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Judging from the outbreak of newspaper racks planted around Longmont by his Denver News Agency to accommodate the remade version of their freebie YourHub.com, henceforth to be known as the Longmont Ledger, Denver newspaper magnate Dean Singleton clearly has his eye on the Longmont market. The last time I noticed, Singleton owns or controls 60 dailies and 97 non-dailies. Operating through DNA’s Daily Camera of Boulder, Longmont resident Clay Evans of that newspaper will be in charge of the reconstituted Longmont Ledger.
Some speculation has risen as to the DNA’s right to use the title of a longtime Longmont newspaper of the same name, which ceased publication years ago, the Longmont Ledger. It’s been my experience that there would probably be no barrier to reusing the title unless some publisher of the Ledger at some time or other had registered the name as a trademark or printed a copyright symbol in the masthead. Either of those acts might complicate things.
A brief rundown on some of Longmont’s newspaper history as gleaned from the extensive works of the late Walter Stewart, who was a professor of journalism at UNC, and his wife Elma St. John Stewart:
Longmont Times founded in 1871 by Elmer Beckwith.
Longmont Ledger founded in 1879 by Charles Boynton and J.J. Jilson; name changed to Boulder County Commercial Ledger in 1970.
Longmont Call founded in 1898 by George W. Johnson.
Longmont Times and Longmont Call merged in 1931 to become the Longmont Times-Call. The Lehman family became owners in 1957.
Longmont Scene founded in 1970 by Agnes Roberts bought and merged the Boulder County Commercial Ledger in 1971.
Longmont Scene suspended publication in 1978.
In what appears to be the last YourHub to be delivered to Longmont, I saw on page 3 something that made me chuckle. Apparently the YourHub print edition, which comes in Thursday’s Denver Post will be replaced by the Longmont Ledger (not to be confused with the Longmont Leader) on Sundays. This will also be part of the Sunday Boulder Daily Camera. That wasn’t the funny part, this is:
It said “On October 25, we will re-launch the Longmont Ledger, the oldest newspaper in Boulder County, established in 1879.” Sounds pretty romantic, including a history of this newspaper and the recently deceased owner . Now the Denver Post/Daily Camera has “adopted” this moniker and plan to make Mr. Robert Keeler (said former owner) “proud”.
Only one problem, most of the above story is complete bullflop.
Hearken back, not to 1879, but to September 25 – 2009. “Camera launches Longmont Weekly” was a press release about a weekly joint publication between….drum roll, the Daily Camera and the Denver Post. Now wait a sec, Longmont Weekly? Longmont Ledger? What’s the story? Turns out the wizards at each of these non-Longmont businesses didn’t look into the actual registration and/or trademark of the Longmont Weekly name. Ironically, it was already taken….
By the Longmont Daily Times-Call! The very company these entities are trying to take advertising dollars and subscribers away from. Is the term “carpetbagger” appropriate here? What surprised me is that we haven’t heard Councilmembers Sean McCoy or Karen Benker suggest we use this new paper for our Legal Notice’s, since they sure don’t want them in the Times-Call but have offerred no realistic alternative.
I’m sure all of you “Shop Local” types, which Ms. Benker often pretends to advocate for, are appalled by this outside corporation (last I heard the DC is owned by the DP) trying to help put a local business under. If so, perhaps some of you so-called local business supporters should cancel your Denver Post and Daily Camera subscriptions and subscribe to the Times-Call.
Or at least call the DP/DC on this desecration in the from of honoring the Longmont Ledger name by “adopting” it for themselves. Of course you now know it sure wasn’t their first choice.
Some of you may not live in the Longmont area, or don’t subscribe to the local paper, the Times-Call, so below is the guest editorial they ran on Sunday September 6, 2009. They don’t post these on their website. It was based on my earlier “Shifting blame for incompetence and failure“, and was shortened slightly for space and the title had “to others” added to it. All in all I’m pretty happy with how the paper handled it, and in a first they mentioned my websites which was important to keep it all in context.
