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KPBS’s donations up $3 million

Ethics commissioner Paul Cooper owns stock in Urbn Leaf

KPBS canceled Fresh Air hosted by Terry Gross to save money.
KPBS canceled Fresh Air hosted by Terry Gross to save money.

KPBS’s public money windfall

The finances of the KPBS public broadcasting stations, which are owned and operated by taxpayer-financed San Diego State University, have bounced back a bit from the darkest days of 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic. But spending on programs for both TV and radio remained about the same — down in the case of radio.

So reveals the group’s Fiscal Year 2021 financial statement by the accounting firm of Grant Thornton LLP, dated December 10. During the twelve months ending June 30 of this year, the stations received $7,828,947 in “direct and indirect” support from SDSU, including money for “salaries for management, space rental, and utilities.” The previous year’s SDSU contribution was $7,726,499. Including that seven-figure infusion by the tax-funded university, KPBS’s total “revenues and transfers” rose more than $4 million to $45.9 million, compared to $41.7 million the year before.

John Decker was happy to cut gross expenditures at KPBS.

A major part of that growth came from charitable contributions, which grew to $32.8 million from $29.6 million the year before. As for where the cash wound up, during Fiscal 2021, KPBS-TV spent $10,055,932 million on “programming and production,” barely up from Fiscal 2020’s $9,986,259.

The radio operation spent $3,900,238, a drop of almost $400,000 from the $4,282,259 of Fiscal 2020, according to the document. As reported here in July, KPBS management raised the ire of some radio listeners when it moved the weekly A Way with Words program, devoted to the ins-and-outs of the English language, to 5 am Sundays, and canceled Fresh Air hosted by Terry Gross to save money.

“Keeping Fresh Air — long after it made sense to do so financially — was no longer prudent,” Interim Associate General Manager John Decker told writer Ken Leighton in an email. “The programming schedule changes are an effort to redistribute some of our programming funds and time slots in support of our needs in the podcast and digital content area.”

Other KPBS costs itemized in the report included $6,871,340 to cover the stations’ “Fundraising, membership, and development” expenses, which had run $7,783,755 the year before. “Management and general” expenditures rose a hefty $777,600, up from $4,774,908 in FY 2020 to $5,552,508 in FY 2021. According to figures posted by TransparentCalifornia.com, KPBS’s acting station manager Nancy Worlie got $205,367 in pay and benefits from SDSU during 2020. By comparison, her husband Paul Worlie, chief of staff to San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, got $221,694.

Insiders’ ethics pot

Newly named San Diego ethics commissioner Paul Cooper, an ex-Executive Assistant City Attorney now vice president and general counsel of the RMD Group, a bar and restaurant consulting outfit, has a varied portfolio of assets full of possible interest conflicts.

According to Cooper’s financial disclosure filing with the city clerk’s office on December 7, the Carmel Valley resident owns between $10,000 and $100,000 of stock in Urbn Leaf, the cannabis vendor that last year sued Chula Vista for turning down its sales permit application. The San Diego firm has announced it is set to be bought by giant pot conglomerate Harborside of Oakland.

Will Paul Cooper be able to keep his money off his mind as ethics commissioner?

“Harborside is positioning itself as the largest cannabis platform in the state with retail stores, brands, processing, manufacturing, distribution, and cultivation,” says MarketWatch in a December 3 dispatch.

Appointed to the ethics commission by Mayor Todd Gloria, Cooper also owns between $2000 and $10,000 in San Diego short-term rental player Airbnb, along with the same in giant warehouse operator and developer Amazon, clothier LuLu Lemon, online legal services provider Docusign, and Upstart, an online mortgage service. City campaign finance filings show Cooper gave Gloria’s mayoral campaign $750 on September 9 of last year.

Jimmie Slack, an ex-staff chief for former council members Leon Williams, William Jones, and Myrtle Cole, was also named to the commission by Gloria. He left Cole’s employment and retired from city hall when she was ousted by voters in November 2018 in favor of Monica Montgomery...

Francis Barraza, new chief of staff to Republican city councilman Chris Cate, made between $10,000 and $100,000 as campaign manager for ex-GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer’s attempt to become governor as part of this fall’s failed recall campaign against Democrat Gavin Newsom, per Barraza’s November taking office statement.

— Matt Potter (@sdmattpotter)

The Reader offers $25 for news tips published in this column. Call our voice mail at 619-235-3000, ext. 440, or sandiegoreader.com/staff/matt-potter/contact/.

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KPBS canceled Fresh Air hosted by Terry Gross to save money.
KPBS canceled Fresh Air hosted by Terry Gross to save money.

KPBS’s public money windfall

The finances of the KPBS public broadcasting stations, which are owned and operated by taxpayer-financed San Diego State University, have bounced back a bit from the darkest days of 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic. But spending on programs for both TV and radio remained about the same — down in the case of radio.

