OK, so the County Economic Development Committee didn’t “want to clutter the Website with advertising. I didn’t think that was the direction we were going in,” Michael Ranalli told the Mountain Democrat.
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Ranalli also said,”But we do want ideas from vendors on how to pay the ongoing cost of maintaining the portal.”
And that is where the whole plan promoted by CEDAC and now approved by the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors went wrong. Government is a service, not a self-supporting enterprise. Before the county supervisors were blindly led into this patch of starthistles they should have requested a plan and not a Web Portal pipe dream.
A plan would have included how much this would cost the county to maintain it, or would have involved the county IT Director/District Attorney to determine how his department would maintain it.
A plan would have more carefully calibrated initial expenses. Our contact in San Jose tells us most corporate Web sites cost $80,000. El Dorado County is not going to have the same requirements as a Silicon Valley corporate Website, let alone that kind of financial resources.
County staff would have researched what other California counties were doing and how much it was costing them to build and maintain. If county staff wants the Website to appear on the first page of listings on a Google search why didn’t they contact Google and ask how much that kind of display prominence costs?
We’ll give CEDAC credit for not proposing to sell ads to pay for it, but some folks in county administration sure thought they were geniuses for paying for it by selling advertising. That, in part, is how they sold the board on it.
Lest the county supervisors seem like Eskimos buying freezers to store their popsicles in, they might want to ask a few more questions. At least, how much are the popsicles going to cost? At most, do the Eskimos really need a Frigidaire freezer?
Perhaps the county supervisors seem to be as confused as Abbott and Costello about who’s on first: They might want to see what the pitch is before worrying about base runners.
In response to a query from a constituent concerned about the county going into competition against him with its Web “portal,” one supervisor’s assistant responded, “We are truly sorry that the recent Mountain Democrat article left you with the impression that the county intended to compete with local business, that is simply not the case. I understand there was some conversation during the presentation about how the ongoing cost could be supported and the idea of selling advertising was mentioned, but only as a random part of the discussion. Not as a directive to do so. The county in no way wants to hurt our local business enterprises, in fact that could not be further from the truth. The purpose of this portal is to let the world know that we have great businesses here, that we have opportunity for companies to relocate here and live in the best environment on the planet for raising kids and living, working and playing, all here!”
By the way, the Mountain Democrat didn’t leave anyone with “an impression.” It was a firm statement and we stand by the July 22 editorial, “Portal or black hole?”
If the purpose is to “let the world know that we have great businesses here,” then give the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce some more money for its Website, because that is the chamber’s job — promoting local businesses.
We refer the supervisors and their assistants to page 3 of the county Purchasing Agent’s Request for Proposals already sent out and due back Aug. 21: “C. Web Portal Marketing, to include but not limited to: 1. Advertising the portal to target audience (businesses, tourists, residents, community groups); 2. Generate Advertising Revenue to support the ongoing maintenance of the Web portal; 3. Social Media Links and Strategy; 4. SEO [Search Engine Optimization] Strategy and Analytics; 5. Recruitment of new entities/groups to be linked through the portal.”
If the words “Generate Advertising Revenue” aren’t specific enough, page 2 of the RFP specifies who will be the advertisers or “assets,” i.e., “businesses and restaurants, tourism and recreation opportunities … and real estate services.”
Which brings us to the administration’s spokesman, who told reporter Dawn Hodson, “.. it’s 100 percent our intent not to solicit advertising or compete with El Dorado County businesses. We don’t want to put ourselves in competition with those businesses.”
Unless they rescind this RFP we 100 percent don’t believe that statement.
We do, however, believe the following statement from the same spokesman: “At this point we don’t know what the portal will look like, what the cost will be or how to fund it. That’s what the RFP will tell us.” That confirms our conclusion above that county staff didn’t research this or perform due diligence. It’s the spaghetti theory of staff work: Throw it on the wall and if it sticks, it’s done.
The facts so far are that the county is going to use our tax dollars to compete directly with us and a number of other local businesses.