Like I’ve always said, I’m not the competition as some there have said, I’m more the Times-Call Supplement. My editorial, like many of my writings, was brutal in spots and I avoid being politically correct. A newspaper can’t always be so direct for various reasons. I don’t have advertisers to worry about, and I’m not afraid to offend if a point needs to be made. But make no mistake, while I may not always agree with the paper, and while I may not share the following sentiment with all newspapers, I believe we need a paper like the Times-Call and I want it to thrive, not just barely survive. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this as the attacks from our local government against the paper continue…but now:
Shifting blame to others for incompetence and failure
With great amusement, I watched City Councilman Sean McCoy go on the attack at the Sept. 1 City Council meeting. I will only speak for my part of his tirade; LIFT and Longmont Report can speak for themselves. I will point out LIFT’s blog hasn’t had any new entries for more than a year, and Longmont Report hasn’t had any activity since February. He also mentioned YourHub, which in Longmont has slowed to a trickle of activity. I write most of the Longmont-specific articles and nearly all politically related articles. So it’s obvious who he’s talking about.
So, let’s go through his tirade one point at a time:
He endorsed Richard Juday’s Civil Campaigns concept. Ironically, earlier in the day I communicated my ideas and concerns with Richard. I thought it was pretty productive and constructive. Mr. McCoy reinforced my main concern and stuck a shank in the back of those trying to get this group going. I doubt this group, headed by his father Tom McCoy, will “denounce” Sean McCoy for what he did .
He used the terms “radical,” “negative,” “fringe groups” and “radical fringe elements” to go after people he disagrees with. All I can say about that: deluded paranoia. And this guy is a teacher!
His laundry list of placing blame goes beyond the point of ridiculousness. I would like one shred of proof that I/we:
- have “hurt businesses and financial opportunities for Longmont and her citizens;”
- are responsible for “the millions of dollars in commercial real estate rentals that must have been lost;” or
- negatively effected “job growth for Longmont citizens. ”
Even if you disagree with everything I’ve ever written or think one person out of nearly 90,000 people on a blog that costs ZERO to run could do all that, you are either a) a mental patient, b) so blind (or fearful) in your allegiance to this ideology that you’re beyond reason and help, or c) giving me/us way too much credit. I am a bit flattered he thinks I have that kind of influence. As misguided and delusional as those claims are, I don’t find it remotely possible.
I know the vast majority sees this exactly for what it is: a political hatchet job and an attempt to silence detractors. This is not new, but this is now being done at a governmental level, with Mr. McCoy speaking as an elected representative of the city.
Mr. McCoy is attempting to shift blame that rightly belongs on himself and his fellow “bloc of 4” members (Karen Benker, Sarah Levison and Brian Hansen) who have dragged this city and its image to gutter levels. Their anti-business, anti-growth and anti-religious policies speak for themselves.
The simple fact is, they don’t like anyone to point out any of the above. This is one extreme they will go to, to try to silence and turn the public against their critics. Another method is the Civil Campaign Committee Mr. McCoy endorsed. Another method is the onerous and convoluted “Fair” Campaign Practices Act. People like Mr. McCoy either assume you aren’t paying attention or you can’t understand and are easily manipulated.
Me? I’m not into treating adults like children (except for those who act like children) and figure you don’t need to be told how to think by some nebulous committee or an elected loudmouth.
I know many of you will not get into this ring out of fear of retribution — you are a city employee or are a business owner who fears the city will make life or staying in business extremely difficult. Some of us say the things you think but are afraid to say. We get all kinds of nastiness thrown our way — vandalism to our houses; insults to our wives, families and our dogs; racial epithets; and Internet stalking, intimidation and harassment.
But next time, you could be under the proverbial gun. Are you “radical”? Do you consider truth, or one’s opinion of truth, “fringe” or “radical”? Do you appreciate government officials leveling these attacks and insults, whether on the federal level collecting e-mail addresses and comments they consider “shady,” or at the local level displaying this utter contempt for citizens?
