Pounds: Questionable bid-nessWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
The economy is on the minds of more than just business owners. It seems everyone is hyper-aware of the economic uncertainty that has investment retracting and governments finding new ways of conducting business to save taxpayer money.
In October 2011, Gov. John Kasich signed into law Ohio House Bill 153, which broke the monopoly daily publications held on legal notices purchased with public money.
The bill eliminated the limitation that links charging for newspapers with being permitted to publish legal notices. It opened the legal publication business to any newspaper of general circulation that publishes at least once a week and meets other criteria, all of which Toledo Free Press satisfies. The bill also requires a participating newspaper to offer its best classified rate for such publications. The planned participation of newspapers such as Toledo Free Press is intended to ensure that the best rate offered by any participant in this market will be competitive. The result should be substantial savings for all who are required to publish legal notices.
Toledo Free Press has, predictably, had to fight to get local government to learn and respect the new law. A number of agencies have begun taking advantage of our lower rates to reach Lucas County taxpayers. Recently, we began the process with Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez to compete for delinquent property ads. The county’s last purchase of these ads in The Blade cost taxpayers $369,145.98.
Eventually, Lopez sought an opinion from the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office, which, on Oct. 16, ruled, “[Toledo] Free Press would now qualify as a paper of general circulation.”
Shortly after that, Lopez opened bids for the delinquent property ads.
The numbers would seem to make the choice easy. Toledo Free Press publishes 86,600 copies (2012 CVC audit). During a weekday when The Blade would presumably carry the delinquent property ads, the daily newspaper prints 81,473 copies with 59,249 of those copies distributed in Lucas County (September 2011 ABC audit; the September 2012 audit is not available yet).
There are three other factors in Toledo Free Press’ favor. While a daily newspaper comes and goes in one day, our paper is on racks in 432 locations for seven days in addition to our 70,000 home-delivered copies. It is worth noting that taxpayers who wish to see the information they have paid to publish would get that information at no cost in Toledo Free Press; they would have to pay for it (again) to read it in a daily newspaper.
But here is the most striking difference: The Blade’s Nov. 26 bid was $330,617.70. Our bid was $86,100. Seems like an easy choice, but Lopez (and the Lucas County Commissioners) went with the bid that ran almost four times higher.
Too many Lucas County officials are stuck in old models and counterproductive ways of thinking. There is a new reality, and while many fear and resent the changes, those changes are active in many counties and will continue to chip away at reckless spending of taxpayer money.
Toledo Free Press will continue to compete for county legal ads, in what will undoubtedly be a long educational process.
You may absolutely accuse us of sour grapes. In fact, as a Lucas County taxpayer, you may accuse us of harboring 244,517 sour grapes, one for each of your dollars Lopez needlessly spent.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com.