Portal or black hole?

By From page A4 | July 22, 2013

We credit the County Economic Development Advisory Committee with a lot of useful accomplishments, particularly simplifying a way forward to complete zoning to conform to the county General Plan and also updating the General Plan.

But CEDAC’s plan for a $100,000 Web “Portal” is going to wind up being a black hole sucking up all the light from private enterprise.

The plan for this Web “Portal” to sell advertising is an affront to the Mountain Democrat and Village Life and all the other publications and commercial Web sites. We accept and meet the challenge of competition.

We won’t accept our tax dollars being used to set up competition against us and everyone else. We don’t invest in our competition, why should we be forced to pay for a new competitor?

If some private individual wants to invest a 100 grand and start a Website, we say bring on the competition. But government has no business getting into commercial business, selling ads and paying sales representatives.

Why was Sue Taylor the only one to see this is the wrong thing for government to do? There are three people from private enterprise on the board and at least two of them can vote on money issues. How would Supervisor Ron Briggs like it if the county started an organic farm? How would Supervisor Ron Mikulaco like it if the county bought his rentals out through eminent domain? Does government competing against two Rons make it right?

Taylor was absolutely correct when she questioned the county spending $100,000 on a Website when there are already people in the county doing it for free. Well, not exactly free. People have to make a living. That’s why they sell advertising.

Speaking of making a living, advertising supports 45 employees and 16 independent contractors at the Mountain Democrat, Village Life and Georgetown Gazette. The county’s plan to sell advertising on its so-called Web Portal is just a plan to use our tax dollars to take the bread off the plates of these employees.

If the county feels a need to promote itself through a Website, include it in the county’s already existing Website and have the county information technology folks do it as part of their regular job. The county has a good looking site already. Adding a promotional connector to wine districts, Apple Hill, the chambers of commerce and the industrial parks shouldn’t be difficult.

But don’t sell real estate ads. Don’t sell restaurant ads.

Send the money to the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce, which is in the business of promoting the county.

Sue Taylor may seem like a Cassandra to the board, but her warning that the grant program that was part of the $280,000 promotion budget could become “an incubator for cronyism” will later prove to be prophetic.

But the truly outrageous part is the 36 percent of this budget going to competing with county businesses that pay property, sales and income taxes and business licenses.

Is it a Web Portal or a port-hole on the Carnival Cruise of county government running amuck with our tax dollars?

Mountain Democrat

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