I’m not asking for your sympathy or money; I don’t need either. I’m suggesting you get involved and be heard on this. Or sit idly by and hope you’re not next.
Chris Rodriguez is the editor and publisher of Wrongmont and Longmont Advocate and is a regular contributor to YourHub and the Times-Call.
What was I talking about? Watch the following video:
My jaw about hit the ground when I saw this headline on the Times-Call website:
Times-Call sues City Council
Lawsuit seeks tapes of closed meeting
After catching my breath, I really wasn’t surprised at all. Just a quick glance at some recent posts on this website should have been a warning to this council. (The lawsuit is over Longmont’s appeal to the Firestone lawsuit, and how they possibly abused the Open Meetings/Records law)
Friday, May 2, 2008 Longmont: Take The Deal
Sunday, June 7, 2009 Longmont running out of moves
Thursday, June 25, 2009 Longmont’s Open Meetings violations
Wednesday, July 1, 2009 Longmont’s secret meeting addiction
Tuesday, July 28, 2009 Rogers Rules of Order
Tuesday, August 4, 2009 Citizens speak out over Firestone legal actions
and lets not forget:
This could be politically devastating to the councilmembers who want to keep this charade alive, especially if the public gets a hold of these tapes. The lawsuit, if the Times-Call wins, allows a judge to hear the tapes and release (to the Times-Call) the relevant portions of it. What the paper does with that information will be interesting. Unfortunately, what we may not get to hear are the conversations leading up to this questionable “straw poll” (a vote they took concerning the appeal) which could be the most interesting of all.
I strongly feel this council holds so many secret meetings because they don’t want certain things they say to be heard by the public. All one has to do is watch all of the YouTube videos in my channel to see why they’d rather not be heard. I suspect there’s all kinds of name calling and stuff us citizens wouldn’t stand one second for. This is a cowardly maneuver to avoid the light of public scrutiny, nothing more, nothing less. If you thought they said crazy things in public, one can only imagine what they say when they figure you’ll never hear it.
Hats off to reporter Rachel Carter and Lehman Communications Corp. for taking this bold move. To some trying to avoid the truth, you’ll now be Public Enemy #1. But not here.
The following is my text from my speech at the public invited to be heard portion at the Longmont City Council meeting on June 16, 2009.
I’d like to talk about more than one topic tonite.
Firstly, I am a writer for the Longmont community for a variety of media publications and I think it’s a disservice to the Longmont citizens for councilmember McCoy to suggest that any other paper besides the Daily Times Call should be looked at as a source for local announcements, in particular legal notices. Why? The Times Call has the largest circulation in town and if you really want Longmont residents to best be aware of these notices, the Times Call is the best place to do that. I’ve also heard Councilmember Benker make comments about the paper being “a conservative paper” and have heard that she wants to pull city business out of the paper. They do seem very happy with the pricing Lehman Communications does for providing printing services for the new upstart Longmont Life “newspaper.” I really don’t see why this is being made a problem. Continue reading
The Times-Call ran a story on April 22 by Tony Kindelspire with the following headline: “Thistle corrects $38 million error, Blog post brought nonprofit’s mistake to light of city”. It’s worth reading, including the comments and further questions in the comment section.
I’m glad Thistle and the City of Longmont were more responsive after my initial questions and subsequent story, but they really should’ve been right off the bat. Why does it take public pressure and an outside, non-Longmont staffer to get the story straight from them? I’ve heard second hand how Thistle reacted to these questions, and know first hand how the city reacted, and I was not impressed. What it takes to get the truth of the matter from these entities should bother citizens.