So reveals the group’s Fiscal Year 2021 financial statement by the accounting firm of Grant Thornton LLP, dated December 10. During the twelve months ending June 30 of this year, the stations received $7,828,947 in “direct and indirect” support from SDSU, including money for “salaries for management, space rental, and utilities.” The previous year’s SDSU contribution was $7,726,499. Including that seven-figure infusion by the tax-funded university, KPBS’s total “revenues and transfers” rose more than $4 million to $45.9 million, compared to $41.7 million the year before.

John Decker was happy to cut gross expenditures at KPBS.

A major part of that growth came from charitable contributions, which grew to $32.8 million from $29.6 million the year before. As for where the cash wound up, during Fiscal 2021, KPBS-TV spent $10,055,932 million on “programming and production,” barely up from Fiscal 2020’s $9,986,259.

The radio operation spent $3,900,238, a drop of almost $400,000 from the $4,282,259 of Fiscal 2020, according to the document. As reported here in July, KPBS management raised the ire of some radio listeners when it moved the weekly A Way with Words program, devoted to the ins-and-outs of the English language, to 5 am Sundays, and canceled Fresh Air hosted by Terry Gross to save money.

“Keeping Fresh Air — long after it made sense to do so financially — was no longer prudent,” Interim Associate General Manager John Decker told writer Ken Leighton in an email. “The programming schedule changes are an effort to redistribute some of our programming funds and time slots in support of our needs in the podcast and digital content area.”

Other KPBS costs itemized in the report included $6,871,340 to cover the stations’ “Fundraising, membership, and development” expenses, which had run $7,783,755 the year before. “Management and general” expenditures rose a hefty $777,600, up from $4,774,908 in FY 2020 to $5,552,508 in FY 2021. According to figures posted by TransparentCalifornia.com, KPBS’s acting station manager Nancy Worlie got $205,367 in pay and benefits from SDSU during 2020. By comparison, her husband Paul Worlie, chief of staff to San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, got $221,694.

Insiders’ ethics pot

Newly named San Diego ethics commissioner Paul Cooper, an ex-Executive Assistant City Attorney now vice president and general counsel of the RMD Group, a bar and restaurant consulting outfit, has a varied portfolio of assets full of possible interest conflicts.

According to Cooper’s financial disclosure filing with the city clerk’s office on December 7, the Carmel Valley resident owns between $10,000 and $100,000 of stock in Urbn Leaf, the cannabis vendor that last year sued Chula Vista for turning down its sales permit application. The San Diego firm has announced it is set to be bought by giant pot conglomerate Harborside of Oakland.

Will Paul Cooper be able to keep his money off his mind as ethics commissioner?

“Harborside is positioning itself as the largest cannabis platform in the state with retail stores, brands, processing, manufacturing, distribution, and cultivation,” says MarketWatch in a December 3 dispatch.

Appointed to the ethics commission by Mayor Todd Gloria, Cooper also owns between $2000 and $10,000 in San Diego short-term rental player Airbnb, along with the same in giant warehouse operator and developer Amazon, clothier LuLu Lemon, online legal services provider Docusign, and Upstart, an online mortgage service. City campaign finance filings show Cooper gave Gloria’s mayoral campaign $750 on September 9 of last year.

Jimmie Slack, an ex-staff chief for former council members Leon Williams, William Jones, and Myrtle Cole, was also named to the commission by Gloria. He left Cole’s employment and retired from city hall when she was ousted by voters in November 2018 in favor of Monica Montgomery...

Francis Barraza, new chief of staff to Republican city councilman Chris Cate, made between $10,000 and $100,000 as campaign manager for ex-GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer’s attempt to become governor as part of this fall’s failed recall campaign against Democrat Gavin Newsom, per Barraza’s November taking office statement.

— Matt Potter (@sdmattpotter)

The Reader offers $25 for news tips published in this column. Call our voice mail at 619-235-3000, ext. 440, or sandiegoreader.com/staff/matt-potter/contact/.

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Comments
1

San Diego State's KPBS 89.5 FM Radio is raising more public dollars than last year and spending more on fund-raising, all while cutting high-quality informative programs. Terry Gross' "Fresh Air" hour-long interviews with writers, artists, musicians and public figures has been deep-sixed. Amusing and interesting home-grown "A Way with Words" has been consigned to the broom closet of Sundays at 5 a..m. If KPBS were rated by Charity Navigator, it would be off their charts of starry acceptability. Given this outrageous record, I won't be giving KPBS a dime and I urge others also to boycott KPBS' insulting programming mediocrity. KPBS needs to restore "Fresh Air" and "A Way with Words" to merit public trust and charitable investment.

Dec. 22, 2021

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