The Price of Being your Mayor

2011-05-20

Residents have told me that I must be crazy to want this job. The popular perception is that Hampstead residents are very demanding and difficult, that we are a town of 7,000 Mayors where everyone thinks he or she knows best. The truth is that the vast majority of you are very respectful and supportive. I very much enjoy serving you and making Hampstead better and better.

The Suburban's coverage of Hampstead is outrageously biased

There is one thing that I cannot accept: the outrageously biased and unfair coverage of me, the Council and Hampstead, in the Suburban. The reporting focuses on only negative or trivial incidents, while not informing residents of the significant things that the town is doing. There was a front page story on a technical error in our tax bills that does not affect anyone; but they did not report on our 2011 budget with lower local tax increases than most of the suburbs. They publish numerous letters from the losing candidates in the last election, but rarely print anything from those who were elected. They focus on decorum at meetings and other minor matters, while not reporting on community events, infrastructure work and so on. This type of coverage denies residents the information that they should get from a community newspaper. It is also unfairly damaging to our reputation.

Suburban passes off letter as news story

In October, the Suburban published a story by the editor, on the front page. The story was taken paragraph by paragraph from a letter written by the four unsuccessful candidates in the 2009 election. It was a clear violation of journalistic ethics. The matter has now gone to the Ethics Committee of the Quebec Press Council.

Inflammatory editorial full of falsehoods

More recently, the Suburban published an editorial accusing me and council of having a hidden agenda. Aside from not having one iota of evidence to back up the allegations, the editorial contained several false statements, which were covered at length in the letter "Suburban Fairy Tales could cost Hampstead Millions."

Hampstead saves over $20,000 by switching advertising

In order to save money, Hampstead switched its advertising from the Suburban to the Free Press. Before making that decision we asked the Suburban to give us their best offer. The Free Press wanted a guarantee of $10,200 and $8.686/square inch. The Suburban, with a similar guarantee, wanted $22.643/square inch. This Suburban rate was 2.6 times higher than the Free Press.

When Hampstead announced its savings to date of over $20,000, the Suburban printed a full page ad, calling it a "Public Service Announcement," that claimed that there were no savings. They stated that we spent the same last year with the Suburban as this year with the Free Press. What they neglected to mention is that the Suburban's new rates for this year are more than double last year's rates.

No good news about Hampstead unless we pay for it

Following the Suburban's reporting on the 2011 budgets of Côte Saint-Luc and Montreal West, I sent information on our 2011 budget to the publisher, Michael Sochaczevski. He never published a story on our budget and here is what he responded:

"I think what you are trying to get across is good publicity for Hampstead. As a resident it is certainly welcome. We would be happy to assist you with your publicity needs, but we charge for that service."

He also told a councillor that we should give the Suburban another chance, by advertising with them for 2 or 3 months and during that time we could see if we were happy with their coverage of Hampstead. I replied,

"Our view is that we do NOT pay for fair coverage. We expect fair and unbiased coverage from all media. Our decision on where to advertise is based on who gives us the best rates and nothing else."

When I first ran for office, in 2005, I made a vow to myself that I would always do what is in the best interests of the residents of Hampstead, regardless of the personal or political consequences. The Suburban's outrageous smear tactics, published all across the island, have damaged not only my reputation, but also Hampstead's. That is the price I must pay to be the type of Mayor that I wish to be and that you have a right to expect.


Sincerely,


Dr. Bill Steinberg
Mayor, Town of Hampstead