Ulysses returns to local paper

5/13/2011

City selects Telegram as official paper, then reverts to local paper.

City selects Telegram as official paper, then reverts to local paper.

By SHAJIA AHMAD

sahmad@gctelegram.com

Ulysses city officials who decided to bypass their hometown paper to publish legal notices in an out-of-town newspaper now say they're planning on returning to The Ulysses News.

During an April 27 meeting, the Ulysses city council voted 3-2 in favor of designating The Garden City Telegram as the city's official newspaper to publish hearings, meetings and other legal notices, a move that raised at least a few eyebrows.

It was an incorrect move on the part of the council, however, not due to legality issues but due to procedural issues, according to Ulysses City Clerk Dana Cotherman.

"It turns out, according to our city attorney, we need to pass a resolution to do that. So (the original vote) could not be enforced," Cotherman said Thursday. "So on (Wednesday's city council meeting) that resolution was brought to the council, to pass and to make the switch. And it died. ... So we continue in The Ulysses News, as if nothing's changed."

The resolution died Wednesday, some city councilors admitted, because now they've changed their minds.

Ulysses council member John Battin, who made the motion that marginally passed during the late April meeting to switch the city's publications to The Telegram, said his motivation lay in sending the hometown paper a message: that the paper has not been printing enough good news and, in his opinion, too many news stories have been one-sided.

"I did go in and visit with their editor, and I told her why I did what I did. I feel like all the negative stuff just beats people up, while there's a lot of positive things in the community. Our mayor has been president of the mayor's council for two years. That never seems to make the news," Battin said.

Ulysses Mayor Thadd Kistler echoed similar sentiments, saying the council has not been too happy with the way they feel some of their meetings have been portrayed or "completely one-sided" stories that have been published the last few months.

Kistler added that being the mayor, he doesn't make the motions, but understands why council members would be concerned with the same concerns he has.

"Someone writes a letter to the editor letting them know they're unhappy with (something), and the newspaper turns it into full-blown story," Kistler added.

On Wednesday night's council meeting when the correct resolution was brought before the council, Battin said he changed his mind to encourage moving the legal publications from The News to The Telegram. Based on his discussions with community members, especially senior citizens who aren't as computer-saavy or may not subscribe to The Telegram, he said he thought it may create too much of an inconvenience for Ulysses residents.

"You know, to be honest, the (Ulysses) newspaper is still going to come to our council meetings and, irregardless, going to print what they want. I thought maybe now they'll look at the brighter side and not create a storyline out of some petty stuff," Battin said. "It had to be a resolution, and I had every intention to vote for it. ... This gives them another chance. There's always next year."

The Ulysses mayor, a non-voting member of the council, agreed.

"We talked with members of the community and the overall vibe was that despite the unpleasantries, we thought probably it was in the best interest of the city to stick with (The News) for public notices," Kistler added.

During the late April meeting, council members Larry Velasquez and Tim McCauley also voted in favor of the move while council members Dan Widder and Janet Stewart voted against it.

Widder said he voted against the April 27 decision though he knew some of the council members felt stories against the city had been unfavorable.

"I told them that you don't use your power against people or businesses. ... We represent the city and its residents — we should be promoting Ulysses business, not taking our business outside the city."

Shayla-Hernandez-Jaquez, publisher and editor of The Ulysses News, is on maternity leave and was not available for comment Thursday. Email and phone messages were not returned Thursday.

Moot point aside, the move from a hometown paper to another Kansas newspaper, had it been finalized, would have been legal, according Larry Baer, an attorney with the Kansas League of Municipalities.

Baer said city officials have the ability to look for publications based beyond their city limits if there is general paid circulation of the other newspaper within their own city.

"There's always the perception issues on those kind of things. But as long as they meet the statutory criteria, they can do as they choose," Baer said.

According to state statute KSA-12-1651, official newspapers for cities in second class cities such as Ulysses must meet certain criteria, including but not limited to the following: they must be published at least weekly 50 times each year and have been so published for at least one year prior to the publication of any official city publication; and more than 50 percent of the circulation must be sold to the subscribers either on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis; and the newspaper should not be a trade, religious or fraternal publication.

Of The Telegram's 7,200 subscribers across a 12-county region, about 220 subscribers live in Ulysses.

About a dozen more live in Grant County, and about 50 newspapers are delivered daily to news stands in Grant County, as well.

Dena Sattler, editor and publisher of The Telegram, said the company did not solicit business from the city of Ulysses, nor was she contacted in advance of the council's April decision.

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