Kudos to the Tracy Press for publishing, back to back on Dec. 19, two of the most blatantly biased ‘news’ articles that one could ever hope to find: “City report on Surland memo finds no wrongdoing” and “Council stands pat on antenna farm.”
In the first, the Press happily reports that the very people accused of wrongdoing have, after extensive review, fully exonerated themselves. There is no mention of the numerous citizens who came forward presenting documentary evidence that — despite the city’s denials — the majority of the key points in the Surland memo were in fact acted upon. Likewise, no mention is made of the inconsistencies in the timeline associated with the city’s alleged verbal rejection of the proposals and the city’s subsequent actions. Lastly, Assistant City Manager Maria Hurtado is quoted extensively, but not a single syllable is dedicated to dissenting voices. Of course, this would have cut into the space reserved for the City Council’s self-congratulatory remarks on their own transparency.
In the second, the city did anything but “stand pat” — they reversed and contradicted themselves repeatedly. Of course, this would not be apparent to the casual reader, since the more recent history of this sordid saga was not reported:
• There was no mention of the city’s recent attempt to sell the antenna farm to the Surland Cos. for precisely the same cost ($1.6 million) the city would incur to lift the use restrictions. In essence, the city attempted to give our interest in the property to Surland. In the process, on Sept. 3, the city determined that a competitive bid sale was not in the best interest of the city due to federal General Services Administration-imposed time restrictions — which Mayor Brent Ives emphatically claimed to be inflexible. Yet the GSA has repeatedly granted the city extensions, including the most recent one granted this November. Moreover, the council voted on Dec. 19 to negotiate still more time from the GSA.
• No mention was made of the purported public-private partnership with Surland used to justify the attempted sale. When pressed for details, Ives claimed the concept was public ownership coupled with private development. Incredibly, Ives seems to have forgotten that this was a straight land sale to Surland and the city would retain no ownership or other interest in the property.
• No mention was made of the proposals for the property which the city has in hand, already declared viable by a $40,000 consultant. These proposals, summaries of which were included in the agenda packet, promised up to $33.7 million in revenue/savings to the city over 20 years. Yet Ives is quoted as saying the city has no plan or prospective partner to develop the land and “I would not mind going ahead and acquiring the property if I saw some glimmer of hope for (a return on investment) out there.” Really?
With reporting like this, the Tracy Press has abandoned its Fourth Estate responsibilities. How can we ever hope to maintain responsible local government when the local media serves up this pablum?
Paul Miles, Tracy