Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Who is Running These Newspapers? And Who is Reading Stories on Themselves?

An astute reader, Chetly Zarko, figured out that the transparency Web site referred to in the Traverse City newspaper and questioned by FreeMichigan last week was NOT the one for state Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer's noble transparency effort but is actually his site at the Republican House umbrella site on the lower left. It's a nice little report, although we again need to know just what the publications are that he spent $834 on in March. We don't doubt that the charge is legit - but wouldn't it make sense that we get some detail?
We would hope that Rep.
Elsenheimer notified the newspaper pronto of the mistake, but when we checked, the mistken site is still posted. Did he read the story?
But the fact remains that transparency is a slippery little item when it is jammed amidst a host of other nice sounding notions that reflect well on government.
We are traveling the rest of this week but will again try to do some work here as time allows. This time the trip is to the desert Southwest, business, and temps are headed for the 100 degree mark. If we could find a sunny rock to perch on all day, we would.



  1. Dear Mr. Zarko,

    Thank you for your post. Please know that you're welcome to contact me directly about questions related to my website where I have posted my office budget online.

    Below is the detailed publication expenditure of $834.75 on March 23, 2009. The costs incurred that day were for renewing five newspaper publications subscriptions that cover the district I represent. I am glad my online budget was available for your review and you had a question about it. I will continue to post more and more information on a regular basis as time and resources are available.

    As you are aware, the House Republican's leadership and personal efforts in posting their own office budgets online has spurred others to follow.

    If you ever have any further questions about my expenditures, please feel free to e-mail or twitter me - I will gladly respond. I will continue to lead efforts to make not only my office but our state government more accountable and transparent.

    I hope this helps.


    03/23/2009 - Publication Expenses:
    THE EVENING NEWS 02/22/09-02/22/10 - $227.00
    OUR HOME TOWN PAPER - $23.00
    CHARLEVOUIX COURIER 03/18/09-03/18/10 - $68.80
    PETOSKEY NEWS-REVIEW 03/19/09-03/19/10 - $241.00
    THE RECORD EAGLE 03/15/09-03/15/10 - $274.95
    TOTAL Publication Expense for 03.23.2009 - $834.75

  2. For the record here, the author of this post is Avalanche50, whose profile is at the right. I just commented on a previous item pointing Avalanche50 to the correct website for Leader Elsenheimer's budgets - Avalanche referred to my point in the opening and I think that reference accidentally lead Rep. Elsenheimer to think I wrote the post, so his reference addressing me is errant.

    I've personally communicated with the Rep's staff and know he's aware of the miscommunication (which is no one's fault really, just an ambiguity) - I just wanted whatever record is reflected here to note that Rep. Elsenheimer's response was intended to the owner of Free Michigan and not me.

    My own comments can usually be found at OutsideLansing.com. As a transparency specialist and user of FOIA of 20 years, I commend Rep. Elsenheimer and the caucus on their leadership on the issue.

  3. Thanks to both of you for getting this cleared up. The system works.
    Mr. Zarko and his site do a very good job as a much needed voice for transparency, and his site is listen on the Real Deal list.
    Rep. Elsenheimer, thank you for the detail. Your example on openness is, indeed, inspiring others. These are the things that result in a more informed voter.
    I do have to say, $241 for the Petoskey paper seems a bit extreme; I pay less than half that, $119, for a year of the Wall Street Journal. When is it time to just switch to the online version?

  4. Avalanche,
    $241 for the Petoskey paper is probably reasonable since that paper has never mailed subscriptions anywhere and has no distribution system, where the WSJ has a distribution system that is national with economies of scale. Many state representatives subscribe to their local papers both at home (at a normal rate presumably, and I'd think two copies still reasonable) and by having a physical copy mailed to the office. Small papers often have no online edition, or temporarily online, and nothing beats the hard copy for archival purposes, letters to the editor, classifieds, etc that may not be in the online version. The cost of mail alone, plus labor, to mail these local papers could easily account for that rate.