efforts of a Napa radio engineer who provided a spare STL, the station was able to replace the malfunctioning equipment and be back on the air by late afternoon.

The station bought and installed a new Uninterrupted Power Supply unit (UPS) in December which interacts intelligently with both the electrical grid and the back up generator when there is a loss of power. On January 31st, a PG&E transformer blew but the UPS unit kept the station on air when the back up generator developed problems. Coate noted that the current hybrid system of radio combined with Internet use is a complex system which requires support for the in-between zone.

The station purchased a new control console for Studio B, the Production Studio which is used for recording and editing programs. Programming

Valerie Kim has joined the news team of Quinn and Dechter, replacing Michael Kisslinger who left in December. Kim now hosts the ten minute evening news segment. Other local reports are dispersed during intervals of NPR's Morning Edition.

Bill Moyers has retired from broadcasting. TUC Radio, produced by Maria Gilardin now airs on Thursday at 1 PM followed by Barry Vogel's production, Radio Curious at 1: 30.

Val Muchowski has retired after 25 years of hosting Women's Voices. Sarah Reith, who has taken her place, was featured on Pacifica's website for a series of shows on Iraqi and Afghani women.

Greg Krouse will no longer host the Ecology Hour. Beginning Mach 3rd, Kim Rodrigues, the Director of the Hopland UC Research and Extension Center will co-host the show.

Corporations and Democracy's longtime host on alternate Tuesdays, Tom Wodetzki, is also leaving. His co host, Toni Rizzo, will continue on with new co-host, Lynda McClure.

Three new programs are scheduled to hit the airwaves: Reveal from PRX and the Center for Investigative Reporting will air monthly through June, then weekly beginning in July. Cal Winslow will air a four part series called Black Lives Matter: Race and Law Enforcement. A six part series from NPR, Invisibilia, exploring human behavior from a scientific perspective, airs from mid February through March.


The audit for FY 2014 has been completed and shows the station to have a year end surplus of $24K.(Fiscal year 2014 ends June 30th 2014.) The audit is posted on the station's website.

The current fiscal year (through Dec 31st 2014) is strong due to a good fall pledge drive and $28k raised through end of year donations. Total Accounts Receivable are $79.2k while Total Accounts Payable are $45.5K including the prior year's debt of $ 17.1k. The winter pledge drive that ran in February brought in a additional $50k, $13k on the last day of the drive but fell $20k short of its goal.

The mid February online auction organized by Underwriting Coordinator, David Steffen also brought in an unspecified amount of income through items donated by upwards of thirty local businesses. The auction was a collaboration with KNPR — Nevada Public Radio who has a listening audience of 300,000.

The station is changing its membership database contractor to Donor Perfect.

Public Comment; Ana Lucas — Would like to see Station News segments dovetailed with spots like the Community Calendar, local news or other that have high community interest. Loved the Moth Radio Hour and would love to see it come back. Frank Letke — Asked whether contributions over $5K were required to be enumerated on a 990 tax form.

Coate responded that when tax forms are returned by the IRS, they are linked to the station's website. Campbell publicly announced the Board website as through which the convoluted website system for Board contact can be bypassed.

Letke also commented on his impression that controversial programmers have been excluded from the airwaves. He felt, apart from FCC rules, one doesn't want radio to be so bland that it doesn't offend anyone. He added, he thought the suggestion to not pay for the services of a GM was unrealistic and ridiculous.

Marco Maclean was struck by the Board's reaction to a discussion item put on the agenda by the absent Sakowicz to strip management of its salaried status and distribute the freed up money to the people who create the programs. He stated that at a minimum, management could agree to a 50% cut of his $60K salary to upgrade failing equipment problems. He also felt that programmers and management could be paid equally and referenced a local low powered station where neither management or programmers were paid.

Dennis O'Brien — stated that the first three legs of his platform as a candidate for the MCPB Board was as natural as mom and apple pie. Freedom of expression, transparency in governance and Public Engagement was the cornerstone of democracy. He said the right to information was a member's stated right in the station Bylaws and was not pleased with Coate's lack of response to his requests. He asked Coate if there was an email list of members and was told there was not. When Madrigal responded there was interest on the Board in assembling a list, Campbell reminder her of the CPB requirements. He agreed with Board members who wanted to be more engaged in the governance process and believed that in doing so, much of the past conflict could be alleviated.

A woman who did not give her name commented that the most recent forms published by the IRS were from 2012. She did not believe there was a law that required the publishing of large donations of nonprofits.

Jeff Wright — Can't pick up the 88.1 signal. Doesn't like the fact that there is only one phone line to the Mendo studio. Wants to see Memo on the Air on KZYX. Also wants to get his information over the air and doesn't want to buy into the computer infrastructure.

Doug McKenty — Announced that he is a candidate for the At Large seat. He commented that as the host of Open Lines, he became more aware of a contingency of frustrated people who felt their voices weren't being heard. As a former Board member, he began to wonder why there were no committees for which the public could volunteer. He mentioned the Bylaw that states that 5% of the members are needed to call a membership meeting and thought that the station could establish it's own member listserve that would open up the door to member communication.

