THESE DAYS, there's a whole lot of like to go around at KBOO.
In late January, KBOO's board of directors appointed two highly regarded activists and nonprofit leaders to co-manage the station: Monica Beemer, best known for turning Sisters of the Road Café from a struggling community kitchen into a respected anti-poverty advocacy organization; and Mic Crenshaw, a hiphop artist and activist who co-founded Globalfam, an organization that provides computers to disadvantaged youth in Burundi.
By all accounts, the two are well liked. One former board member, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the reaction to the new hires as a "Facebook orgasm of joy." The station's board likes them. The staff likes them. Members like them.
But up until recently, there hasn't been much liking at KBOO.
The pair's appointment appears to mark the closing chapter of a tumultuous period for the 46-year-old community radio station. In 2012, the station's board of directors began enacting measures to bring KBOO's freewheeling and participatory management structure in line with more mainstream organizations, which drew the ire of some supporters.
To carry out these changes, the board hired Lynn Fitch, a veteran in the nonprofit sector, as station manager, and gave her broad decision-making authority.
Seeking to make KBOO more viable after years of declining members and revenues, Fitch changed the station's personnel policies, among other moves.
At one point, she suggested laying off all employees and letting them reapply for their old jobs. And when KBOO staff took steps to unionize, Fitch responded by hiring a union-busting law firm—putting a station known for its left-leaning politics and labor-friendliness at odds with some of its core supporters ["Airing of Grievances," News, June 5, 2013].
The staff successfully unionized, as relations between Fitch and the board became strained. In September, Fitch resigned and four new members were elected to the board, all of whom had the blessing of a group called "Keep KBOO as KBOO," an informal alliance of members concerned about the "corporatization" of the station.
But all that appears to be ebbing with the appointment of Beemer and Crenshaw, who will formally take the reins in March.
"They will really bring out the mission of KBOO and bring programming and participation from people who have been left out and locked out," says Jamie Partridge, a volunteer programmer at KBOO, labor activist, and retired letter carrier involved with Keep KBOO as KBOO. Partridge says he's known both Beemer and Crenshaw for years and views their respective connections to Portland's homeless and black communities as assets.
Beemer and Crenshaw met each other while working on social justice issues over the years. They applied for the 48-hours-a-week position as a package and will split the work and time commitment.
No, they don't have any concrete ideas about how they'll manage the station, yet. They also don't know much about the past conflict. But they want to develop a good rapport with staff and members, and shore up support for the station (currently in its winter pledge drive), which has been in decline.
"Getting members isn't just about getting people to pay dues," says Crenshaw. "It's also about creating a platform for a voice."
KBOO's 2012 taxes aren't publicly available. But its tax form for 2011 shows it running $105,000 in the red, slightly better from the previous year's deficit of $132,000. Victoria Stoppiello, interim station manager, says that KBOO has lost ground on its membership, which stands at around 5,000.
But Beemer, an experienced fundraiser, remains optimistic.
"I don't think it's going to be that hard," she says, "now that everyone is in a space to move forward."