Bad Air

It’s Friday, February 15. Outside All Souls Unitarian Church is Chuck Tackett, the self-described overweight, black, gay “working-class stiff” (Letters, June 28, 2001), who is board president of radio station KKFI 90.1. Tonight, he’s the capitalist pig.

Inside is Kansas City Star vice president for community affairs Lewis Diuguid — resplendent in a suit and tie. The antiwar columnist is awash in a standing ovation from the Friends of Community Radio. The newly formed group, which opposes 90.1’s current management, has gathered for a fund-raising speech by celebrity journalist Amy Goodman, host of the Pacifica News Network’s “Democracy Now.”

The 400 pacifists inside the church seem ready for war — and on a Friday night! They say an army of philistines, led by general manager Robert Barrientos, has overthrown the volunteers who created 90.1 and ran it for decades. The occupying forces have cancelled programs, kicked hosts off the air and infiltrated the board of directors, and they think Associated Press radio news is an “alternative voice to conservative mainstream media.” They’re making the station into another KCUR 89.3.

Pish-posh, Tackett replies. “You have been hoodwinked! You have been bamboozled! You have been led astray!” declares a Malcolm X quote on his rebuttal leaflets outside.

But Tackett’s opponents now include station stalwarts who kept discreetly quiet during the early days of the takeover (“Fly in the Soup,” May 31, 2001). “The board, in an illegally closed meeting, has removed four board members who were members of Friends of Community Radio,” says Karen Wright, a former board president. She and labor expert Judy Ancel have been “purged,” and their one-hour weekly program, “Heartland Labor Forum,” is in limbo.

“They yanked ‘Democracy Now’ off the air on KKFI today,” rails Dennis Moynihan of the Pacifica Campaign. “It’s an absolute disgrace what they’ve done at this station.”

Goodman talks about Henry Kissinger‘s still-pending arrest as a war criminal and witnessing a massacre in East Timor.

Dragging us back to Kansas City’s wars, school-board member Michael Byrd takes a microphone and brings up his favorite topic: getting re-elected. “I’m asking for your advice with the media,” the USDA pencil-pusher tells Goodman. Here’s a guy who last fall secretly worked on new election boundaries that would have decreased the number of his current constituents who’d get to vote against him. We could all use some democracy now.

Categories: News