The past few months have been an emotional roller coaster for fans of KMHD, Portland's only jazz radio station. In January, the board of education at Mount Hood Community College (MHCC) voted to end its partnership with Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB)—which has operated the station from its Southwest Portland headquarters since 2009, though the school retains control of its broadcasting license—and return day-to-day operations to MHCC's campus in Gresham. But last night, that motion was rescinded, and the board voted to renegotiate a five-year contract with OPB.
The evening began with impassioned testimonials from current and former KMHD employees and DJs, members of the Portland music community, and the station's dedicated listeners, including a contractor named Tim Cook who "climbed out of a crawl space and drove 90 minutes" to advocate for KMHD, telling the board that for him and his family, "This station is medicine."
Though most argued in favor of keeping KMHD at OPB, some of those who spoke said that the way it's currently operated is not meeting the needs of MHCC students who would like to be involved with the station. That opinion was echoed by representatives from the school's student government, who supported the idea of bringing KMHD back to MHCC's campus and asked the board to "think of the students first."
The only dissenting vote at tonight's meeting came from board member and local jazz musician Kenney Polson, who explained that he's "not a sore loser" and simply wants what's best for the college.
MHCC board chair Diane McKeel said that the decision to rescind January's motion and renegotiate a five-year contract with OPB was largely due to the unbearable financial strain moving KMHD would have on the school, especially since it would mean eliminating teaching faculty in order to hire DJs and a program director. Though McKeel emphasized that now is simply not the right time to bring the station back to the MHCC campus, it appears that, at least for the next five years, KMHD will live on at OPB.