Saturday, July 10, 2010

Current Watch: GSCRA: Local Newspaper Censors Citizens. Blocks Voices Since Creation of New Tourism Board Ordinance.

The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association’s “Full Court Press” was exposed on Friday for an old but favored tactic.

One that is very familiar to locals. Especially former whistleblowers on the Chamber.

Censorship or blocking completely, of voices and the publically linking of articles, blogs and commentary elsewhere, that shares any information whatsoever that the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce does not see as favorable light on their organization.

Using the influence of long standing power and control, a dying era has resorted once again to manipulation and spin of the internet and media.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado is a fairly small town. Two grocery stores, one post office and only one parent newspaper that holds a monopoly on local town newspapers.

Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Aspen Times, Citizens Telegram, Summit Daily, Vail DailyGJ Free Press are all owned by Swift Communications, which serves a number of communities in California, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota. Corporate offices located in Carson City, Nevada.

We have only one independent and strong local newspaper that has been around for a long, long time that is not held by the monopoly of Swift Communications. The Aspen Daily Newsremains free from "corporate news media" and is owned by Dave Danforth.  Business offices located in Aspen, Colorado.

The differences between the two newspaper companies is easy to see.

Logistics level sees the Glenwood Post Independent filled with advertising in it’s print edition and SPAM filled pop ups in it’s online edition.

We also have “up valley” and “down valley” views of our newspapers. Over the years, politics in our corridor  has given strong class distinctions that distinguish between the two.  The Daily is read by “billionaires” and “workers” alike. The “ghetto elite/wannabe elite” surf between the two. A growing number of citizens making a rising and impressive surge into social and political scenes are none of the above and use the Daily as the grounding point and the Post for a quick skim to catch up on buzz.  The Post is the “down valley” for Swift. The Aspen Times is Swift’s “up valley” with both papers rarely in a war with each other over content as their content is the same. The Citizens Telegram, also owned by Swift, is the “real down” valley paper and is located in Rifle. Rebellious when it can to it’s parent and serves the seat of our big oil and gas industry.

For those not familiar with the demographics of our town, Glenwood Springs sits in the middle and is considered the gateway to three influential and powerful commodities: big oil and gas to the west, public owned Vail Ski Resort and private held Aspen Ski Company. From the Summit Daily to the Grand Junction Sentinel, our news is followed all over the world.

Politically, the Swift family is mostly blue but does once in awhile pander to the red, depending on which community it’s sitting in.

With the recession, folks cut back on the Post’s paid subscriptions and deliveries, instead picking it up free at newstands and walking the few blocks to do that. The Post and Times are larger in size and there are more pages.

Logistics level with the Aspen Daily, shows less advertising and the folks still pay for subscriptions. It’s also the favorite of the estimated hundreds of blue collar workers who come from “down valley” to “up valley” and most locals throughout. Also holding the earned claim of being the paper absent second and third home owners subscribe to by mail.

Politically, it’s hard to tell if the Aspen Daily News is blue or red.

On journalistic levels, locals know if they want to read the full story, they go to the Daily. To get the gossip or juicy spin, they go to the Post or the Times. The Daily is also a free paper as well and can be found not only at news stands but piles delivered to local businesses, such as professional offices where one has to wait to meet an appointment.

A “Good Morning” to another local hitting the newspaper stand at the same time, often holds a little eye contact and partial smile of knowing from each, as they nod politely and then reach for the symbols of what they support and believe in.

The shock waves running up and down “The Valley” each time whistleblowers come forward on the Chamber, has never been more palpable than the past 19 months, with an emphasis on the past 6 months.

Those courageous whistleblowers in the late ‘90's kept talking to locals throughout the years after being fired from the Chamber. Widely known now that the smalltown7 group are some of those locals.

More attention in all the local papers was visible in the 2005 era of whistleblowers on the Chamber. As a result, local workers and small businesses began connecting and watching for patterns.