Turn of events
First, an Open Records request was made, which was denied, followed by questions of why. Then Thistles records were requested directly from them, they said they were going to use the full 30 days allowed for them to respond. When requested in person (which means they must provide them immediately or within the same day) they said they were filing an extension with the IRS, and now have until May 15th. Meanwhile, at the City level, the dodging at two different offices did not instill confidence. I asked the question if City Council could “declassify” this document (the audit) or make it non-confidential so the public could see it. The response I got was “As City Attorney, I cannot give legal advice to third parties.” City Council is a third party? I wasn’t requesting or in need of legal advice myself.
But now, the negative $23 million has morphed in to a positive $15 million, that’s quite a swing, and quite a mistake. As of this writing the original document showing the negative number remains on the Secretary of State’s website, and now there is an amended one. This was filed back in September 2008 which was when their fiscal year ended. The annual financial statement is what needs to be looked in to, and with Thistle saying they filed an extension with the IRS effective April 15th makes one wonder if they’re confusing their year end report with their tax documents. Unless of course they secured $38 million in the last 6 months, which seems impossible to believe with the economy the way it is. Also, consider the information at this link from the year before when they showed a net loss of $33,514 and a fund balance of negative $31,910.
City and Thistle stumble
The Times-Call story said “The city hired its own outside accountant to review Thistle’s financial statements, according to city finance director Jim Golden.” So this was not a salaried city staff employee, which should have made this document even more open to the public.
Also in the story: “The information posted was inaccurate, and I didn’t oversee it as well as I should have,” (Thistle CEO Mary) Roosevelt said Tuesday. “And when I became aware of it, we corrected it immediately.” This “inaccurate” report was filed over 6 months ago. This is not a recent development, although Ms. Roosevelt’s knowledge of it is. That in itself should pose some questions about this organization: If you’re involved in a project that will get public scrutiny, especially the kinds of questions like “can you deliver on a project”, when you’re asking for the City of Longmont to fork over money and land exceeding $9 million – would you be totally unaware of a $38 million dollar error with the Secretary of State?
And city staff should question why when asked for information like this that they initially resorted to dodging and finding reasons not to answer the question. They knew they hired an outside source to look in to Thistle, that should have ended the Open Records debate right there. They should have known Thistle filed the same report with the city’s housing authority, also making it open to the public.
All that ends well(?)
If Thistle’s financials are sound and they can be counted on to complete the proposed project, great. I hope the situation is not as fishy as it still appears and we’re not left holding the bag if things go bad. This is not about Downtown, work-force housing, or mixed used development – although I’m sure some readers incorrectly came to that conclusion with this story. It’s about fairness (think Panattoni), transparency (Thistle and the City’s failure at it), learning from past mistakes (previous discontinued project and FasTracks situation) – and not having to have to say in a few years “how did we miss the warning signs?”
The City of Longmont is hiding something from its citizens to protect a “favored” client: Thistle Community Housing, who has proposed to partner with the Longmont Downtown Development Authority (LDDA) on a mixed-use project in downtown Longmont . The City Council needs to explain why it’s considering giving millions in taxpayer dollars to a non-profit developer with potentially serious financial problems. And the city’s financial director needs to explain why he’s keeping this developer’s financial problems a secret.
Thistle wants $9 million from the city
According to a March 26 Times-Call story, LDDA wanted more financial information from Thistle before moving forward with their project. The article stated, “Under the tentative agreement, the LDDA would put up $5.5 million out of its tax increment financing fund and the city would donate the land — valued last year at about $2 million — and would waive about $800,000 in development fees.” And a “$752,000 financing gap that one side or the other must fill”. According to my math, that’s $9,052,000!
City’s Secret Audit
I received an anonymous tip that the City of Longmont did an audit of Thistle, and that the financial audit revealed serious problems. Although LDDA board members were able to see the audit, no one could keep a copy because Thistle asked the Longmont Finance Director Jim Golden to keep the document’s findings a secret.
Now the city is denying Open Records requests to release this information. Thistle is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. How many of you know what that is? I did a random poll of people, none were attorneys, but all knew what a 501(c)(3) was: a group that you can give contributions to and write it off on your taxes. Just about every aspect of these types of organizations is supposed to be open to public scrutiny.
