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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

S.F. Supes Discover The Internet Is a Series of Tubes for Sending Pennies to Your Cronies

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2009 at 12:01 AM

'We don't bid, or go in for these city contracts, and we don't intend to do it now.'
  • 'We don't bid, or go in for these city contracts, and we don't intend to do it now.'
If one attends any meeting, at any time of day or night, at San Francisco's City Hall, one's likely to find buzz-cut shutterbug Luke Thomas taking photographs for his Web site Fogcityjournal.com. His 10,000 monthly readers tune in for inside-inside-local-government stories such as the Jan. 4 headliner "The Case For John Avalos" by Chris Daly, in which Board of Supervisors member Daly used the site to urge his colleagues to elect colleague Avalos board president.

Last week, Thomas was sitting within earshot of Avalos at a board Budget and Finance Committee hearing, during a discussion about which newspapers would receive money from the city for public notice advertising."I said to the supervisor, 'Why aren't online publications being considered? There may be a time when there are no newspapers. Why not consider web-only sites as well?" Thomas recalls.

In a city that's host to Web sites such as Twitter, Technorati and Digg, left-leaning members of the committee found an unusual way to follow Thomas' suggestion, and adapt government public notice advertising to the modern, Internet age. They resorted to a method of selection as old as Tammany Hall. They chose to give money -- albeit chump change -- to their political friends.

Supervisors Avalos and David Chiu chose three candidates to be considered for Internet outreach advertiser, each of whose  specialty consists of promoting the causes and careers of politicians who vote and think like Avalos and Chiu.

Candidates for Internet outreach public notice advertising to be considered at Wednesday's commitee meeting, are Fogcityjournal.com and BeyondChron.com an 11,000 monthly-reader left-political-opinion Web site run by Randy Shaw, who also happens to manage millions of dollars worth of city low-income housing contracts. Also chosen for consideration is the Web siteof the San Francisco Bay Guardian, a print publication specializing in left-leaning political opinion, which happened to endorse Chiu and Avalos for election.

Soon after the supes floated the proposal at the June 10 hearing, Thomas got a call from a city staffer, and then received some bid forms to fill out.

"I gave him a quote, and we'll see how it goes, Thomas said. "I assume they'll do the same bid consideratoins, and go with the online sites that give the best bang for the buck."

Whoever wins won't get rich. Thomas says he bid $7 per ad, per day.

Amusingly, the supervisors' apparent off-the-cuff attempt at political back scratching left one intended beneficiary nonplussed.

We contacted Bruce B. Brugmann, publisher of the Guardian, about what was supposed to have been his new role as publisher of city public notices under the rubric of "Internet outreach." Brugmann said he hadn't been informed, and that he'll turn down the opportunity if directly offered.


"I guess you've got another scandal going at City Hall. I'm amazed. I'm amazed. And I'm amazed you got on to something that I had no idea what it was about. I still don't. I don't quite understand this," Brugmann said. "Somebody put the Guardian in, over at City Hall. Outreach newspapers for the city and county. I don't quite understand what that is. In any event, we don't bid, or go in for these city contracts, and we don't intend to do it now."

Given the topic was news publications, Brugmann took the opportunity to talk about his idea of news.

"I'm glad you're on to the scandal. I'm glad you called me," Brugmann said. "I'm glad you let me know about it, and I've got a couple of good PG&E stories you might be interested in looking into. The Mayor tried to put a PG&E guy on the PUC, PG&E is moving up in Sacramento with an initiative to cut off community choice aggregation and further public power. And the Transbay power line coming over is PG&E and Mirant attempting to put a further PG&E lock on the city and county of san Francisco. So if you want any further details on any of these real stories, let me know. I'll fill you in."

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