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The great Anoka County newspaper war of 2015

Even if you live in Anoka County, chances are slim you’ve heard of or paid much attention to The Great Legal Notices Squabble of 2013-2015. 

You may even be saying, “Remind me. What are legal notices?”

Without getting into a PowerPoint presentation on the subject, let’s abbreviate the lesson to this: Counties, cities and municipalities are required by law to publish notice of foreclosures, bidding, hearings, court actions and so on, in what local officials designate as an official publication of record.

Traditionally, this has meant that various government organizations have paid taxpayer money to a local newspaper where, the theory goes, citizens would be able to easily see and read about important matters, never mind that the notices are generally as dense and legalistic as an insurance policy.

The part where the government pays for this service is where local newspapers and newspaper associations remain interested, since revenue streams don’t get much easier than receiving finished copy and a check from city hall or the county board. Get the notice. Print the notice. Cash the check.

But since 2013, a man named John Kysylyczyn has emerged as an insurgent amid this time-honored process.

Again, to make a long story much shorter, a few years ago Kysylyczyn sued Anoka County after he was not awarded the county's legal notice business. But then, late last year, he was awarded the county’s legal notice business — on the grounds that his upstart free publication, the Anoka County Record (which is barely more than a newsletter, and a rabble­-rousing one at that), both meets the current legal definition of a local publication — and is a whole lot cheaper than the previous keeper-­of-­important­-public­-information, the Anoka County Union Herald, which is part of the suburban ABC papers group, which it itself part of ECM Publishers, owners of 49 different publications in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Despite the fact that the Record is free, Kysylyczyn, who gained notoriety years back as the youngest and perhaps the most bumptious mayor in the history of Roseville, circulates a little more than 400 copies of his paper to Anoka County’s roughly 340,000 inquiring citizens. Not that the Union is exactly a pervasive presence. It has a declared circulation of 4,200.

John Kysylyczyn
K Solutions, LLC
John Kysylyczyn

Basically, the minimum standards for defining a publication are so low, and the appeal in Anoka County for saving a few bucks so high, that Kysylyczyn could lose his contract when it comes up for renewal in December to someone who nails a single Crayon-­scribbled flyer to a telephone pole in Coon Rapids.

I exaggerate. But not by much.

By now, if you’re still riding the turnip truck, you are asking, “Why in 2015, with everyone and their dog operating a website, is anyone paying taxpayer money to print this stuff?” Plenty of politicians have been saying the same thing since the dawn of the internet age, and every year someone throws up a bill to let cities and counties drop the print thing (and its cost) and do exactly that. But the 340-­member Minnesota Newspaper Association — which represents both Kysylyczyn and the Union in this little fight — has successfully lobbied against such proposals in order to protect what amounts to a tasty little sinecure.

“Ninety-nine point nine percent of the people don’t give a hoot about public notices,” says Anoka County commissioner Matt Look. “What was the last time you or anyone you know read one of them. We’ve gone before the legislature and argued to have the law changed, but the Newspaper Association has influence.”

Look says all that he and his six other Anoka board members did by turning the contract over to Kysylyczyn “is save some money.”

How much money? About $50,000 this year, according to Kysylyczyn. (He won the 2015 contract by bidding $15,000.)

Tom Murray, general manager of the ABC papers, concedes the vote to accept Kysylyczyn’s bid was “all about the price,” journalistic credibility be damned. Murray points out that Kysylyczyn’s publication is essentially a staff of one — Kysylyczyn — ­and what editorial content there is comes with a pronounced political bias. Like the one where Kysylyczyn reported on himself in the third person for a “feature” on the fight between ... himself and Murray. Then there’s the regular “Anoka County Watchdog” a “paid advertisement”/column from conservative local businessman, Harold Hamilton, railing against the usual liberal bogeymen. A sample:

DFL leaders have been calling the GOP budget a ‘shutdown’ budget, saying that they and their governor won’t negotiate in good faith to reach a compromise with the House majority to do the people’s work. Instead, they will refuse to compromise and push the state into a shutdown, hoping that the public will blame the GOP and give the DFL a political talking point going into the 2016 elections, when both the House and Senate will be on the ballot.

