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By Miriam Raftery

Nearly 200 people came from across San Diego County  to celebrate the launch of KNSJ radio on Saturday, August 3rd at Mission Trails Regional Park, enjoying activities on an outdoor patio with spectacular views as well as inside the Visitor’s Center.

KNSJ representatives Martin Eder and Donna Piranha welcomed guests to the occasion and spoke about the importance of independent media for our region.   Sierra Club president and former Assemblymember Lori Saldana presented a keynote address.

KNSJ news director Mike Hancock and other members of the news team and leadership council were on hand to conduct interviews and record the historic happenings.

Guests enjoyed live music by Wind Spirit Drum, winners of the Native American Music Awards, as well as by  singer/songwriter Ricardo Beas  and members of the Native American flute circle.  A delicious feast served up by The Big Kitchen included an array of delicious foods donated by Downtown Café, Olive Garden, and vendors from local farmers’ markets. 

East County Magazine editor Miriam Raftery  spoke about East County Magazine’s Radio Show and the importance of getting ECM's wildfire alerts live on the radio. She also helped present KNSJ People’s Microphone awards to  people and organizations who have shown a commitment to social justice causes and protecting the environment in our region.  Recipients included:

Bonnie LaChappa, elected member of the Barona Band of Mission Indians and the Lakeside Union School District Board, for championing education causes in our region including helping to establish a tribal grant program for schools across California in the wake of state budget cuts.  She was recently also honored as Citizen of the Year by the lakeside Chamber of Commerce.

Elizabeth Lou, founder of Nile Sisters, who came to America as a refugee who fled civil war in the Sudan. She was honored for her efforts to help thousands of refugee and immigrant women and their families access healthcare, affordable housing, vocational training and jobs. She has also been awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Award by the United Nations in San Diego.

Dave Patterson, a Viet Nam veteran and past president of Veterans for Peace, was recognized for his efforts to promote peace including organizing the Arlington West memorial and helping homeless veterans. He has also been outspoken recently on protecting civil liberties and leading a national protest against use of drones to spy on Americans.

Estela de los Rios, executive director of CSA San Diego, grew up picking grapes in the Central Valley during the Cesar Chavez movement and today is a national leader fighting for causes including immigrant rights as well as stopping hate crimes, human trafficking, and discrimination in housing.  Last year she received the Ashley Walker Social Justice Award from the San Diego  Human Relations Commission.

Lori Saldana was honored for her long history championing rights of women, minorities, environmental protections and water reclamation.  Former California Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore, she authored California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act and the Million Dollar Solar Initiative measures. She is currently president of the San Diego Sierra Club and has been an outspoken advocate of clean energy production close to where power is used in urban areas – not in remote wilderness and desert areas.

Martha Sullivan and Ray Lutz with the Coalition to Decommission San Onofre  received  awards for leading the successful effort to organization a grassroots coalition that ultimately resulted in shut down of San Onofre Generation Stations, which had the worst safety record and most violations of any nuclear facility in the United States. 

Donna Tisdale has been fighting to protect people in rural, low-income communities for the past 25 years.  Chair of the Boulevard Planning Group, she founded the nonprofit Backcountry Against Dumps and serves on the board of the Protect Our Communities Foundation—two nonprofits that recently filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the Tule Wind project in McCain Valley. She has been an outspoken opponent of industrial-scale energy projects in rural areas and has been called the “Backcountry Warrior” by Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

Lisa Kove is a long-time activist fighting for equality. She was the first person ever to win child support in a same-sex relationship in the U.S. and has been an outspoken advocate for marriage equality and for repeal of the military’s don’t ask, don’t tell policy.  She also co-founded the organization that evolved into the Equality News Network, ENN.

Cleveland National Forest Foundation was honored for its commitment to sustainable regional land use planning and for its successful lawsuit challenging SANDAG’s regional transportation plan. The group seeks to prevent urban sprawl and protect encroachment into forest lands, most recently sounding the alarm over Supervisors’ efforts to subvert the will of voters who passed the Forest Lands Conservation Initiative.

Save Mission Trails is a nonprofit citizens group that successful y helped lead community efforts to stop the Quail Brush Power Plant proposed near Mission Trails Regional Park. The organization launched a  petition, organized meetings, a Facebook page, and presented testimony on the health, safety and environmental hazards posed by the proposed gas-powered peaker power plant.