Up for bid is Palo Alto Weekly’s lucrative 3 year advertisement contract, valued at $450,000.00, and who currently monopolizes the city’s’ legal advertisements set to expire on June 30th.
This lucrative contract actually expired on December 31th 2012, but was extended through what has been described as a number of reprieves also known as a, “service order” modifications and ultimately, “a six month extension was granted as allowed under City procedures” to the Weekly through June 30th 2013, as explained in an email communication received from David Ramberg Assistant Director of Administrative Services for the City of Palo Alto and through our initial California Public Records Act requests. (CPRA)
Reeks of a subsidy
In an editorial written by Dave Price of the Daily Post “bad idea newspapers” bitterly referred to this contract as “Corporate Welfare” in which he describes that the city of Palo Alto was fundamentally “subsiding some news organization” namely the Weekly. We tend to agree.
The Post goes on to describe “Honest competition” leading some to suggest the the Weekly some how engaged in illegal activities to win this contract.
Price goes on and on to complain; the “Council decided to pay the Weekly as much as $450,000 over the next three years for legal notices and other advertising. We could understand if the city were to spend a few thousand dollars with the Weekly, but a six-digit figure reeks of a subsidy”.
Government subsidy Lifeline
The Weekly was rumored to be teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
So in light of what appeared to be a government sponsored bailout of nearly a half million dollars, fueled further concerns and speculations of questionable back door wheeling and dealing. A half a million dollars is a lot of money. In fact, shortly after being awarded this lucrative contract the Weekly moved into their new facilities.
On the matter of “Honest competition” as far as it concerns the Daily Post? “we don’t want a handout or subsidy.”
But we sure in the hell beleive the Daily Post would love to get a piece of this money pie. And we further believe their planning on doing so. It would only make for good business to break up the current monopoly, and ad fair competition into the legal lucrative advertising market place.
Weekly receiving questionable preferential treatment over other Newspapers
Neither of the other two local newspapers, the Palo Alto Daily News and The Daily Post, are adjudicated to run Legal Advertisements in Palo Alto.
The Palo Alto Weekly has a large circulation in and around Palo Alto. It is delivered to all Palo Alto households, with a distribution covering the mid-Peninsula area San Francisco. In addition the Palo Alto Weekly is a free weekly publication whose target audience is the local community.”
When we presented our California Public Records Request to the city of Palo Alto for all related documents including contract information, the contract and its discovered language was not initially provided. It was only after contacting Mr. Ramberg that he directed us to a newly found city procurement link.
Honest competition and the city’s legal position or loophole
Perhaps we will never learn the true motives behind the city’s choice for the Weekly. Only because both the Palo Alto Daily News and The Daily Post have a rather large targeted audience and a wide city distribution of ugly unsightly newspaper racks which litter our city streets.
What it boiled down to was that neither newspaper was adjudicated, in other words, sanctioned by an earlier petition from the Weekly and argued in a court of law pronouncing the Weekly through decree that they were a “newspaper of general circulation” under Government Code Section 6000-6008.
We don’t know if the Weekly provide with there proposal, a copy of there mandated petition and decree to the city of Palo Alto or if the city even asked for one. But, we would like to see it because once again, this document was not provide originally and it should have been a part of this legal binding contract.
On the balance sheet we have no idea how this past lucrative contract contributed to the Weekly’s bottom line on profitability, but apparently it’s not enough. We recall front page announcements for solicitation, ‘Support Local Journalism’ and the launching of a ‘community membership campaign’.
As to the total number of legal announcements and city advertizements publish by the Weekly remains to be seen on the previous 3 years and we will continually up-date this story as new information is forthcoming.
Newspaper publishing may be on the verge of extinction
However, with the advent of the internet, print newspaper ads just may become a thing of the past. The demands for print ads are in crisis. “The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute” calls newspaper advertising business in a Free Fall and at their lowest since 1950.
We would be surprised if the Daily Post or the Daily News failed in acquiring this coveted legal document proclaiming them a “newspaper of general circulation” and in hand, if and when they submit their bids.
Were precluded from taking any part in the upcoming bidding wars do to a legal “blanket order” recorded directive issued from City of Palo Alto Attorney Molly Stump barring us from participating in any fair competition.