IRS Code mandates Thistle disclose its financial records
When I asked the Longmont City Attorney Eugene Mei about this, his response was: “I am unaware of Thistle’s corporate status, or the law pertaining to 501(C)3 entities.” Let me help out here. At the following link http://www.990online.com/fedlaws.html there is an explanation of this part of the IRS code. Here are some relevant highlights:
26 USC 6104(d). Public Inspection of Certain Annual Returns and Applications for Exemption.
(1) In general.–In the case of an organization described in subsection (c) or (d) of section 501 —
(A) a copy of– (i) the annual return filed under section 6033 (relating to returns by exempt organizations) by such organization, and
(ii) (refers to exemptions, no exemption has been requested)
(B) upon request of an individual made at such principal office or such a regional or district office, a copy of such annual return and exempt status application materials shall be provided to such individual without charge other than a reasonable fee for any reproduction and mailing costs.
The request described in subparagraph (B) must be made in person or in writing. If such request is made in person, such copy shall be provided immediately and, if made in writing, shall be provided within 30 days.
State Records show Thistle $23.5 million in the hole
Thistle’s records, by federal law, are not confidential. Why is Longmont treating it as such? Here’s where it gets interesting, and the point of this story: Thistle did file a short preliminary report with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, as it is required to do. The numbers are troubling, which I’d guess is why the LDDA wanted more financial information and the city did an audit on Thistle. According to this Secretary of State link, for the year ending 9/30/2008 , Thistle had expenses that outpaced revenues by over $4 million, and an End of Year balance of -$23,535,929. Those are both negative numbers. What hasn’t been released yet is the full report describing the sources of revenue, where the expenses went to, and why they were nearly triple the revenue coming in.
What is in the city audit Thistle doesn’t want the public to know?
Now maybe there is a good explanation for this and the numbers could just reveal what is happening to many non-profits during these tough financial times. But these poor numbers should make the public very curious about what the city’s independent audit revealed. The numbers published online by Thistle were bad enough. What is it that the city found that makes Thistle demand that the findings remain a secret?
If you’ll recall, 2 years ago a similar downtown project was discontinued after it was revealed there was a $9 million “financial gap”. And of course we know about the bait and switch of FasTracks and how the price continues to go up and the construction gets further and further away. Regardless of your opinion about this project and this organization, we need to make sure something similar doesn’t happen partnering up with Thistle.
Some council members are playing favorites with developers
Some members of this council stalled Panattoni’s request to move forward with the redeveloping the Twin Peaks Mall, and their emboldened city mouthpieces have smeared Panattoni, a company with a proven record. Look at Harvest Junction and the news releases featuring new stores and even a new hotel, as well as their plans for a new theater and their overall vision for the mall (no, I’m not paid or asked by anyone to say the above).
But when members of this council favor (Thistle) in an area they’d prefer to focus on (Downtown), it gets completely different treatment, even if they may not be financially sound. Something’s rotten here, and the involvement of those involved, including certain members of city council and city staff, should be held accountable. And preferably before this project even gets close to reality.
Go to the LDDA board meeting on Wednesday and ask some good questions
The LDDA will be holding a meeting this Wednesday April 22 at 528 Main Street at 4:15 p.m. If you are concerned about this issue, show up and ask questions, like: Can Thistle really come up with the money to fund this project, or not? Is the city going to be left holding the bag if Thistle goes belly up? Is Thistle using taxpayer money to get itself out of a financial jam? Ask the council members who were on the Technical Review Committee (TRC) that recommended this project if they are aware of this financial information? The council liaison is Karen Benker (303)774-7745 firstname.lastname@example.org and the staff liaison is Finance Director Jim Golden (who originally denied the Open Records request) (303)651-8629 email@example.com
A dark cloud is going to remain over this project unless Longmont lives up to its promise of open and honest government.
(Picture source: City of Longmont government website)
(Submitted by Brigette Rodriguez)
(This way for your journalism degree?)