The DFL, instead of taking care of the people they claim to represent, will push them into uncertainty and chaos in order to score political points with the sheeple who will automatically blame the GOP and believe the canard that Republicans can’t effectively manage the House.

“For a government unit as big as Anoka County, it’s mind­ boggling that they would designate a publication like that, that makes no real attempt at covering the community, the paper of record,” says Murray.

If you were expecting Kysylyczyn to come off as another tin-foil-hat-wearing Tea Party culture warrior, though, you’ll be disappointed. He cleans up well for public appearances and makes a coherent argument, which is pretty much: If the standards are what they are, I’m as legitimate as anyone else — and I’m saving taxpayers money.

“[Murray and his company] are one of the biggest members of MNA,” Kysylyczyn says. “And they’ve used their influence to steadily whittle down the standards for papers of record. You used to have to be at least a weekly. But now semi­monthly is good enough.”

Anoka County Record

Kysylyczyn says his business plan is modeled on that of Finance & Commerce and the St. Paul Legal Ledger, two publications of the floundering Dolan Company, which has enjoyed the benefits of public notice revenue for quite some time.

Attorney Mark Anfinson is by no means an unbiased voice in this matter. Part of his day job is acting as counsel to the MNA, and therefore both Murray and Kysylyczyn. Predictably, he offers an energetic defense of the system as it is.

His essential argument for print vs. government websites is that, “many, many, many more people see the notices while browsing a print publication” than clicking into a website, where, he says research “conclusively shows” readers go in search of one particular piece of information and leave, with little or no inadvertent exposure to other topics. He goes so far as to say, “The argument is clearer now in favor of print than it was 15 years ago.”

While he has no doubt that politicians of certain stripes and antagonisms are eager to terminate the printed notices process, what they fail to accept, he says, is that no publication anywhere reaches 100 percent of its available audience and the type of people consuming public notices in print ­­where notices can’t be hacked ­­ are people with a unique investment in the community.

“So okay,” you may be saying, “How about the MNA at least using its muscle to shore up the minimum standards for publications of record? 400 copies ­­of mostly partisan cant ­­is not what anyone would call ‘getting the word out,’ is it?”

Anfinson is not necessarily opposed to this, but sees it as a matter for the Legislature. Unless and until elected officials decide to change the game, the MNA’s position is that, “We don’t have the thinking that this is something that requires our immediate attention.”

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Comments (26)

Alas

How sad that the Newspaper Association should be on such a very, very wrong side in this debate. Who will watch the watchmen?

Um

"If you were expecting Kysylyczyn to come off as another tin-foil-hat-wearing Tea Party culture warrior, though, you’ll be disappointed."

I respectfully disagree:

http://patch.com/minnesota/roseville/roseville-ethics-commission-to-cons...

Only pure, full-fledged advocacy. This is journalism?

Unfortunately, when Anoka County chose the Anoka County Record as their legal publication, there was no discussion of the bids. I searched in vain for the video of the January 6, Board meeting that made the decision. I finally received a perhaps pirated copy of the video of the public meeting. Although Commissioner Sivarajah, mentioned in this meeting that “information” for public consumption of the bids had been provided in the Management Committee, the bids were listed, not discussed Actually an attendee was told prior to the meeting that there would be no discussion of the bids.

Although Commissioner Look says, all the commission did was save some money for Anoka County, they also created a bully. The Record has ridiculed and bullied local residents, the League of Women Voters and legislators. By their vote, commissioners not only set up this bully platform, they obligated Anoka County taxpayers to pay for their own ridicule. It would be nice to have an opportunity to respond, but The Record has no Letter to the Editor feature. Fortunately, the Columbia Heights Library Board saw the light and has wisely removed tabloid from their library.

Now how will someone find a publication of a county public hearing? Of course, find a printed copy of The Record. Finally I found that this tiny tabloid did have a printed version located in stands in Ham Lake, Oak Grove and Anoka. I live in Coon Rapids. The former legal publication, ABC Newspapers, maintains an archived and searchable repository of Public Notices. Does The Record provide this service? I attempted to send an email to The Record to ask that question, but no luck. There was no operable link.

