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Immigration raid continues to impact Postville
The City of Postville will soon have a new mayor.
Three out of the city’s five city council members voted Monday night to accept the resignation of current Mayor Bob Penrod. Penrod, who had made an emotional and seemingly off-the-cuff verbal resignation last week during a discussion about a mobile phone device, had quietly expressed that he would be willing to continue to serve as mayor if those on the council refused his resignation.
On Monday morning, hours before the council met, it looked as if Penrod would continue as mayor. At least one of those who ultimately voted against retaining Penrod Monday night had expressed a desire to keep the man on until the end of his term.
When the vote was taken, members Jeff Reinhardt, Virginia Medberry and Milo Heins accepted Penrod’s resignation. Larry Moore and Ross Malcom, who is serving as interim mayor, voted against. There were no public comments made about why certain members had a change of heart.
City officials will publish a notice in the local newspaper that candidates are being sought for the post. Council plans to appoint a person to serve instead of paying roughly $3,500 for the cost of a special election.
Postville community radio station KPVL 89.1 FM, which has been the only local information source for residents in the wake of the May 2008 immigration raid, has been in the process of a massive fund drive for the past few days. Sources close to the station have indicated that the station is in make-or-break mode. Without unprecedented listener support, the station is likely to close in the near future.
The situation, which was recently detailed by reporter Nathaniel Popper for the Columbia Journalism Review, pits the board of the community radio station against Jeff Abbas, KPVL’s station manager.
The turning point for Abbas came the week after the raid, when he read the descriptions of child labor, abusive supervisors, and dishonest management in the government’s affidavit on the slaughterhouse. Abbas was outraged. When I interviewed him months later, he became animated as he recalled his awakening. “Every time I spent more than a few minutes with that affidavit, I became more incensed,” he said. “I couldn’t help but become outspoken.”
… It was Abbas’s decision to air an interview in late May, with a woman from Texas who was angry about the way the Rubashkins[, owners of the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant,] had treated her, that cause the first blow-back from Chaim Abrahams, then the president of KPVL’s board and also an executive at Agriprocessors.
Popper’s report documents how, as the influence of Abbas and KPVL increased, revenues declined. Abbas has worked most of the past few years without a regular paycheck, a situation that has resulted in him accepting government assistance in order to survive.
The Agriprocessors plant, Postville’s largest employer and site of last year’s raid, also continues to struggle. Limited poultry production has continued under Joseph Sarachek, a Chapter 11 bankruptcy trustee, and the plant sale is scheduled for March 23.