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Council may move legal ads

A councilman’s resolution could change city’s ‘official newspaper.’

The City Council plans to revisit the question of which publication should be the city’s “official newspaper.”

A resolution to that end, proposed by Councilman Bill Knobloch, is slated for discussion by the council next Wednesday.

Knobloch called previous resolutions naming the Bainbridge Island Review the city’s newspaper of record “woefully old.”

“Our demographics have changed, our population has changed, our form of government has changed” since the Review was named the city of Winslow’s official newspaper in 1985, he said.

At stake is about $30,000 per year in “legal advertising,” through which the city must announce upcoming public hearings, ordinance changes and other matters as prescribed by statute.

Knobloch has called the resolution a business move that could save city money through competitive bids for advertising.

Ralph Eells, city finance director, said new information on advertising rates was solicited from the Review and the Sun newspaper of Bremerton earlier this year, but that that did not constitute a formal bid process.

Save for a six-month period in 1992, the Review has been the city’s newspaper of record for nearly two decades.

In February 1992, when the Review was still published once a week, the council abruptly named the Sun the newspaper of record in order to publish a needed legal notice on a building moratorium.

The council passed a new resolution in August of that year that reinstated the Review as the paper of record, after it was pointed out that the Bainbridge publication enjoyed a local paid circulation advantage of about 4-1.

That hasn’t changed, independent audits show. A March 2003 certified audit showed the Review with an average paid distribution of 4,560 per issue; the Sun had a paid distribution of about 1,100 on the island in a March 2002 audit, the most recent independent report available.

The other regional dailies, the Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, each distribute about 1,900 paid copies on Bainbridge Island.

Audits also indicate that the Sun does not consider Bainbridge Island to be part of its “designated market area,” which is used to determine market penetration and set the rates paid by national advertisers.

Countywide, the Sun’s paid circulation has dropped from 39,000 in 1994 to 31,000 last year, according to audits.

Although it was discussed by the council’s finance committee on Tuesday – with Knobloch and Lois Curtis present, and Councilwoman Debbie Vann absent – the resolution comes with no actual recommendation beyond “discussion”; the name of the newspaper to be designated is left blank.

Neither does the agenda bill include any information on the relative costs of advertising in various area publications, or circulation figures. It was unclear whether that information would be provided Wednesday.

The resolution was discussed again Thursday by the council’s operations committee – Vann, Norm Wooldridge, and chair Christine Rolfes – which sets the agenda for the full council.

Wooldridge said the “official newspaper” question should not even be considered, as the Review “is clearly the dominant newspaper on Bainbridge Island.”

He called the effort to put the resolution on the council’s final agenda of the year, before new council members take office, “politically motivated,” and implied that some current council members are looking for “payback.”

But Vann argued that it might be time for a change.

“Frankly, I know lots of people who don’t take the Review anymore,” she said.

Mayor Darlene Kordonowy said that while she reads both publications, her allegiance is with “my local newspaper.”

While voting to advance the resolution to the full council, Rolfes argued that it has not been adequately discussed at the committee level. The council, she said, is “setting (itself) up for a nasty meeting” Wednesday.

Said Wooldridge of the timing: “It’s just an effort to gets some votes that are leaving the council.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Vann asked. “That’s politics.”

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