The Record has few, if any, by-lines, and lots of opinion backed up by little evidence including page three with an so-called "advertisement" piece written by the founder of Micro Control, a business providing an office for The Record.

Personal and business relationships with news sources can erode into favoritism, in fact or appearance.

The Anoka County Commissioners, should be cautious of the company they keep. Qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent. "He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas"

Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard's Almanac.

Bids were discussed at Management Committee as past practice

Dee Ann, the discussion of the bids occurred at the Management Committee meeting in December. It was posted on the agenda. Same process as the 2013 bid. The 2013 process had a lot of discussion. It is unfortunate you were not able to attend those meetings. I was in attendance.

Our newspaper does not "bully" anyone. We simply call people out publicly who make false statements. The League of Women Voters was called out not only by our newspaper, but also by the County Board for making false public statements.

Anoka County Record has all public notices archived by date. The Union does not have this.

As we discussed outside our newspaper office, your computer has problems and that is why you cannot open pdf files or apparently send email. To date, you are the only person we have encountered who has had these problems.

I shall leave you with a summary of various opinions of the Minnesota Supreme Court dating back 60 years ago. If a competitive bidding process is not followed through on to arrive at the lowest cost for taxpayers, the process violates the law.

I hope the LWV is not advocating that the County Board break the law.

As we discussed outside our newspaper office

Last of the call and response here. I have never met you Mr. Kysylyczyn and did not talk to you outside your newspaper office or any where else. As a newspaper publisher, you know the importance of getting your facts correct. Seek truth from facts not assumptions.

Also, I am not a member of the ABC LWV so I do not know their response.

Correction, similar names, same exact claims

I believe it was LeeAnn that I spoke with, not Dee Ann. Similar names, same exact claims. As a citizen lobbyist yourself, I hope you appreciate the importance of getting your facts straight and correct.

It All Comes Back to the Anoka County Board

The Anoka County Board did this on a 6-1 vote. Despite being a "non-partisan" group, I would categorize this Board as having 1 Democrat, 1 Independent Democrat and 5 Republicans in place. The Democrat voted against the change, as the Republicans and newly-elected Independent Democrat brought this change to the County residents.

Current board members are:
◦ Matt Look, District 1
◦ Julie Braastad, District 2
◦ Robyn West, District 3
◦ Jim Kordiak, District 4
◦ Mike Gamache, District 5
◦ Rhonda Sivarajah, Chair, District 6
◦ Scott Schulte, Vice Chair, District 7

Kordiak is the Democrat, representing the Fridley and Columbia Heights area. Gamache, who I'm referencing as an Independent Democrat, is the former Mayor of Andover, and represents parts of Andover, Coon Rapids and Fridley. The other five, led by former Lt. Governor and Congressional candidate Sivarajah, are the Republicans.

Sivarajah, Look, Braastad, West and Schulte are guilty - guilty of cronyism and political favoritism. Dee Ann Christensen laid out a pretty good case above. The Record is published by Sivarajah's former campaign site web manager. The address that The Record operates from has no visible signage from the street - it's simply an office within the company Micro Control owned by wealthy businessman Harold Hamilton, a tyrannical Republican blogger at the Anoka County Watchdog and Minnesota Watchdog. The Record appears to be paid for by Hamilton, whose "paid advertisements" regularly appear - reprints of his weekly web rantings at the Watchdog site. It also, almost exclusively, prints press releases from area Republican officeholders.

Hamilton is a major contributor to Anoka County Republicans. His guy Kysylyczyn now gets paid $15,000 to publish pre-printed County notices in a thin, partisan rag that barely qualifies as a newspaper - it's @420 free copies are principally distributed at the Anoka County courthouse and a few convenience stores in the County - apparently not in the biggest city, Coon Rapids, nor in my city, Andover, however.

