Newspapers like the Enterprise play several important roles in the communities they serve. We inform the public through our news reporting, we promote local commerce through our advertising and we create a forum for the exchange of ideas and opinions through our guest columns and letters.
But another important, albeit less glamorous, role is to provide readers with official notification of legal and governmental activities. Every week, the Enterprise – as the only general circulation newspaper to distribute in every community in the county – runs dozens of legal notices in the newspaper and on our website. Topics range from trustee sales to foreclosures to fictitious business names.
The Enterprise also runs legal notices from Calaveras County government. These notices inform the community – as well as the newspaper at times – of important government meetings, requests for proposals for public works projects, sales of surplus government property and notices of adoption of new ordinances.
As I said, these aren’t necessarily scintillating but they are an important part of the county’s business environment, like making sure local businesses get the opportunity to bid on public works projects. They are part of the political scene, as well.
For example, just some of the legal advertising from the county that ran in the Enterprise in July included:
• Notice of an invitation to bid on removal of Butte Fire debris.
• Planning Commission notice of a public hearing to review the land-use element of the general plan.
• Notices of Measures B, C, D and E being placed on the November ballot
• Notice of a recall election for a county supervisor.
• Notice of a public hearing for citizen comments on Community Development Block Grants.
Not everyone reads the legal notices. And, in fact, the newspaper covered all of these topics as part of our news function. Nevertheless, these legal notices are part of the fabric of democracy, where local government is required to publicly disclose actions and potential actions that affect the community.
The Enterprise has run the county’s legal notices for years because the paper is, indeed, the only publication that distributes newspapers in every community in the county. However, the county recently decided to put the legal notice advertising contract out to bid to any general circulation newspaper that is “adjudicated” to run legal advertising in the county. There are two such papers in the county, the Enterprise and a publication that distributes in Valley Springs.
The county placed a legal notice in the Enterprise announcing the bidding process back in April. But the Enterprise didn’t get the contract.
For the record, the Enterprise also did not bid on the contract. The county followed the proper procedure by placing a legal notice requesting bids in the Enterprise, but, ironically, the publisher of the Enterprise (yours truly) somehow missed the legal notice that ran in his own newspaper.
So the deadline passed without a bid from the Enterprise. As a result, the county earlier this month gave the contract to run its legal notices to the sole bidder – the publication in Valley Springs.
So long as we no longer have the contract to publish county legal notices, that will result in some loss of income for the Enterprise. But that’s our problem.
The most important concern is the risk that some important legal notices will not reach many citizens of our county. As the county learned many years ago when the Valley Springs publication was awarded the legal notice contract once before, that publication will not reach anything close to the same number of readers across the county as the Enterprise.
Calaveras County is going through unprecedented change at the moment. County officials and county residents are grappling with difficult and critical decisions that will chart the course for the county for decades to come.
This is not the time to make it more difficult for county residents to obtain important information because of an error by the publisher of the only countywide newspaper.
So, until some other solution is found, the Enterprise, at its own cost, will run the county’s legal notices in all its print and digital formats to make sure residents can get prompt and complete access to the county’s legal notifications.
You can be assured that the county’s legal notices will be in every issue of the Enterprise for our loyal readers from Glencoe to Copperopolis and from Dorrington to Wallace. We will also continue to post the county legal notices online at calaverasenterprise.com, which is visited by almost 5,000 people every day.
The county’s business must remain transparent and the Enterprise will do everything necessary to assure that it is.