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GUEST OPINION: Is the City of Santa Clara Wasting Tax Dollars on the Santa Clara Weekly?

By Burt Field, Stand Up for Santa Clara

Over a year ago, I alerted the City that they may be wasting money by advertising in the Santa Clara Weekly.

City Clerk Rod Diridon was good enough to meet with me. But nothing has happened in over a year. That’s really a shame because the City could have saved money to use for more important things like public safety or parks or library services.

I wrote an op-ed for this site in January, 2017, and asked some simple questions:

1)  Is the Santa Clara Weekly a paper of general circulation as is required of publications where the city places legal notices?
2)  If so, what is the audited circulation?
3)  And is Santa Clara wasting money by advertising in the Weekly when other publications with greater audited circulation may be less expensive?

These questions still have not been answered.

Now, I understand that city staff may be busy and there’s been a lot of transition in the last year. So, to help out city staff I’ve done a little homework. Here’s what the city charter says:

    Sec. 815 Publishing of legal notices. The City Council shall by resolution designate one or more newspapers of general circulation in the City of Santa Clara as official newspaper for the publication of any legal notice or other matter required to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in said City. If it appears to the City Council that the rates offered are unfair, it need not designate an official newspaper. Upon making a finding to such effect, or if publication of newspapers which have been so designated are suspended, then legal notices, ordinances or other matter required to be published in an official newspaper may be published by posting copies thereof in at least three public places in the City. The places for posting of legal notices shall be fixed by ordinance of the City Council.

This is not a trivial matter or amount of money. We’ve heard reports that the Weekly has few subscribers (maybe less than 100) and they’ve been billing the city about $100,000 a year for legal notices and other advertising. If these numbers are close to accurate, city staff needs to look closely at how this has all happened, and stop it immediately.

This is also not about politics or free speech. The Weekly has a right to print whatever it pleases, right or wrong.  However before this publication gets another nickel from our City, it needs to prove that they are the best, most cost effective use of our hard earned tax dollars.

Editor’s Note: Stand Up for Santa Clara was started in March 2015, when the San Francisco 49ers and the majority of the Santa Clara City Council took action to sell the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park to the NFL Team. It’s a grassroots organization of volunteers. Individuals from the organization have contributed to this website’s legal defense fund.

GuestOpinion

8 replies »

  1. Hey MadMom! That is really interesting. Word on the street is that when the Weakly runs an edition full of negative articles about the Mayor and certain council folks is that a copy of that paper mysteriously shows up at the Mayor and certain council folks front door. Yep, be paranoid.

  2. I have received a copy of Santa Clara Weekly on my porch every week, like clockwork for the last decade UNTIL the month that I contributed to Robert Haugh’s defense fund. Suddenly, there no more regular Wednesday Weekly deliveries. I have maybe had one or two since then. I’m feeling a little paranoid…

  3. Burt – As you correctly point our, a newspaper advertisement is a state requirement, regardless of how many people actually read the paper. And until the State changes the law, staff will obviously continue to follow that law. However, you failed in your “homework” by not price comparing the SC Weekly with the Merc New. probably 4x the cost. So, the City is not getting scammed, but actually an affordable alternative given the current law.

    Please make a correction to you article.

  4. Mike
    By Mr. Barbers own admission his numbers do not add up to a weekly paper.
    The following quote is taken from his rebuttal he posted last Feb to my questions on circulation and paid subscribers to his newspaper. Not surprising it was not the answers I was looking for, instead it was another unwated history lesson. Might not have been exactly what he wanted to admit too, and if you do the math like I did you will see why.
    Here was his response.
    “According to our printer, the Weekly has printed a newspaper every week for the last 10 years totaling 5.6 million copies. Check your facts Master Field, before your fingers flit freely.”
    Ok, it does sound really impressive. Now the history lesson is over, now we change classes and go to the math department.
    10 years @ 52 weeks in a year is 520. When you divide 5.6 million by 520 you come out with a number close to 10,800. That would be the admitted number of papers that the Weekly has published every week for the last 10 years. Now here is where it starts to look bad. According to the last official Census, the date is old, April 1, 2010 (April Fools Day), but it’s the most recent official one I could find. It shows we have 45,147 individual households. So lets assume we have not had any growth over the last 7 years. And that every last published paper gets delivered. We will gladly assume that none get lost, damaged or tossed in the trash before they reach these 10,800 households. By even his own admission he is not covering more than 25% of the City in any given week. It is my firm belief this newspaper is wrongly named, it should be the Santa Clara Monthly, since each residents only is getting it once a month at most, that’s even if they do not want it, need it or desire it.
    Hope this makes sense.

  5. Can the City choose to use its on official publication, Inside Santa Clara to satisfy this requirement? Would online publications, like City website, Facebook and Twitter? That’d get the politics out of what should be an apolitical issue.

  6. “If it appears to the City Council that the rates offered are unfair, it need not designate an official newspaper.”

    I would say the rates are unfair since they don’t publish and distribute weekly — as their name implies.

    The city is getting scammed by a two-bit rag whose publisher writes like he’s in a remedial freshman high school English class..

  7. Perhaps there is a reason Mr. Diridon is not doing his job. Perhaps there is a connection between the favorable coverage he receives from the Weekly and his willingness to stick his head in the sand and ignor the waste of money.

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