It doesn't take much of that $15,000 to put this 'newspaper' out, but hey, the County Board saved that $50,000 that the ABC papers would have charged - you know, the "real" paper, with actual reporters, actual staffers, an actual printing plant, an actual building presence, and actual costs incurred to put out 10 times the number of issues in far more County locations and to actual residents and subscribers. By the way, a subscription to the Union Herald costs me less than $40 per year. Apparently a subscription to The Record costs $100 a year - this for a publication that could be picked up free - if inconveniently.

A lot of Kysylyczyn's material comes from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which, per Wikipedia, is an online news organization in the United States that publishes news and commentary from a free market, limited government perspective on state and local governance and politics. That's quite a perspective the County Board voted to send Democrats and other non-Republicans residents to have to wade through to read any official notices that might need to be read. Partisan anti-DFL rhetoric, published for little effort at nice monetary gain by their political crony and colleague of one of their most important campaign financial sources... Nothing too fishy there, eh, yet It All Comes Back to the Anoka County Board.

The Anoka County Record

DeeAnn and Wes have laid-out the powerful case against the decision by Anoka County's Board of Commissioners to make the Anoka County Record its publication-of-record. As a long-time resident of the county, I profoundly resent this move - which ensures that Anoka County will continue to be diparaged as redneck, hidey-hole country - validating Lambert's "turnip truck" analysis. I have my
fingers crossed that Mike Gamache, Commissioner of District 5, soon comes to his senses and jumps
off of that vehicle!

DeeAnn and Wes ignore State Law

Minnesota Law REQUIRES counties to competitively bid and select the lowest bidder. Commissioner Gamache should be thanked for following the law. Only commissioner Kordiak's vote constituted an endorsement of a particular newspaper's coverage. The other six members, including Gamache, I believe made it clear that they were simply following the law that requires a bidding process and that the low bid be selected.

Isn't it nice

to have a quality newspaper that allows responses to perceived inaccuracies.

I agree with Dee Ann

Anoka County Record has published every editorial it has received from Anoka County residents. No other paper in Anoka County can say the same.

Counties required to select lowest bidder by Minnesota Law

One of the things that highly partisan people such as DFL Chair Wesley Volkenant conveniently forget to mention is that for county government, the selection of a legal newspaper is not a partisan issue no matter how hard they try to make it.

Minnesota law requires counties to conduct a bid process and to select the lowest. In fact, it is actually written in Minnesota Law twice. Why did the legislature enact competitive bid laws 50 to 100 years ago? In order to remove politics from the process and to restrict the flexibility that elected officials once had to award contracts to friends and relatives.

I am disappointed that Brian Lambert failed to highlight this important fact. He asked me about this twice in our interview. At the end of the interview, Brian asked me about my chances on getting the 2016 bid. He asked in a way implying that there would be favoritism. My response to him was simple. It is a competitive bid process. Everyone submits their price in a sealed envelope. On bid opening day, the envelopes are opened and the bids are read out loud. The lowest bidder is awarded the contract. Everyone in the construction business has been accustomed to this for decades.

The issue with the Union is that prior to our entry into the newspaper market, Anoka County routinely violated the law. There was a good ol boys system at work. Now the county follows the law.

Take note, Ramsey County and Hennepin County also follow the law. Ramsey County notices are published in the New Brighton Bulletin. A year or two ago they were in the Ramsey County Review, another paper with approximately a 500 print circulation.

The fact is that in metro counties, there are 10 to 100 times more people reading these notices on newspaper websites than in a print newspaper. Print circulation has become somewhat of a meaningless statistic.

Bids

Bids typically include specifications beyond just price. To use your example of construction bids, the agency putting a job out for bidding typically has requirements in place that potential bidders must meet having to do with such things as quality of materials used, requirement to meet building codes, construction completion deadlines, and so forth. It's not simply "Who can do this the cheapest?".

Does anyone reading this happen to know whether there were any requirements in place for the Anoka paper public notices bid? I'd think things such as circulation area, distribution outlets, frequency of publication, etc just off the top of my head would be the kinds of specifications that would be included as requirements in such a bid process.

However, it - in fact - the only thing in the bid process was "Who can do this the cheapest?", then there's some work to be done to write up a more comprehensive list of bid specifications to ensure the citizens in the area will be well-served.

