If you read the September Bel Aire Breeze story headlined, "Attention Readers: Help Save The Breeze", you may have wondered why the Bel Aire City Council voted to stop publishing legal notices in the Ark Valley News (sister paper of The Breeze), and start publishing them on the City’s own website, instead. Unfortunately, the article didn’t explain the City’s rationale for the change. Nor did it mention how much the newspapers’ proposed petition drive to force a special election about this decision could ultimately cost Bel Aire taxpayers. Here’s what Bel Aire residents need to know…
A recent opinion by the Kansas Attorney General now makes it possible for cities like Bel Aire to post legal notices regarding budget hearings, zoning issues, ordinances, special assessments, etc., on their own city websites, rather than buying paid legal advertisements in local newspapers. In August, the Bel Aire City Council approved a Charter Ordinance to make that switch. This will provide an annual cost savings of roughly $10,000. More importantly, we believe that using our own website for publishing such notices will increase the timeliness, transparency and accessibility of these communications with residents.
Even though the Ark Valley News has published Bel Aire legal notices for the past 17 years, residents couldn’t see them unless they subscribed to the newspaper. The newspaper recently offered to post the notices on their website so all could see them for free – but only as long as the City continued to pay for the print version as ads.
Times change, and we think using our own City website to publish legal notices is a better way to share information with area residents. We feel it encourages more interaction with residents and spurs web users to seek even more detailed information through other links on our website.
We understand this drop in advertising revenue for the Ark Valley News has the potential to impact the sustainability of its sister publication, The Breeze. But the City still maintains a $6,000 annual advertising contract with The Breeze, using a full page every month to publish various city announcements and ads. The Breeze also prints the monthly column called “Mayor’s Corner” at no charge to the City.
The Ark Valley News, The Breeze and their parent company, Strunk Publishing, are now starting a petition drive that – if successful – would force the City of Bel Aire to hold a special election in which voters would be asked to approve or reject the Council’s decision to eliminate paid legal advertising. What they don’t tell you is that this special election could cost Bel Aire taxpayers a minimum of roughly $10,000 to conduct but could be more due to voter turnout and other variables.
The way we see it, these privately owned newspapers are seeking to force a taxpayer-funded election… requiring the City to continue buying advertising… to support the bottom line of their privately owned publishing company. These newspapers may be servants of a free press, but they are also a free enterprise. The City shouldn’t be bullied into underwriting their profits, especially when their publishing service is no longer the best or most efficient means to provide timely, transparent notification of all the City’s legal business.
The City is committed to communicating with our residents and will continue to do so through social media, website and print. If the Breeze is discontinued, we will ensure information is shared through newsletters, utility inserts, posts and other media outlets.