Horse and buggy days?
The Union editor/publisher likes to bash local government for supposedly wasteful spending in his newspaper — and he never lets the facts get in the way. Examples are spending too much money on a “bus stop” or on a roundabout when a “stop sign” would do (at least for him). The background is here
. A well-reasoned response to the “bus stop” column is here
But when it comes to raking in taxpayer money for his own newspaper, not a peep of protest. No word from the tea party activists, either, such as Barry Pruett or Stan Meckler, who show up at supervisor meetings in their red T-shirts to object — at least when it suits their own political (or personal) agenda.
On Tuesday, the county board of supervisors is being asked to approve spending $30,000 in The Union to satisfy the county’s obligation to publish legal ads for the coming year.
The rates for weekday advertising — when most of the ads run — are being raised from last year as well, by 1.3 percent, according to a county memo. No discounts in this special instance.
This is a “consent” agenda item, meaning no public discussion is scheduled unless somebody speaks up. There was no competitive bidding, either, because The Union is the only adjudicated newspaper for legal ads.
What’s being missed on this consent item for $30K, however, is the revolution that is underway by local governments that increasingly are questioning the practice when “more innovative, technologically friendly” methods of communication are available, as the League of California Cities has stated.
Only one month ago, the League of California Cities passed a resolution at its annual conference in San Francisco that the “traditional means of noticing in adjudicated newspapers is antiquated and insufficient.”
“Noticing is typically done in the classified section, next to the garage sale and help wanted ads,” the resolution read. “Can you remember the last time you read that section of the paper?
“In recent decades, technology has vastly improved, given the advent of the internet, electronic mail, social media, smart phones and other smart devices (iphones/ipads).
“The public is becoming increasingly familiar with the use of new technology, using it as a means to gain quick and up-to-date information. We see more and more the public have a preference for receiving information in an electronic format.
“(We) would like to change State Law that allows cities more discretion based on their community’s distinct needs (i.e. residents can sign up for e-mail alerts of public hearings, meetings etc.) and that would count toward meeting the public noticing requirements.
“We don’t want to eliminate noticing in newspapers, just enhance requirements by allowing cities to use alternate methods as a means of meeting the law.
“In recent years, this issue has come before the State Legislature, but newspaper publication groups have lobbied against this. They receive revenue from classified ads.
“But noticing is not supposed to be about generating revenue for private industry. It is supposed to be about informing the public, getting them more involved in local government and enhancing our methods of communication.
“Many times we don’t always see the turnout we would like at public meetings and hearings. We need to enhance our methods to change this. We want to work smarter, not harder!”
This resolution is well reasoned, including the point about whether the notices even get read. In Grass Valley, some property owners by the airport are objecting to approval of a land-use plan adopted for safety reasons, claiming they weren’t properly noticed. That notice ran in The Union. In the end, the group had to be contacted individually. So what was the point of the required legal notice? The details of this case are here.
Let’s not have a double standard when it comes to examining ways to lower taxpayer costs. Let’s explore all the options.
I don’t want to occupy two hours of board time next Tuesday debating this expenditure — as others did in a recent case — but I do hope the board removes the item from the consent agenda to discuss the valid points raised by the League of California Cities. The issue will come up each year.
The League’s resolution is here (use Google docs) and here (contained in “2011 final report”).
A newspaper article about the cities’ concerns is here.
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