Construction bids are different from Newspaper bids in law

The specifications for qualified newspapers are set in Minnesota Statutes 331A. Construction projects allow for specifications and/or best value. Newspaper bids are governed by a different set of statutes which do not allow for the setting of specifications other than the qualifications under 331A. Beyond that, there is a clause in statute that allows for a public interest determination. But to disqualify a bidder for public interest reasons, you would need to demonstrate a significant difference between the one bidder singled out for disqualification and the other bidders. In a Duluth case for example, a bidder was disqualified because they published weekly. The city's charter required some publications to be published daily. Also the circulation of the two papers was drastically different. One paper published tens of thousands of copies daily while the other paper published only a tiny fraction of that weekly.

Directly to your question, yes there were requirements. That you were a qualified newspaper under 331A. That is the standard applied by every local government. The requirements you mention are under 331A.

It isn't the lowest priced paper that is selected. It is the lowest priced paper qualifying under Minnesota Statutes 331A.

The unfortunate fact with Anoka County is that there is no one paper that has anymore than a 5% circulation rate. Unlike Hennepin and Ramsey County, there has never been a dominant newspaper that has served the entire county. But interestingly in both Hennepin and Ramsey counties, none of the local governments use the Star Tribune or the Pioneer Press due to cost. They use Finance & Commerce and the St. Paul Legal Ledger.

C'mon, John...

You should dispense with attempting to dismiss others as "highly partisan"...glass houses and all. As for print circulation, tell the Strib and PP how meaningless it is. From the advertising they put forth to get me to subscribe, they haven't received that notice. Neither has the Citizen or the Peach, local papers that find their way into my mailbox twice a month and weekly respectively.

DFL Senate Districts 31 and 35 coordinated effort

Jason, you are probably unaware that both DFL Senate Districts 31 and 35 have had a coordinated political attack on this issue. District 31 was the first to come to our attention when they established a standing committee to attack the Anoka County Record.

Print circulation matters to top level papers such as the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, which are subscription only papers, and neither which is headquartered in Anoka County. Not much of an issue for the lower tiered free weekly papers which typically do not have national advertising. National advertisers typically stick with subscription only papers or direct mail and avoid free newspapers.

12/2/2014 Bids

John - I found this summary of the bids made to take over the printing of Anoka County notices. You were indeed the low bidder in most categories per the table. It still doesn't look like you were playing the same game as ECM or Quad Community Press, however. It appears I'll have lost the formatting of the table, unfortunately....

ANOKA COUNTY QUOTE/BID TABULATION Date: 12/2/2014
Vendor
Ads (per column inch)
Delinquent Taxes (per column inch)
County Board Summary Minutes (per column inch)
Printing of Tabloid (Financial Statement) printing of the tabloid for 1st and 2nd insertion/per piece
1st publication of Tabloid (first insertion/ per piece)
2nd publication of Tabloid (second publication/ per piece)
Board of Appeals Summary Minutes (per column inch)

BlaineSpringLakePark Life(ECM)No Bid No Bid No Bid No Bid No Bid $0.049 No Bid
Anoka County Record $2.90 $2.90 $2.90 No Bid $0.060 $0.060 $2.90
Anoka Union-Herald (ECM) $5.90 $4.90 $3.00 $0.0575 $0.055 No Bid $5.90
Quad Community Press $7.25 $5.99 $7.25 $0.0480 $0.0580 $0.0550 $7.25

John, you covered your own successful win in this bidding process in your January 16th issue. I have taken the bidding results from that issue, and read your summary of the result. It may not surprise you that I agree with Commissioner Kordiak's concerns, as he was the only vote against you that morning. For others to read John's reporting of this matter in The Record, the link would be: 2015-01-16_acr_letter.pdf.

Commissioner Kordiak would have invited litigation

Commissioner Kordiak proposed violating the law in order to select a newspaper with little print circulation, over another newspaper with little print circulation. That would have invited litigation that I believe the County would have eventually lost. The law seems to be worded pretty clear, which is low bidder.

