Pima County supes declare TucsonSentinel.com Day to mark 10th birthday of local news outlet
Recognizing the 10th anniversary of the founding of the local independent nonprofit news site, the Pima County Board of Supervisors declared Wednesday to be "TucsonSentinel.com Day."
Supervisors unanimously approved the proclamation recognizing the Sentinel's watchdog reporting and community contributions at a board meeting on Tuesday morning.
Noting that local journalism has a "special meaning" for him because of his family's former ownership of El Tucsonense, a Spanish-language newspaper here from 1915 to 1966, Pima County Board Chairman Richard Elias read the proclamation before presenting it to TucsonSentinel.com Editor & Publisher Dylan Smith and a group of Sentinel journalists:
WHEREAS, a robust free press is essential to the exercise of democracy; and
WHEREAS, quality reporting at the local and national levels has been challenged by a shrinking pool of professionals in the field; and
WHEREAS, nonpartisan watchdog reporting is a vital mechanism to hold public officials accountable; and
WHEREAS, the nonprofit news organization TucsonSentinel.com has established a national reputation for delivering solid, hard-hitting local news and is a leader in the vanguard of Local Independent Online News Publishers; and
WHEREAS, the reporters of TucsonSentinel.com have won numerous state and national awards and recognitions for their public-service journalism; and
WHEREAS, TucsonSentinel.com has completed its tenth year of full-time publishing, in that time posting more than 25,000 stories and informing thousands of southern Arizona readers every day; and
WHEREAS, it is important to recognize the impact that local reporting has on our knowledge of our community and on others' perceptions of Tucson, Pima County and southern Arizona; and
WHEREAS, a smarter Tucson is a better Tucson and a smarter Pima County is a better Pima County,
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Pima County Board of Supervisors hereby proclaims Wednesday, January 22, 2020, to be:
and urges the residents of Pima County to recognize the importance of local independent journalism.
Passed and adopted this 21st day of January 2020.
The Honorable Richard Elías, Chairman
Pima County Board of Supervisors
Julie Castañeda, Clerk
Pima County Board of Supervisors
Elias, a Democrat, also noted that the Sentinel had just published a guest opinion from Supervisor Steve Christy, a Republican, about Operation Stonegarden funding. He said he disagreed with the piece, "but that's alright," because it's important to have a wide variety of opinions laid out for the community.
Smith thanked the supervisors for the recognition, and the Tucson community for its support of the Sentinel.
He gave each of the members of the county board, as well as Clerk of the Board Julie Castañeda, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, and Chief Civil Deputy County Attorney Andrew Flagg, a thank-you note and a pair of large googly-eyed sunglasses, in response to an online jest last month by Supervisor Ally Miller about dull calls to the public during meetings. While the glasses drew guffaws from most as they unwrapped their gifts, very few of the supervisors would try them on for more than a brief moment.
Smith then addressed the supervisors, asking them to finally approve long-delayed upgrades to the county's public records policies:
Again, allow me to express, on behalf of the entire Sentinel team, our thanks for the recognition of our 10 years of watchdog journalism, and our gratitude for the support of this community.
I'd like to take a moment to remind you of a few things.
First, as it's our 10th birthday tomorrow, you still have a day to rescind this proclamation. You may want to in a minute.
("Move to reconsider!," Elias interjected with a laugh.)
A couple of other things:
Back in 2016, we were the very first news outlet to report questions about the World View deal, and the only one to follow up with an investigation showing the company is falling far short of its rosy forecast of hundreds and hundreds of jobs.
Recently, it was because of TucsonSentinel.com's reporting that this community was aware of what was going on behind the scenes regarding turning the juvenile detention center into a shelter for asylum-seekers. Our work prompted this Board to hold a special meeting, and then to add a call to the audience, when it had been conveniently left off.
You're welcome for that.
You know, we don't really publish editorials about local issues - in fact, just a handful of opinions from me as editor over the course of a decade.
Nearly all about have been about government transparency and public access to information — at least one was directly about Supervisor Ally Miller: supporting her modest proposal - which was rejected - to make your meetings more accessible by holding at least some of them in the evening.
I'd invite you to rethink that stance. While the regular cast of characters at your meetings may cause some of you to wish you could take a nap behind novelty sunglasses, just imagine who you might hear from if you allowed residents who have day jobs the opportunity to show up and have their say.
But why I'm really here today, is to push you to follow through with something you've been putting off for years.
It's time for you to finally update Pima County's public records policies.
You probably recall that, back in the spring of 2016, a number of issues arose regarding the handling of documents.
That resulted in proposed policy updates, that would revise the costs of electronic records, and provide assurances that records are actually being turned over when requested.
Plus, these changes would likely save the county (and the taxpayers) some money.
The issue came before you, and some of you asked for more specifics within 60 days. That was August 2, 2016.
I checked my calendar this morning, and it's just a bit more than 2 months later.
We're coming up on 4 years after these issues were first Heralded. While some changes have been made in practice, these simple improvements have not been voted into policy.
I urge you to place this matter on your agenda as soon as possible.
I hope all of you on the Board will agree that conducting the business of the public in a transparent manner is vital — not just so that we reporters can effectively do our jobs, but so that all citizens can have a better grasp of what it is the government is doing on their behalf, with their money.