Public Money To Fund Sectarian Private Business:
City Gives $25,000 To Chamber Of Commerce, Newspaper To Restart
The same newspaper that has endorsed the elections of Ken Bukowski, Nora Davis and Kurt Brinkman will now receive public money courtesy of Ken Bukowski, Nora Davis and Kurt Brinkman.
The city council voted last Tuesday to grant the Chamber of Commerce, a private company, $25,000 for consulting services related to certain economic development programs and the city's Climate Action Plan. Included in the economic component of the agreement is funding to restart the defunct Chamber newspaper for one year to "disseminate information" about the city's 'enterprise zones', a business promotion scheme. The vote was 3-1 with Jennifer West dissenting and Ruth Atkin was absent.
For years, the City paid outright to print the Chamber of Commerce's highly biased newspaper, the 'Emeryville Connection' but the controversial funding ultimately was discontinued after mounting public outcry ensued over the inappropriate use of public money for such a partisan purpose. The Emeryville Connection sputtered along on its own for several months before it finally stopped production in 2009 do to lack of money. Now the shuttered newspaper is to have new life breathed into it once again; like before with Emeryville taxpayer's money.
The Chamber first approached the City with the funding idea, drawing an enthusiastic response from the city staff who exclaimed the Chamber's "excellent working relationship with the city" in the accompanying report to the council. The approved agreement pays the Chamber of Commerce $100 per hour, its billing rate based on monthly invoices until the $25,000 is used up. The Chamber would then be free to renegotiate another contract with the City.
The Emeryville Connection newspaper, with its logo "news that brings us together", endorsed many city council candidates over the years including Mr Bukowski, Ms Davis and Mr Brinkman but it also devoted pages against other candidates including council member Jennifer West and former councilman John Fricke. In addition, the newspaper urged readers to vote for or against many local Measures including No on Measure C, the living wage ordinance for hotel workers. Legions of critics of the Emeryville Connection say the newspaper was very hostile against workers and routinely favored business at the expense of the residents.
Council support for funding the newspaper last Tuesday night followed partisan lines with those members that have received favorable treatment by the Chamber over the years supporting it and the one member that received Chamber condemnation opposing it.
Council member West inveighed against the funding, citing the considerable largess already bestowed upon the Chamber of Commerce by the City including the rent free office space the Chamber enjoys at the City's expense. The staff however said in their report that the Chamber should receive the money since the agreement between the Chamber and the City will "enhance the City's ability to achieve goals and objectives related to the Enterprise Zone, its Climate Action Plan and business attraction, retention and workforce development programs".