If Commissioner Kordiak has stated his concern about there not being a newspaper that thoroughly covered the county like the Star Tribune covers Hennepin County, I would have had respect for his comments.

In 2014, Kordiak complained and said that the staff report must be followed when questions were raised about price and following the low bid law. That year his favored paper the Union was selected.

In 2015 when the staff report said the Record was the low bidder and should be selected, then suddenly he was calling for a dismissal of the staff report. They must be wrong. But he had nothing to back it up.

If you are consistent, then that shows a desire for having strong public policy. When you are inconsistent, it smacks of politics and favoritism. Ethically what looks bad is that Kordiak advertises in ECM owned newspapers, and they run many of his editorial columns for free. That within itself is not a problem, but when you then have an inconsistent attitude towards the staff reports, that draws concern.

Ramsey County: 6 DFL members select paper owned by GOP Senator

It should be noted that all six DFL members of the Ramsey County Board selected a newspaper owned by GOP Senator Ted Lillie as their legal newspaper. How is this possible? Because the law requires competitive bidding and that the low bid be selected.

And yet

The Union Herald continues to publish the Public Notices section every week which allows all the complainers to get their information the same way that they've always gotten it. Meanwhile, the Anoka County Record Public Notices may be accessed online at anytime for free or if a paper issue is found, it may be read for free. The county is obligated to print their notices (a problem that the Legislature should fix) even though virtually nobody reads them, they are not obligated to waste $50 grand a year doing so.

Just to Clarify...

Thanks for noting that the Union Herald continues to print notices every Friday in a third section of the paper, Tom. However, and it's a big however, those do not include Anoka County notices, nor the handful of Anoka County towns, such as Ham Lake, which have been similarly persuaded by the cheapness of the Record's bids. What fills that section in the Union Herald, published by ABC Newspapers, are the similar types of notices from the School Districts in the area, cities like Anoka, Coon Rapids, Ramsey and Andover, various Boards and Commissions required to print legal notices, etc.... And it is printed very professionally - and looks like it!

I happen to agree, Tom, that the Legislature should address legal notices in 2016, but, it is the law now that notices have to be printed in legal Newspapers. Of course, where you might move towards an online presence, Tom, I fear that online versions can be edited after-the-fact in ways that printed versions can not.

I would prefer to raise the notices standard to only publications that have a circulation of at least 1% of the population that body represents, and in the event that no printed newspaper does so, that the bids be given to the newspaper with the largest circulation at the time. In 2010, Anoka County had a population of @331,000, so a publication that had a circulation of about 3310 or more would meet my proposed standard. The Anoka County Record would not qualify, but the Anoka Union Herald at 4020 would.

Here's an example of how this would play in Greater Minnesota. I used to teach in Jackson, MN, county seat for Jackson County - 2010 population of about 10,300. The local newspaper is the Jackson County Pilot - current circulation of 2067 - about 20% of the County population. They'd far exceed my standard.

Rural areas often have that local newspaper as the main source of news - in the metro area, the resources are plentiful, diverse and wide-ranging, so suburban newspapers face a much different environment, as we do in Anoka County, at least.

How much longer would it meet that requirement?

Newspaper circulation is plummeting as most people find their information online. I even read my local suburban newspaper online and rarely look at the printed version.

I think a state government website to publish notices by PDF would be sufficient. It could be searchable and timely and much lower cost.

UnionHerald voluntarily chose not to publish

Let's be clear that the UnionHerald chose not to publish Anoka County notices. There is no law that prevents them from publishing whatever notices they want to. At the Record, we routinely publish notices that we are not paid for. If the notice comes to our attention, we often times print it. One type of notice we routinely print are those for job openings.

The UnionHerald is solely about profit based upon their actions. At the Record, we place a higher value on public notices.

The problem with Mr. Volkenant's suggestion is that the legislature would instantly see this as smacking of favoritism towards a particular newspaper. The other problem is that laws are supposed to be applied equally to everyone throughout the state. Any change must pass a public policy test and its affects be measured statewide. I fear that all his suggestion will do is simply eliminate newspapers throughout the state and drive up the price of publishing public notices. It is possible that in some counties, his suggestion may eliminate all legal newspapers.

