Off again, on again: Last Wednesday morning, US marshals descended on a warehouse at Telegraph Avenue and 55th Street in a phalanx of vehicles -- including a cherry picker, which they used to pluck an antenna off the roof, thus silencing 104.1 FM, Berkeley Liberation Radio.
The 38-watt pirate station had been broadcasting local public-affairs talk and music since 1999, occupying the same frequency that was once home to Free Radio Berkeley. (That micropower station officially met its demise in 1998, when founder Stephen Dunifer lost a lengthy court battle with the Federal Communications Commission, which went after him for broadcasting without a license.)
Patrick Miller, who runs a furniture refurbishing business in the same warehouse, witnessed a dozen to fifteen marshals in navy blue uniforms dismantling the station. "What got me was the amount of police they sent just to take down a little station," he says. "They thought it was funny to shut down free speech. They were laughing."
Captain Fred, a spokesman for the rebel station who goes by his air name, says Liberation Radio received a notice from the FCC in February ordering it to cease its illegal broadcasts. The station's lawyer responded and has not heard anything since.
"We're mad as hell," fumes Fred, who views the shutdown as a First Amendment violation. The feds took all of the station's equipment, including its transmitter, power supply, mixing boards, and stereo equipment, not bothering with the scratched-up vinyl and tapes. "They left some documents. Basically they had arrest warrants for the equipment," he says. "The equipment was violating FCC regulations and the equipment had to be arrested."
Federal agents at the scene declined to speak to 7 Days, and calls to the US marshals' office in San Francisco went unreturned.
Captain Fred says the station would apply for an FCC license -- if only it could get one. The way the laws are written, low-power FM stations must be at least three clicks (0.6 kHz) away from full-power stations on the dial. In the media-saturated Bay Area, that means there just isn't any room for them. You'd have to move out to the boonies to do it legally. (The frequency separation, Fred says, is unnecessary in any case, since microstations rarely interfere with the big fish.)
So what's a rebel station to do? Why, get back on the air as soon as possible, of course. That, at least, is Liberation Radio's intention. -- Melissa Hung
The Queen is a goner: A capacity crowd cheered last Tuesday as the Hayward Unified School Board announced it was dissolving its contract with embattled Superintendent Dr. Joan Kowal (see cover story "Wayward Unified," December 4). The decision, on the heels of a report revealing that the district was $3.3 million in the red, seemed like the ultimate clincher after eight tumultuous months in which parents, teachers, and other community members assailed Kowal's administration for flagrant overspending and mismanagement.
They accused Kowal's administration of spending hundreds of thousands on cell-phone bills, catering, and swank retreats, and of withholding information about the true state of district finances. Shortly after being placed on administrative leave in September, the district's executive director of business support Arthur Kratka released an eye-popping statement claiming that the schools were in such dire fiscal straits that they warranted a county takeover and a state audit.
How much will Hayward Unified pay to get rid of the superintendent? Neither district spokeswoman Kim Hammond nor school board president Paul Frumkin were returning phone calls. But Kowal's contract stipulates eighteen months' severance if she's fired without cause -- that's $262,500.
Kathy Crummey, president of the Hayward Education Association, says Kowal's departure has everyone at the union feeling relieved. Her goal now is to work with interim superintendent Jay Totter to protect the classroom from the state's threatened budget cuts -- the district could lose another four to seven million clams next year. But there's really nothing left to cut from the classroom, notes Crummey: "Teachers are operating under bottom-level expenditures as it is."
The hundreds of activist parents who lobbied for Kowal's ouster are still demanding details on the district's finances and the fate of Kowal's posse, a cadre of top administrators she brought from her previous post in Florida. "We have to rebuild, and gain an administration that the community can trust and support," says Jeff Cook, who leads parent group Hayward Education Community Alliance. "We're not going away yet." -- Kara Platoni
Oh, give me a home: The school superintendent's wasn't the only head to roll in Hayward recently. The city has fired Gordon Campbell, manager of its two public golf courses. Officials with the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District were too coy to say why, but something dark and scary must be afoot, since their press release said, "the district attorney's office may be investigating certain golf course matters." Ooh, tasty.
Whatever Campbell is in trouble for, you can bet it's worse than taking one too many mulligans. But perhaps the most tantalizing detail is that his new mailing address, according to the Tribune, is in Pahrump, Nevada.
Could it be? Could Hayward's bogeying bogeyman have decided to cool his jets in the nation's libertarian paradise while the Man figures out how to come down on him? Pahrump, an unincorporated sea of trailer parks in the Nevada desert, has long been the retirement destination of antigovernment freaks and militiamenschen from across the country. These stalwart patriots have created a wonderland free of property taxes, zoning regulations, cops, and politicians. What could Campbell be up to in the land of milk and Milton Friedman? A few theories:
The Art Bell connection: Celebrated radio host and conspiracy theorist Art Bell has broadcast his early morning show from his Pahrump trailer for years, steadily accumulating an underground reputation for UFO sightings, Area 51 lore, and black helicopter horror stories. If Campbell has a story of sinister Hayward bureaucrats setting him up to further their New World Order, Bell's just the kind of guy to take up his standard. Who knows? Campbell just might coax the old man out of his second retirement.
Hookers, hookers, hookers!: Las Vegas is one of the few Nevada cities that don't allow brothels, but Pahrump's numerous cathouses are just a short drive away. Many a randy roulette-spinner has hopped in the ole love wagon and cruised up to trailer heaven for a quickie. "If you see a limo on the highway between Vegas and Pahrump," says Pahrump Valley Times managing editor Henry Brean, "you know where it's headed." So perhaps Campbell is finding solace from his woes in the arms of one of Pahrump's lovely ladies. And a hefty tip will yield a bigger payoff than you'll ever get from Hayward's sullen caddies.
The Armageddon angle: One of Pahrump's finest attributes is undoubtedly its proximity to both the Nevada Test Site and Yucca Mountain, the fed's proposed nuclear waste dump. Many an old-time Pahrumper will regale you with entertaining "downwinder" stories of lost hair, leukemia, thyroid cancer -- all that '50s kitsch. Maybe Campbell has chosen Pahrump for the perspective; once you've meditated upon the end of the world, a few clubhouse shenanigans don't seem all that bad.
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