Daily Paper Sells Feature Space To ACHD

DISCLAIMER–At the risk of sounding like a pitchman for female politicos who have recycled themselves back into office, the GUARDIAN was fascinated by an item posted on a new blog by Sara Baker, the newest Commish on the ACHD board and a former Boise City Councilor.

Like Ada County Commish Sharon Ullman, Baker runs a blog talking about what she thinks of the agency she represents. Her latest entry discloses that ACHD–the highway district–pays a writer over $8,000 a year to write a column about ACHD. Ok, not that big of a deal. Writers have to eat and the public relations staffers might not have time to do the breezy writing found in the column.

The part that disturbs the GUARDIAN is Baker’s claim that ACHD actually PAYS nearly $50,000 of hard earned tax money to the Idaho Statesman to publish the column. We were unable to find it
on the Statesman web site, but Baker told us the ROAD WIZARD column is labeled as “A Public Service of ACHD.”

We agree that most readers of the Sunday “Insight section” have no idea the feature costs more annually than the average reporter’s salary.

You can read her complete rant on the BAKER BLOG.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. I read the Road wizard every week, but had no idea it cost $50,000 a year to print it in the Statesman.
    I for one do not see the value in those costs. Should be one of the programs cut from the buget.

  2. While I admire Baker’s energy in looking into such issues at government agencies, I find it disingenuous to moan and complain for years (as a City Council member and a Ustick resident) about how ACHD didn’t communicate with the public and then blast the agency when they pursue innovative ways to engage the citizens of Ada County. This is particularly disturbing when you realize that the City of Boise hardly ever attempts to engage the public outside the mayor’s office and the council chambers. It’s certainly fair to suggest that governments find places to cut costs in this economy and perhaps the Road Wizard is one such way for ACHD to do that. However, the weekly column appears to have provided a regular outside look at how the agency conducts its business. I went back and read through a few months worth of the columns and found that it appears to have been effective in getting small issues taken care of across the community. Baker should suggest that ACHD ask ITD and ValleyRide to foot the bill for the service since many of the topics addressed are related to their authorities and interests.

  3. I’m familiar with the column, having glanced over it for years. (And reading the entries that look interesting.)

    I, too, always assumed:
    1) The space was donated by the Statesman as a public service,
    2) The column was composed by an ACHD staffer, most likely Mr. Quintana.

    Which raises a question (that’s frequently raised at The Guardian): How many million$ of taxpayer dollars could be saved, if government agencies at all levels scaled back on their P.R. staffs?

    Ms. Baker’s blog entry has her claiming that she’s neither a communications expert OR a P.R. person; I would suggest you need to be a little of BOTH if you run for public office. Isn’t that’s what getting elected is all about?

    We elect people to represent our interests in the hallowed halls of government, and be our conduit to government when action is needed. And then so many of them insulate themselves away from the public by hiring “spokesmen.” Amazing! I believe ACHD has at least two – the estimable Mr. Quintana and the lovely Robbie Johnson, formerly of KTVB, “the station that cares.” But there must be dozens of ’em on the payroll, city/county/state/nationwide.

    It’s refreshing to see Ms. Baker, along with Ms. Ullman, making an effort to hook up with their constituents, 2009-style. Good luck with that!

  4. Correction!

    If you look at ACHD’s Organizational Chart (readily available on the website) they have a “Communications” staff consisting of a Senior Manager, Communications (Quintana), a Public Involvement person, a Webmaster, a Business and Neighborhood Relations person, and a Public Relation Specialist (Johnson).

    WOW! Your tax dollars at work!!

    If I were beholden to the ACHD taxpaying public, I believe I’d take a long hard look at THAT division, before laying off the pothole fixers.

  5. Let’s do a list of former tv types turned flack.. I will start. These are just off the top of my head.

    Robbie Johnson (ACHD), Vince Tromboli (Boise PUD), Andrea Deardon (Ada Sheriff), Molly McCarty (ITD), Eric Exline (Meridian Schools), Dan Hollar (Boise Schools), Hightower (Boise Police) ??? (IDWR), ???? (Corrections), Rich Wright (Ada County)

  6. blackfootgirl
    Feb 12, 2009, 10:36 am

    Add this to the fact that Ullman refuses to talk to the media – except using Rich Wright as an intermediary – and this whole bidness stinks. Why can’t the column be written by existing staff? It’s not rocket science. Or why not post the column on the website and then buy a cheap spot in the Statesman directing people to it each week, This is just stupid.

  7. “Add this to the fact that Ullman refuses to talk to the media – except using Rich Wright as an intermediary” I think this is a bit unfair given the fact the she is very open in her blog, and I think she bypasses Wright. She is also accessible by email and phone.