Sad Truth?

John - thanks for taking time to respond. I sent a comment late Friday night that MinnPost told me has apparently gotten lost in cyberspace, so I'll try this again.

Pat Berg has covered part of what I wanted to share in response to your comments regarding taking the lowest bid. The State Auditor's Office has put out a "Statement of Position County Bidding and Contract Requirements." Under the first section, "Uniform Municipal Contracting Law," there's a paragraph that states, "The requirement that the successful bidder be “responsible” protects counties from having to choose unqualified or unscrupulous low bidders. It allows a county board to consider factors such as the bidder’s financial responsibility, integrity, skill and ability, and the likelihood that the bidder will do satisfactory work. A county can even include evaluation criteria for “responsible” bidders in the bid specifications."

First, let me state that I don't think you are an unscrupulous low bidder. While I may consider the Anoka County Record to be little more than a conservative newsletter - hardly a newspaper - for Anoka County Republicans, the issue to me is that you weren't playing on an even field with your competitors. Your bid was over three times less than theirs. Your main opposition, ABC Newspapers, was scheduled to print over 4000 copies of these notices, in papers going out to communities covering about 2/3 of the County, on real newsprint, produced by a full reporting staff at a real printing plant. You're printing about 400 copies, with access in only a handful of locations, printed like a newsletter by your staff of one. There's no competitive way that the 'real' newspaper(s) could bid at your low point. It was not a reasonable expectation.

So, was it responsible to take The Record only because it was the lowest bidder? When it wasn't offering the same product as the other bidders? Were there no other considerations that could merit thought by the Board members, such as the audience size, such as the quality of the printed paper product, such as the history of the publications, and such as their journalistic reputation presenting themselves to the Anoka County subscribers and readers? By law, these notices are printed by Newspapers - whether in 2015 it is easier to read online, or not, is not at issue here. The Board should have paid the money that a Newspaper bid, not what a partisan newsletter/web site put forth. Taking your bid was hardly the responsible choice by the Board members, who failed to weigh that at your far lower price, you were barely offering a minimalist version of what the others were offering the County, leading to the sad truth that a majority went no further than the dollar sign in helping out a friend and acquaintance.

Newspaper bids not under Uniform Municipal Contracting Law

Wes, the Uniform Municipal Contracting Law covers many things, but there are other statutes that specifically cover newspaper bids.

With all due respect, you are not asking the right questions. Ask ECM why they were charging Anoka County over $10 a column inch when Ramsey County newspapers were bidding $2 a column inch there. Why does Anoka County have some of the highest priced public notices in the state?

In my opinion, ABC Newspapers have been robbing the residents of Anoka County for years, if not decades. When they rake in the thousands of dollars they do on foreclosure notices that they stick on the poor and unfortunate who lose their homes, they have plenty of money to run their newspaper empire. But no, then they have to stick it to local governments who were being held hostage because prior to our entry into the market, they had no other publishing options.

What you propose, to base bids off of the content, or other issues, would most likely violate the law. The purpose of competitive bidding is to eliminate the good old boys atmosphere where elected officials grant contracts to their friends and buddies who charge taxpayers more.

Wes, as a reader of the Record, and admit it, we know you read it every week, you know that we publish the most original legislative pieces we receive each week. You also know that we accept paid advertising. If the few DFL members that represent Anoka County provided us quality pieces like Carolyn Laine often does, we would print more DFL pieces.

If people like yourself ponied up the cash for a full page ad, we would be more than happy to print it. If you commit to a years worth of full page advertising, we would give you the same rate we give anyone else. We don't care if the money comes out of a red or blue pocket. All we care about is that it is green.

Scary stuff

"I fear that online versions can be edited after-the-fact in ways that printed versions can not. "

What does this suggest about mandatory electronic medical records? Or any other "online only" records?

If this is, in fact, true, we should immediately require paper records for all important documents, records, etc. lest they be tampered with. And what of e-filed tax records? The federal government stands to suffer numerous lawsuits as taxpayers insist that their online records were altered after they were filed.

Talk about a can of worms!