The dialogue below brought up an important issue: how can I cover the city of Sebastopol as a journalist while simultaneously being paid by the city as a part-time contractor. I understand the concern. The answer goes like this: I was awarded the city’s Relaunch Sebastopol contract in January, and the newspaper I used to edit - Sonoma West Times and News - went belly up in May. Rather than see Sebastopol have no newspaper at all--and no coverage of city government--Dale Dougherty and I started The Sebastopol Times. Is it ideal that I’m paid by the city to market the town and local businesses to tourists, while at the same time writing about city government? No, of course, it’s not ideal. But no one else was stepping forward to spend hours a weeks covering the city’s news for free. I am not paid to do PR for the city council or government officials. The city is paying me for the very limited job of attracting tourists to town, supporting local businesses, and attracting new businesses to town. I am very careful to keep my two jobs separate. I use the news judgment I developed over years as a journalist to choose the stories I cover and the angle I take. All I can do is promise to do my best to cover the city honestly and thoroughly and to pull no punches.

I apologize for the tone I took in exchange below - I have removed my remarks. Honestly, the insulting tone of several of the comments got my goat, but I shouldn’t have engaged.

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Sadly, the town hall was a propaganda exercise and had nothing to do with the residents and business owners in Sebastopol. No businesses spoke about the impact of these programs on their businesses. Usually, the town, not outside services providers, participate in a town hall. Key points which were omitted from this shameless PR plug for these non-profits are the costs to taxpayers. Council Member Rich, was unaware of the $3,451,100.63 tax funded budget for the Sebastopol Inn, even though she is one of the members on the Committee for the Unhoused.

Our tax dollars fund over $680,000 for the SAVS RV Park on Gravenstein Highway.

The total annual spend on transients in Sebastopol is over $4,100,000 in taxpayer money. This services around 65 individuals. This is the money we pay when we contribute to our state and federal taxes.

The numbers for the Sebastopol Inn were obtained through a public records request dated March 22, 2022. The Sonoma County Community Development Commission was the responding agency.

The CDC Breakdown for Sebastopol Inn

Food: $496,756.70

Medical: $2,133,982.17

Security: $820,361.77

Total: $3,451,100.63

Currently Council wants more money when what is the equivalent of 1/3 of Sebastopol's entire budget is being spent on the 45 residents of the Sebastopol Inn. The residents of the SAVS Village are receiving over $680,000 of public tax money to live rent and utility free for 10 months. That comes out to around $37,777 per resident in the 10 month period. Will residents be self-sufficient by the end of the contract?

In addition, the Committee on the Unhoused never gave a total amount for transient services for the last 5 years, even thought I've requested it numerous times: Public Works, Outside Attorneys, Port-0-Potties, Police Service, Fire Services, Fires, Damage to the Community Center, Park Village Costs, Staff Costs, etc. Citizens have spent considerably more than $150K. The damage caused by transients to the community center and the costs of clean up by public works exceeds that figure.

In addition, we have several parts of our town devoted to transient housing. Park Village, which is supposed to be a public park, and the Sebastopol Inn, which used to generate sales tax, Transient Occupancy Tax and tourist dollars.

Council made a grave financial error for the Citizens of Sebastopol when they did not protest the County's conversion of the Sebastopol Inn to transient housing. Barbie Robinson, who engineered this profit windfall for the owners who sold the Inn (the Inn received a sale price at 40% of above appraised value), now works and lives in Texas. The residents and business community are left with the results.

Yet, citizens will not hear this from Rich and Glass because they are looking to build their careers through their sacrificing our Sebastopol's roads, parks and businesses. They want the "I solved homelessness" on their resumes. It is a disservice to all involved to act as if Rich and Glass presented any information that is relevant to a resident who wants their street paved and their fire department funded or a business owner who is trying to run a small business in a town that gives more time and money to transients than local employers.

If you're going to represent this blog as a source for information, please get all your facts before writing. If you're a PR arm for Sebastopol City Council, then let readers know so they can take your posts with a grain of salt.

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A guiding principal of journalism is to disclose conflicts of interest. I can't seem to find that in this article, yet the author is a contractor with the City of Sebastopol. Is this article independent news, or an arm of the city? I think it's important to differentiate and to disclose.

And yes, the "town hall" and I use that term lightly, since none of us were allowed to speak, was merely a propaganda piece of self-promotion by Council Member Rich and Glass.

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