In our era of whistleblowing, the no oversight and zero transparency on our public held funds that fuel the Tourism Marketing Contract has seen the Post’s completely over the top inflamed reporting and heavy standing bias,  in favor of the sole source vendor Chamber of Commerce.

A choice being starkly compared locally to zero coverage from The Aspen Daily News.

Openly admitting, at the July 1, 2010 City Council meeting, that she has an “unhappy....shocked...” Chamber Board of Directors pressuring her by “calling”; Marianne Virgili, President, CEO and Executive Director of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, has now aimed her Full Court Press to retain the tourism marketing contract at the current sitting Tourism Board and few remaining, yet powerful, community supporters and Chamber board members .

Openly admitting, at the July 1, 2010 City Council meeting, that she had been on the phone and gathering support, one of the more poignant moments of the evening for local viewers was a local hotel owner obviously rounded up at the last minute, lay her hand comfortingly on the shoulder of a Chamber employee as she stepped down from the podium.

Locals watching the subsequent series of three articles, in the Glenwood Post Independent as they covered this historic Council session, recognized “canned” press information released by the Chamber. They began to speak. Once again raising voices in protest. smalltown’s recent postings, here at a safe place to whistleblow on non profits,  were shared in online format of the Post and unfolded alongside those voices raised in protest.

Content has ranged from the now 12 year old cry of a “conspiracy” against the Chamber (to) our release again of commentary ability on this blog (to) the now wounded bellows and outcrys  of one or two offshoots, of the lion’s share holders, benefitting strongly in the past from no oversight in place.

Publically pounding the keyboards, locals have hit the forums all over the region and safeplace has continued to post. The result is a valley wide spread of awareness that whistleblowers and whispered words, for over a decade, have been dead on accurate.

This choice of caving to the pressure of advertisers and social power is a familiar one to locals where local media is concerned.

One of the patterns, of this decades old issue, began to develop in 2005 out of the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce.  A now proven and verifiable online harassment and slander to whistleblowers, combined with a burst onto the web of glorification of the head of the Chamber.

A second pattern developed. Tom Jankovsky of Sunlight Ski Resort and Steve Beckley of Glenwood Caverns created the current Tourism Board. Then put that board under the power of the Chamber. A Chamber which has been the sole source award for tourism marketing for 22 years, with an estimated 14 to 18 million dollars flowing through it’s coffers during that time. The Chamber's immediate burst into Swift Communications media and onto the world wide web, in a quest to become a Destination Resort, filled the coffers of the City of Glenwood Springs Accommodations Tax. The strategy of that marketing campaign is blatantly obvious when one looks at the range of advertising and marketing coverage that it pays for. We did become a Destination Resort. The less than a handful of companies that benefit the most are called locally the “Lion’s” of our tourism sector. In the years since, small business that are offshoots supporting the infrastructure of the Tourism Lion's have resorted to developing their own marketing entities in order to attempt to keep pace and stay alive as they carry that weight. In the boom hit of this recession, no focus of change has come to our tourism marketing.  Our revenues in accommodations tax dropped 30% in 2009 and decreased another 5.4% to date in 2010.  Downtown small businesses closing rapidly, findings that our marketing vendor in the Chamber dipped the locals Tourism Grant Fund until it ran dry.  The pattern of continual climbing to the top while refusing to provide accountability and transparency to the citizens has grown stronger since 2005.

The sleeper in this story are the small voices of the whistleblowers. Behind the scenes, in the sub communities of our valley and region they kept talking and grew stronger.

Today, being so strong they have managed to give their voices of reason, fairness and balance a courageous physical presence.

One strong enough to bring the upcoming oversight to the largest and most influential public revenue base our region has in our Accommodations Tax.   Ordinance #12, Series of 2010, City of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

 smalltown7 takes the win.

Another big change here at safeplace is our being picked up by politcally powerful non profit watch dog feeds. is now approaching over 50,600 views.

smalltown7 keeps talking.