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VIEWPOINT: City should return to publishing public notices in local newspaper

James Steidle

BY JAMES STEIDLE

Special to the News

Last spring Councillor Kyle Sampson led and tabled a motion that would lead to the elimination of city notices in our local newspaper, denying local press a critical revenue stream.

During the June 13, 2022 decision, which he characterized as an “all-around-win,” he claimed he did this on behalf of the taxpayer.

Advertising public notices in newspapers was “costing us on average over $100,000 a year,” he said, pointing out there were better ways to get the message out online.

Communications director Julie Rogers agreed, saying “the newspaper can tell us how many papers they print. The newspaper can’t tell us how many of those newspapers were used for firestarter.”

As a result of Sampson’s leadership, egged on by Rogers, with Councillors Skakun, Frizell, Ramsay, and Kraus absent, the city would go on to draft and recommend the bylaw adopted during two August 2022 council meetings. The city would now advertise on an American social media titan that produces zero news, as opposed to our century-old local newspaper that had been the steady keel of accountability and oversight of how taxpayer money has been used and abused.

I wrote previously about how local media has been shown to reduce costs for taxpayers.

This trend is almost certainly true in our city.

If it wasn’t for our local media and it’s editorials and freedom of information requests, we wouldn’t know details about the $22 million parkade cost overrun.  We wouldn’t know how city staff tried to suppress a UNBC faculty opinion piece critical of the Mocassin Flats clearance.  We wouldn’t know details about how the city helped councillor Kyle Sampson’s private business get a $157,000 provincial grant.

Last year’s decision to defund local advertising has nothing to do with saving the taxpayer money. Gutting our local media will do the opposite. It will increase the power of governments and politicians over the rights and powers of average citizens. It will increase waste and self-dealing grift.

Is this the “all-around win” Sampson was talking about? Or is it about winning next year’s 2023 Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy, just as we won it this year?

Jokes aside, the whole ‘it saves us money’ argument is a joke in itself.  After a year in place, this policy hasn’t saved us anything. We just happily gave $110,750 to an outside firm to “shift” our perceptions of downtown. We have hired more in-house spin doctors. And in what is surely the biggest indignity, the city financially supports the social media platform that now actively blocks Canadian news media completely.

This coming Wednesday there is an opportunity to reverse thedecision made last year that is part of a broader debasement of a fundamental pillar of democracy.

Send a note to mayor and council to support the upcoming amendment to reinstate the advertising budget with local newspapers.

Better yet, come to the Council Chambers at 6 p.m.

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