Oops, They Did It Again

I do my own investigative journalism. I don’t get all my facts or quotes from a newspaper, I often go right to the sources and email or speak to them directly. I also on occasion will send the Daily Times-Call a news tip. It’s usually something I put a lot of work into, but think it’s worth them possibly digging a little deeper with the resources they have, and possibly printing it. The only thing I ask in return is partial credit if they use some of the work I’ve done. I don’t think they’ve actually run one of my news tips, and that’s fine, it’s their paper.

On March 24th, 2007 I wrote a piece about “Kids’ Nite Out”, I then posted it around 1am on March 25th to YourHub. I was surprised to see it on the front page of the Longmont section online, even more surprised that it went on the printed edition on March 29th. I had a couple of conversations with Kids’ Nite Out Managing Partner Eileen White on March 25th and 26th, and based on some new information I updated the story on YourHub, although the printed version was the original.

I then noticed the Times-Call repeatedly visiting my site between the 28th and 30th via an IP tracker. This doesn’t even count the visits to my YourHub story and site. Then on the 31st this story ran on the front page of their paper: Kids can come and go, Program at recreation center forced to change strict policy, by Rachel Carter. They quoted the same source I contacted, which was not the same name found on the original letter given to us by Kids’ Nite Out. Also, this policy change happened back around January. It was never reported until I wrote about it over 3 months later. Then coincidentally, within a week, it shows up on the Times-Call?

My write-up on this wasn’t just an opinion piece. I researched state law and interviewed the above mentioned person. The Times-Call interviewed the same person and others, and did a fairly decent job in reporting it. They also have staff that do this for a living. I do this as a sideline, I don’t get paid, and I don’t have subscribers. I do like beating them to a story, and wouldn’t mind if they used some of it in their own reporting, as long as credit is given. I once beat them by two weeks on some work I was doing on railroad noise and regulations, another front page story. Since it was mentioned in a city council meeting I couldn’t verify they got the idea from me.

Some history: A few years ago I was given permission to republish parts of the Times-Call on my website, as long as proper credit was given, which I’ve always done. I was also told that on occasion at least one reporter would check out my site, possibly to see what else was going on or what might’ve been missed. I’m flattered, but never asked for anything in return, not even a free subscription, which I pay for twice a year. But when I research and write, I’m not anonymously giving to a charity. I give credit where it is due, and I only ask for the same in return.

Public NOT invited to be heard

There was no love coming from the City Council on Valentines Day ’06. Here is the document (dead link now) limiting your access to locally elected officials. The normally accepted procedure was to have 5 minutes at the beginning and end of each meeting for “Public Invited To Be Heard”. As an occasional speaker, it took time to whittle it down to fit that time frame in some meaningful way. Then somewhere along the line they decided to cut that time. My personal opinion is that this came about from all the Walmart protesters that would go one after another for quite some time, usually repeating each other, and may have pushed the limits of what the councilmember’s would tolerate. I waited for it seemed about 30 speakers, all about Walmart, just to get my airport issue addressed. I could’ve gone between them but didn’t want my point lost in a subject that the city had already made their mind up about.

So down came the hammer. The first step was a 5 minute limit on the first 12 speakers, but #13 on only had 3 minutes, so much for planning out your comments to fit the time allowed. Now you get 3 minutes, period, 1st, 10th, 20th, doesn’t matter. In the old days you didn’t have to put your name on the sign-up sheet, now if you don’t you don’t get your turn until the end of the meeting (regular session only, study session there is no public invited to be heard at the end). Here’s my problem with this: I usually did not put my name on the list for one reason, if someone else already spoke to my issue, I didn’t waste councils time and repeat them. If no one else did, then I’d raise my hand and speak, usually last. But now, if the only way I or anyone can be heard is to sign up, then we all will and possibly waste more of council’s time that could’ve been saved by avoiding duplication.

The bone thrown out by council was this 30 minute chitchat with a couple members of council before the session. This was to be done on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month. You have to sign up for it, and the member may spend 1 minute listening to you, or 29 minutes listening to someone else, in no order and at the discretion of the council member. Recently they cancelled a meeting, cutting these 30 minute get-togethers down to ONCE in March. They point to the possibility of contacting members via phone or email, I’ve done that plenty in the past, results are spotty. Try it for yourself.

I usually agree with Mayor Pirnack on most issues, but this is one I’ve never agreed with. One of her main goals was more public involvement in city issues, something I took to heart, hence this blog/site, etc etc. But this change in procedures (technically known as R-2006-12) goes totally against the Mayor’s stated goal, which I believe is a worthy goal.

I share that goal with my encouraging people to get involved and follow what goes on in their community. Instead of trying to have all the answers, I’d rather nudge you to ask more questions. You’re paying for it in one form or another, get your moneys worth.
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UPDATE: According to the Times-Call “City Talk” section, City Council members face-to-face meetings are now only on the fourth Tuesday of every month. The above resolution still says “twice a month”. Watch for it to totally disappear.