Several members of the Steering Committee of the Harris County Green Party, along with other HCGP members, wish to make known their dismay over the current controversy at Houston's Pacifica affiliate KPFT 90.1 FM. Pacifica is recognized as the only national network providing news and public affairs programming from a progressive or radical perspective, and KPFT has filled that niche in Houston since 1970.
Last week, the Pacifica Foundation's interim executive director, Bill Crosier of Houston, fired the interim general manager and three other staff members. Beyond that, the facts of the situation are themselves controversial, with different stories emerging from those involved, as are theories regarding the motivation for the firings. Crosier selected longtime KPFT programmer Larry Winters to replace him.
The details of the situation change daily, such as which individuals and groups are pursuing what sort of remedy; as of today (21 July), the central fact of Dr. Kamau's dismissal remains. Various parties involved in the dispute will gather at the S.H.A.P.E. Community Center's Harambee Building, 3903 Almeda Road, this evening at 7 pm. Crosier will not be present.
Crosier is a longtime progressive ally and a leader in the Houston Peace and Justice Coalition; therefore, it is distressing to see him undertake what other allies have declared a racist act.
The HCGP Steering Committee wishes to make it clear that it is not unanimous on this matter. Prior to publication, Co-chair George Reiter and Secretary Deb Shafto requested some changes in the text of this post.
We have confidence in the integrity and commitment to KPFT and Pacifica of Obidike Kamau , Bill Crosier, and Larry Winters.
We call for a facilitated meeting between Bill, Obidike and Larry, in which they can share what they need from each other, and for the station, in order to develop a strategy for moving forward in a way that strengthens the station and returns it to a productive and viable fiscal existence.
Other current and former members of the Steering Committee, however, would like to point out that Crosier has taken a unilateral step that is racially tone-deaf at best in dismissing KPFT's first African-American GM, interim or otherwise. This is especially true given the unrealistic expectations placed on the interim manager to rescue the station, within three months, from years of inadequate funding and mismanagement within the Foundation.
On Wednesday night, 19 July, GreenwatchTV devoted a special episode to the situation. Appearing on the program are Kamau, former staff member Greg Audel, Local Station Board member P.K. McCary, and Pacifica National Board member Adriana Casanave.
Alyson Ward of the Houston Chronicle has posted three articles on the situation, featuring quotes from Crosier, fired GM Dr. Obidike Kamau, several staffers, volunteer programmers, and members of the Local Station Board past and present. NOTE: Viewing these articles in their entirety may require a digital subscription.
- KPFT, always in turmoil, in turmoil again (14 July)
- Protest planned at KPFT (14 July)
- Houston police called to KPFT as tempers flare (18 July)
- The turmoil at KPFT: what we know, what we don't know (19 July)
The reporting in the articles is reasonably balanced; not everyone close to the situation will agree on the facts as presented. Further, they do not include accounts of the dispute between Crosier and some LSB members, or Crosier's statements that the true reasons for the terminations cannot legally be revealed.
The explanation quoted for Kamau's dismissal, that he had not submitted a development plan by a certain deadline, is not official. If it is accurate, it seems weak in light of such expectations not imposed upon his predecessor Duane Bradley. If new interim GM Larry Winters is called upon to submit such a plan within three months and fails, will he be fired also?
Green-friendly blogger Perry Dorrell has also posted two entries on the matter, one with quotations from Ward's "turmoil" article, and another with excerpts from Facebook discussions. His conclusions are that Crosier "screwed the pooch" and that perhaps KPFT and its supporters should accept the station's inevitable obsolescence.
The author received input and assistance from HCGP Treasurer David Wager.