CNPA: Tell Legislators to vote NO on bill threatening public notices

CNPA is ramping up its efforts to defeat recently introduced legislation that threatens public notices in California newspapers. As part of its strategy staff requests that CNPA members contact legislators urging them to vote no on the measure.

The bill, AB 2003 by Assemblyman Tom Daly (D-Huntington Beach), is sponsored by the Orange County Sanitation District and would repeal existing newspaper publication requirements for competitive bidding for the purchase of goods, equipment, material and services for a sanitation district and replace the law with this section:

“The district board shall cause a notice to be published in a manner that the district board determines is reasonable, which may include, but is not limited to, newspapers, Internet Web sites, radio, television, or other means of mass communication.”

Existing law requires sanitation districts to publish notices of RFPs in a newspaper of general circulation at least twice, not less than 5 days apart, in a newspaper of general circulation in the district at least 10 days before the opening of the bids.

CNPA staff requests that you contact by letter, phone and email, your own Assembly member and each member of the Assembly Local Government committee ASAP to urge them to vote no on AB 2003.

Here is the contact information for each member of the Assembly Local Government Committee:

Chairwoman Cecelia Aguiar-Curry (D-Napa)
Chief of Staff: John Ferrera
Honorable Cecelia Aguiar-Curry
California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 5144
Sacramento, CA 95814
Napa Office: 707-552-4405
Major cities: American Canyon, Calistoga, Clearlake, Davis, Dixon, Lakeport, Napa, Rohnert Park, St. Helena, Williams, Winters, Woodland and Yountville

Vice Chairwoman Marie Waldron (R-Escondido)
Chief of Staff: Jayme Chick
Honorable Marie Waldron
California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 4130
Sacramento, CA 95814
Escondido Office: 760-480-7570
Major cities: Escondido, Fallbrook, San Marcos, Temecula and Vista

Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica)
Chief of Staff: Sean MacNeil
Honorable Richard Bloom
California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 2003
Sacramento, CA 95814
Santa Monica Office: 310-450-0041
Major cities: Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and West Los Angeles

Anna Caballero (D-Salinas)
Chief of Staff: Reginald Fair
Honorable Anna Caballero
California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 5158
Sacramento, CA 95814
Salinas Office: 831-759-8676
Major cities: Gilroy, Hollister, Morgan Hill, Salinas, Soledad and Watsonville

Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova)
Chief of Staff: Jillena Hernandez
Honorable Ken Cooley
California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 3013
Sacramento, CA 95814
Rancho Cordova Office: 916-464-1910
Major cities: Carmichael, Citrus Heights and Rancho Cordova

Tim Grayson (D- Concord)
Chief of Staff: Matthew Powers
Honorable Tim Grayson
California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 4164
Sacramento, CA 95814
Concord Office: 925-521-1511
Major cities: Benicia, Concord, Lafayette, Martinez, Pittsburg, Vallejo and Walnut Creek

Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale)
Chief of Staff: Tim Townsend
Honorable Tom Lackey
California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 2174
Sacramento, CA 95814
Palmdale Office: 661-267-7636
Major cities: California City, Lancaster, Mojave, Palmdale and Santa Clarita

Randy Voepel (R-Santee)
Chief of Staff: Mason Herron
Honorable Randy Voepel
California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 4009
Sacramento, CA 95814
Santee Office: 619-441-2322
Major cities: El Cajon, East Hemet, Santee, Ramona and Temecula

CNPA member letters should be short, direct and personalized. Here is a sample letter prepared by staff for you to use. Please send a copy of your letter to CNPA General Counsel Jim Ewert. Additionally, here are some opposition themes you might consider when writing to or talking with legislators:

1. AB 2003 mistakenly presupposes the target audience of the bid notices is contractors and vendors who might want to submit a bid. In fact, public notice of the bid process in newspapers serves to notice the entire community that an important government function is being carried out in the full light of day. Allowing these notices to be posted solely on a district website for access by insiders already attuned to the process would wholly subvert the purpose of the public notice.

2. AB 2003 gives sanitation districts unfettered discretion to use their own websites, or TV, or radio or any other medium. Districts could post on their obscure website, then shift to fleeting TV spots in the middle of the night, then one of dozens of radio stations completely confusing the public. And most of the notices would be momentary not permanent. Newspapers create a permanent unhackable record and are where the community knows to look for these important notices.

3. Posting bid notices on a government website is a sure fire method to remove the bid process from public view. Public notice advertisements published in newspapers, however, alert citizens of important events in their community are “pushed” into millions of households.

4. These published public notices inform not just the political insiders who might occasionally visit a government website or sign up for mailed alerts, or even those with a direct stake in the matter, but the entire community.

5. The history of public contracting is rife with corruption. The mayor and city council in the city of Maywood is being investigated by the Los Angeles District Attorney for, among other things, not following protocol when selecting contracts for landscaping, media consulting and street fairs. Newspaper public notices about public contracting alert and energize the entire community to make sure these transactions are executed in the full light of day.

6. There are many reasons important public notices should not be solely posted on a government web site. Public notices published in newspapers of general circulation ensure notification to the general populace because they have these elements:

  • Publication is in a forum independent of the government.
  • The published notice is archivable and secure.
  • The notice is accessible by all segments of society.
  • Publication is verifiable (by way of an affidavit of publication).

7. Posting information on a sanitation district’s website has none of these elements of permanency, reliability and accessibility. Obviously, a district web site is not independent of the legislative body that is seeking the RFP. Posting on a district website alone deprives the notice of the independence that protects against tampering, alteration, political bias and post-deadline posting.

8. Unlike the Internet, newspapers create a permanent, unhackable source of information. It is increasingly common to read in the news about supposedly secure websites being hacked. When a public notice is published in a newspaper, it’s either permanently right or permanently wrong, but not both.

9. AB 2003 would reduce the frequency of these notices from two to one. Giving a community fewer opportunities to learn about significant expenditures of public money also provides less protection against potentially corrupt practices.

10. (Depending on your relationship with the member) This notice provision of the bill is a small deal to sanitation districts, but a big deal to this newspaper and the public it serves. The cost for sanitation districts to publish public notices is usually less than 1% of the district’s overall budget.

11. Digital divide issues remain. Although trends shift at warp speed, it is clear that significant segments of society and rural sections of California either are unable to access the Internet with regularity or choose not to use the Internet as a source of information.

12. Community newspapers offer, on a daily or weekly basis, a well-edited package of information that is relevant and interesting to those who actually seek and want the information. People continue to depend on newspapers to be informed about important community events, both news and the information that is typically communicated through public notice advertisements. It is newspapers that give public notices prominence.

Governmental affairs staff also recommends publishers make personal phone calls to committee members and their own Assembly member, or personal emails, asking for a commitment from the Assembly member to vote no. If you cannot reach the Assembly member, ask for his or her chief of staff.

Finally, CNPA staff is here to help in any way we can. Please email CNPA General Counsel Jim Ewert or call him at 916-288-6013 for more information, to help with letters and, most importantly, to give any feedback you receive from your contacts. Staff thanks you in advance for your efforts to defeat AB 2003.