Art Richter deadpans that at the age of 85, he is not buying green bananas anymore. Richter had been stoking the local AM radio waves since 2005 on WKNY, hashing out politics at every level — local, state, federal and international — and talking about topics ranging from his favorite, healthcare reform, to school boards to local art exhibits, every Sunday afternoon.
Richter aired his final show on the last Sunday in December, going out with the old and the new: Ulster Publishing owner Geddy Sveikauskas and first-term Mayor Shayne Gallo to talk about Kingston.
Sveikauskas said that the last show had “the usual callers with the usual calls with their usual rap.” He commended Richter for a good run, “fighting the good fight” and wished him luck.
Kingston Free Radio started with Ulster County Legislator Gary Bischoff in 2005. Richter wanted to create a radio program which was of “progressive, moderate political tone,” and said though WGHQ might have been a more natural choice for his program, it was unfortunately owned at the time by “right-wing Clear Channel” (no longer the case). A self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist, Richter was concerned with Clear Channel’s parent company, Bain Capital (once run by Mitt Romney).
Gay rights activist Billiam Van Roestenberg of Clintondale co-anchored the show with Richter, and was later replaced by two-time Democratic district attorney hopeful candidate and New Paltz resident Jonathan Sennett.
“Art Richter has been a dear friend, colleague and mentor of mine for several years,” said Sennett. “[On our show we discussed] a wealth of information on all topics considered meaningful to progressives. [Richter’s] particular expertise lies in universal healthcare, a topic to which we gave extensive attention during the national debate on what became known as the Obamacare Bill.”
Sennett said that sitting across the microphone from Richter every Sunday for four years he developed the skill set of being a listener. “It’s important to listen to opponents and understand their viewpoints, but you should never shy away from your own ideals, even if they aren’t currently held in popular regard.”
Concerned citizens of all stripes are losing a voice of reason and compassion in Art Richter. I’m honored to have worked with him.”
Richter was often joined by co-host and local activist Lin Sakai. Some of the more interesting calls? “Most of the calls were interesting, or maddening, in their own ways, but the topic of abortion always received the most heated calls, mostly from men against it — the same types who were against government intervention in other areas,” said Sakai. “On the other hand, we often had guest callers who offered insight on topics ranging from regulating GMO’s to preserving women’s health care services in Kingston. Art fought passionately against the privatization of Golden Hill — possibly the only topic that all callers seemed to agree on.”
Who were the callers? Although Radio Free Kingston was a progressive talk show, said Sakai, many were conservative callers, largely men. She added the women callers, by contrast, were more liberal. Overall, most callers were interested more in local, than national, issues.
Richter said though he is a registered Democrat, he has a low tolerance for the “old-timers’ control of party politics.” Guests have included UlsterCounty and Kingston city officials, congressional candidates, judges, Ulster County law enforcement agencies, legislators, town supervisors and village mayors, and political party chairs, not-for-profit agency reps and more.