  8. Remember _ differently
    Feb 12, 2009, 2:02 pm

    I sure hope that the misguided logic that Sara Baker used to vote on behalf of the City of Boise at the Ada Planning Association Board and insist that the Curtis Road extension be built narrow isn’t the same misguided logic she uses to represent us on the ACHD board. That logic cost ACHD hundreds of thousands of dollars it didn’t need to spend had Sara paid attention and listened to the experts when they told APA that the road was too narrow and shouldn’t be built as the City of Boise insisted. Sara Baker was responsible for that mistake and wasn’t around to defend her misguided decision when the public rose up in anger. She can’t change history, but surely she is smart enough to learn from her mistakes.

  9. SE_Idaho_Reader
    Feb 12, 2009, 3:38 pm

    erico49: Mark Browning was the news anchor at KPVI, Pocatello-Idaho Falls, before becoming the spokesperson for the State Board of Education about three years ago.

  10. We used to run the column on KTVB.COM — for free in fact. We stopped because of a lack of clicks (we had to manually post it each week). We’d be happy to start running it again (still… for free) now that we have better ways to publish. Something for me to address with ACHD, perhaps.

  11. I just continue to be amused by government officials who are obsessed with what’s said in newspapers. As if anyone read them!!!!! Seriously, though, I spent years around elected officials and other higher ups who were on pins and needles every morning because of some article or column or editorial in a freakin’ newspaper. It was craptastic!

  12. erico49 your list is way too small. Randy Stapilus compiled a list of former Idaho Journalists now mostly flaking for government and some businesses.

  13. So Sara should make a motion to stop the practice and amend the budget. She has the authority to make a motion and change things so let’s see if she will and how the others vote.

    As far as having all the PR people and flacks – the only reason they are there- in ANY AGENCY – is to protect the elected officials from having to speak and be held to their words. AND act as as in-house advertising agencies for the self interests of the elected officals. If the elected officails dissagree then let’s see you get rid of the flacks and prove you can speak for yourselves – and be held accountable. Private citizens cannot afford to hire flacks to counter all the propaganda that agencies spew out and the elected officals know it.

  14. Wrong Target
    Feb 13, 2009, 8:07 am

    Dear Remember _ differently,

    Shooting the arrow is fine, just make sure you have the right target. If you recall correctly, it was Judy Peavey Derr, who was on the ACHD Commission at the time the Curtis Road extension decision was first made. You may want to take a shot at her.

    From what I have seen so far, Sara is doing a far better job of performing her responsibilities to the public than the whole rest of the board combined, past and present.

  15. costaprettypenny
    Feb 13, 2009, 5:31 pm

    Seems to me that the individual who writes the Road Wizard was Ms. Baker’s supervisor when Baker worked in the City’s Planning Department. If memory serves, this lady tried to get Baker to be a productive employee but Baker resisted so this lady wanted Baker removed from the City staff, understandably. Now, it appears Baker is after her old supervisor. The vote, 4 to 1 again. The residence of west Ada County got a real winner here!

  16. Oh man! You’all wined about a lack of communication for years now and ACHD responded. Now what, you’re going to wine about the cost of the communication you asked for. Check out this chart from ACHD that reflects exactly the the dollar impact of reacting to the politics expressed in previous posts and reflect on percentage of change vs. the politics of the times:

    I like the Road Wizard column because, for the most part, it skips or minimizes the politics and answers mundane, everyday concerns from actual drivers and provides a reminder of other venues of communication with the district. In doing so it brings back to mind that they are the Ada County Highway District and responsible to all in the County of Ada and just not the citizens of The City of Boise. I actually enjoy reading that others in different parts of the county are having having problems similar to those I encounter.

    What I am peeved about is that ACHD doesn’t seem to have an actual budget posted at:

    No budget there as far I can see. Just a bunch of apologist crappola. A budget would include a balance sheet of income and expenditures, or a least a graph of such to start with and save the apologist shit for later. If they did that, maybe we could see the relative cost of the column in perspective, which would be minuscule.

    And as far as “Baker’s claim that ACHD actually PAYS nearly $50,000 of hard earned tax money to the Idaho Statesman to publish the column”, well, do you have a better venue in mind or should we just shut it down?

  17. Hmmm — I had always taken it for granted that The Daily sold space to ACHD for the column (it sure looks like an ad, not The Daily’s normal type), and that somebody got paid to write it.
    The costs seem a bit extreme, but I’d always rather ACHD spent money on stuff like that than on tearing up another road.

  18. I read it, I like the insight it provides. The way some of the responses are written, I came away thinking the author was an employee of ACHD.

    I do read most RW online, just like the Statesman, errrr, The Daily Paper, online. At $961\week, Sunday ads seem $$$$. I wonder what other same sized ads on Sunday sell for?

    How many hits does the RW get on ACHD’s site? The States….oops, The Daily, has a circulation of 60,000ish?

    Cutting costs with a maul or a scalpel?

  19. I’ve read the column off and on for some years and usually found it to be well done and informative. I always thought it was a paid space but I expect they get a non-profit rate or something similar.

    I think it has been done by both someone on staff and a freelancer or two at different times.

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