I tagged on to McKenty's suggestion, stating that on at least three different occasions, I had asked the Board to answer how members could call a meeting without a means to contact each other and never received a satisfactory response. I was happy to hear of the renewed interest by the Board of active governance through a committee system. I noted that in 2012, I was told that Board policies weren't being followed because they needed to be updated yet no effort was made towards that end. Last July, after an 18 month struggle, the Board finally agreed to create a policy regarding the acceptance or rejection of station volunteers and once again the stated intention never materialized. There are plenty more instances where Board actions haven't matched the words so I find it curious that all this forward movement coincides so smoothly with the election cycle when real challenges to the status quo are at the door. I also told the Board that they have a obligation to get input from the entire community on what kind of radio they would support, not only the members or the listening audience and this need also has not received attention in many years.

Ellen Saxe — As a member of the CAB, Saxe noted it wasn't hard to create a list of important questions. The difficulty lies in providing a strategy for providing solutions. She emphasized that the information segments were also meant to include positive news generated by the station's staunchest advocates. She felt that to formalise, regular, personal communication honors the listener's desire to be included.

Tom Melcher — felt from his experience as a phone answerer, a lot of good information could be gleaned from members through pledge drives if it was organized well and time was spent in training volunteers.

Dave Gurney took issue with the secretiveness of management in not revealing staff salaries. He said he would not donate if he did not know how the money was spent.

Programmer Cal Winslow felt most of the listeners thought the station was doing a good job and that KZYX had more than its share of complainers. He also injected a shot of humor into the evening, saying that as a hit and miss programmer he'd like to know how much of the manager's salary he could get.

Former Board member, David Hopmann made note of the programs he liked to listen to while driving and congratulated Coate on the good financial numbers. He commented on his visit to Board member Bob Page who at that time was recovering his health after getting needed medical attention.

Staff member, David Steffen wanted to be sure that no one thought the station received a large donation of $28k. He assured everyone that he sometimes picks up 12 to 20 envelopes in the mail, all of them containing small donations.

Another former Board member, King Collins remarked that to him it doesn't seem unreasonable to cut salaries by half. He brought up the historical perspective that when the station first began, it was a collective that functioned without salaried positions and continued that way for along time — which was a main factor in its survival. He said it wasn't crazy to think about reorienting the priorities of the Board. He remembered in 2005, the Board had serious discussions on whether to hire a station engineer over a general manager. He felt a station engineer on the staff was the most important necessary staff position to keep the station operations running smoothly. He called on the Board to develop a Strategic Plan and was enthusiastic about a committee system that welcomed participation by members of the community.

Liz Helenchild aka Bessie Mae Mucho-used to do Tales from the Pygmy Tower on KMFB, — a children's program of stories and music. She knows the Board doesn't decide programming choices but she believes it is vitally important that children form an attachment to radio at a young age rather than to electronic devices. Children’s shows would fulfill the mandate to serve that portion of the population.

The Board showed its appreciation to Michael Kisslinger and to Paul Lambert for maintaining a news presence at the station for the past several years. Lambert commented that selecting stories from various sources often took more time to organize into a coherent program than the three hours a day he was contracted to do. Gathering news and recording it is an extremely time consuming process. The Board and members of the audience gave an ovation of applause for their services.

The next meeting of the Board will be the Annual Membership meeting in Ukiah on Monday, May 4th at 6pm.


  1. Paul McCarthy March 4, 2015

    Loved the comment at the end, “Lambert commented that selecting stories from various sources often took more time to organize into a coherent program than the three hours a day he was contracted to do.”
    I called him out (through email) on reading stories verbatim out of the Press Democrat without attribution – like he actually attended the meeting or did the research. His response: “Who are you?”
    I told him I was an former ink-stained wretch that used to have radio people steal my writing without attribution. It was “on the air theft” day after day after day…”ovation of applause” indeed.

    • M Kathryn Massey March 8, 2015


      Thanks for your comments about “on the air theft”. Real news is more than rip and tear, or in this case, rip off and read. Three hours to put together copy that’s already written is telling in and of itself.

      And Jim, it’s not the size of the radio station. It’s the fact that it’s publicly funded; Has a membership base which calls for input; and, Has a community based board charged with seeing that the mission of KZYX is carried out. The recent writings in this newspaper have tried to address what has gone wrong and how, perhaps, it could be righted. Many, if not all of the public comments and concern is chronic in the history of the station.

      Since this is the case, ask yourself, what or who is the common denominator?

      Stay tuned.

      M Kathryn Massey
      Mendocino, CA

  2. Jim Updegraff March 5, 2015

    How does a small public radio station get themselves involved in such weighty issues?

  3. John Sakowicz March 8, 2015

    To Ms. Massey — Is Mary Aigner the common denominator? She’s been at KZYX since it was started 25 years ago. No other person is the one consistent common denominator for all of the station’s 25 years. Just asking.

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