The last two Longmont City Council meetings featured something you don’t see very often: the editor and president of the local paper, Dean Lehman of the Times-Call, spoke each night at Public Invited To Be Heard. The topic? The possibility that the city may stop using them for legal notices, advertising, and other services.
Mr. Lehman had to be guarded in his choice of words, and the council members who are floating this idea sort of danced around the topic as well. But I won’t.
As I’ve said plenty of times before, I don’t work for and am often at odds with our local “paper of record”, the Times-Call. On occasion they have been very kind to me, other times not so much. I’ve had plenty of people suggest they are in the tank for the city and run defense for them at times, an opinion I’ve I agreed with at times as they let this poor excuse for a majority on council off the hook way too often.
But unlike most of this paper’s detractors, I’m a paying subscriber and plan to continue to be, as should you. If you decide you don’t like them, you can always cancel your subscription – it’s a shame we can’t deal with some of our elected officials in quite the same efficient manner. I don’t always agree with the Times-Call’s bias, or the fact there is one at all, but it’s been so all over the map lately with its editorials, it’s hard to guess where they stand on any particular day.
But let’s get to the meat of this issue. A few on council have been building up this noise against the paper since taking office in late 2007. It’s pretty obvious that councilmembers Karen Benker and Sean McCoy truly loathe this paper. Ms. Benker made her snide “conservative paper” comment, and Mr. McCoy has been leading this latest charge to end all contracts with the Times-Call. The current excuse Mr. McCoy is using is the $3,786.75 the city paid to publish Ordinance O-2009-21 in the paper. What would be the cost of setting up an RFP (Request For Proposal) and changing how business is currently done? But money isn’t really the issue, it’s revenge.
These councilmembers don’t like the owners (the Lehmans) of this paper and feel they are maligned by them. Mr. McCoy is playing the game that maybe someone else can do the job the city requires at a lower price. Of course he was reminded that the city put a bid out for their own “Pravda”, oops, I mean “Longmont Life” printing and the Times-Call had the best price. He also had to be reminded that printing legal notices is a fixed rate statewide. The Times-Call could have easily rubbed these facts in his uneducated face, but they didn’t, did they? (Feel free to watch the video of May 26, 2009 on the city’s website at the 3:44 mark for Mr. McCoys breathtaking speech on this issue – Better yet, here’s a YouTube video with “pop-up video” like captions).
In a council communication, it stated that the Denver Post had a circulation of 16,000 in Longmont, which seemed awfully inflated. Turns out it’s more like around 6,100. Then the Boulder Daily-Camera was mentioned (est. circulation 2,500), basically anything but the Times-Call (est. circulation 22,500). I’m surprised Mr. McCoy didn’t mention the now defunct “The Agenda” or the soon to be defunct “New York Times”. Odds are “Longmont Life” won’t be used as the Times-Call prints it, but stranger things have happened.
Bottom line: this is a political vendetta, that’s all. It’s not about saving the city money; that would be known as, if I may be so blunt, a bald faced lie. This is about getting at or hurting your enemies, but I don’t suspect Ms. Benker or Mr. McCoy will be so honest to admit it. I find this ironic, as I said before, as this paper goes ever so lightly covering the embarrassing antics of councilmembers such as these two when they could have a field day (as I often do) and really drive up their readership numbers.
The other thing is why now all of a sudden? These two members of council have been around in one form or another for a long time, and as such are part of the old guard they often rail against. Ms. Benker is the second longest tenured member of this council, and Mr. McCoy (as he often reminds us) has been on Planning and Zoning and various boards and the McCoy name in Longmont politics is not exactly a new and fresh one. While they truly define “Old Longmont” and soon should be shown the door in favor of fresh, new ideas and people, I don’t recall the Times-Call taking this opinion, do you?
Some people just can’t deal with what they perceive as their competition, or in this case political enemies. Some on this council have proven they have amazingly thin skins, which is a bad trait for politicians to have. I don’t consider the Times-Call my competition (although they’ve said they don’t feel the same way about me), and I want them not just to survive, but thrive.
But you have to ask yourself, why would our elected officials have it out for the press? I thought we sorted that out about 200 years ago. Did this council not get that memo?
…more on this story as it unfolds.