You can make percentages look however you want to get the outcome you want.
That’s part of what happened to cause the city council to move public notice to another newspaper. That, and retaliation for articles/opinions voiced by The Gardner News.
Gardner city staff said Monday night The Gardner News’ prices are more than 70 percent above The Legal Record.
The Legal Record is smaller in size. In addition, staff has the ability to control the public notice cost by reducing print size, schematic size or providing public notice in an electronic format.
Public notice is placed online at gardnernews.com free of charge. Subscriptions to The Gardner News are $51.25 per year for print, $44 for The Legal Record.
The Gardner News has an office in Gardner, and employs Gardner graduates. Money spent with a local business, circulates locally. We pay taxes here.
Councilmembers suggested the city staff add space on the city’s website for public notice, and maintain it. That’s not going to cut costs; it will add to the city budget. How many city employees work for free? If you think they do, look at how quickly the city’s budget has expanded – and your property tax bills have increased — in the past five years.
Last year, the city spent under $18,000 with The Gardner News. That’s a drop in the bucket of a multi-million city budget.
Make no mistake, the city changed official newspaper status to retaliate for articles/opinions and asking tough questions. Mayor Steve Shute has said so publicly in a recent social media post.
So, even if they half the $18,000 cost, that’s a savings of $9,000, in exchange for inconveniencing citizens, and it effectively cuts most taxpayers out of the information loop.
The council is eager to save that $9,000 (way, way less than one percent of the city’s budget), but they don’t blink an eye at a $350,000 payout to the former city administrator, or to paying a $7,500+ bonus to top employee Jim Pruetting – plus paying for his education and vehicle. That alone would have paid to keep public notice local. Not to mention millions in corporate incentives the council has handed out.
Pruetting, as usual, sat quietly thru the meeting.
To Mayor Shute, it’s not about the money. If the city’s budget is so tight you can’t afford $9,000, what’s next? Growth costs money. The city recently annexed hundreds of acres, but apparently can’t afford to pay to publish annexation notices.
It’s not about the money. It’s about secrecy and retaliation. It’s about trying to control the free press.
The city staff had already began sending public notices to The Legal Record prior to Monday night’s vote change. So much for open discussion and transparency.
The vote was 3 -2. In an interesting twist, Shute “voted” by abstaining — saying he didn’t want there to be a tie vote. So much for courage.
A special thanks to Tory Roberts and Randy Gregoryck for listening to their constituents and doing what’s right.
Shame on Todd Winters, who owns a local business, but at least he had the fortitude to vote.
To those who have called or messaged this morning to purchase subscriptions and support a free press — THANK YOU.