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Friday, June 19, 2009

Revenge of the Politicos? Lefty Supes Move To Yank City Ads from Chron, Ex.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 19, 2009 at 4:30 PM

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Of all the harping about the "mainstream media," perhaps the shrillest version comes from politicians occupying the left fringe of this city's politics. Their news source of choice, for example, is a local liberal news and opinion Web site, BeyondChron.org.

On his own blog, Supervisor Chris Daly has praised his colleague John Avalos for denouncing the Chronicle for political bias, because it uses the term "far left" rather than "progressive." The Ex, has been the subject of even greater contempt: Last year lefty supe Ross Mirkarimi moved to prevent the newspaper from delivering free to city neighborhoods.

 The progressives are about to raise the stakes in their years-long beef with the city's major newspapers, as they prepare to introduce a proposed charter amendment that could strip part of the $450,000 in annual city advertising placed primarily in the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner. Instead of publishing the notices in newspapers, the proposed measure would allow the city to post notices only on its Web site, SFgov.org.


The measure is backed by Supervisors David Chiu, Ross Mirkarimi, John Avalos, and David Campos -- all members of the city's left "progressive coalition."

Avalos thought better of his earlier gambit to source out public notice advertising to BeyondChron.org, FogCityJournal.com, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian Web site.

In the case of the proposed charter amendment, the four supervisors have advanced the measure with unusual stealth for legislation of such significance. State and local laws have long called for public notices in general circulation newspapers so that residents might remain casually informed about what their government's up to. Government Web sites, typically, can be good sources of information -- if one is looking for something specific.

Notwithstanding, the supervisors quietly slipped their anti-newspaper language into a proposed charter amendment that is being billed as a mere measure to require five-year budget plans. Sprinkled throughout, however, are subtly-worded edicts that would strip city advertising from daily newspapers.

"I think there has to be some innovation in upgrading our ability to reach out and spend limited dollars on advertising," said Mirkarimi, at a recent Board subcommittee hearing. "The way we are doing it now is almost archaic."

State law requires San Francisco and other cities to use newspapers for official notices, potentially limiting the proposed charter amendment's scope.

However, a pending bill in the State Legislature backed by California's local government clerks would allow public agencies to stop paying newspapers to publish government ads such as legal notices, and instead direct residents to a municipal Web site.

Tom Newton, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said allowing cities and counties to limit public notices to government-run Web sites would create a conflict of interest. Politicians and government employees, he said, often seek to hide, rather than publicize, their business.

"The issues are whether or not it's appropriate for local government to publicize its function, the making of local laws, to the public, and the question is, 'What is the best way to do that?'" Newton said. "What this bill says is, 'Local government knows best how to inform people of its operations.'"

In this light, it's ironic that San Francisco's left supervisors seem to have taken extreme measures to obscure their efforts to yank advertising from the Chron and Ex by hiding it in a seemingly unrelated reform bill.

In the news business, that's what we call trying to pull a fast one.

 

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Matt Smith

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