Editor’s Note: The following opinion column was written by Peter Blanchard, editor of the Cortland Voice.
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In an effort to sustain our small news operation, The Cortland Voice recently applied for funding offered through the city of Cortland’s Microenterprise Assistance Program. This funding was awarded to the city in December 2014 by New York state to support small businesses and startups based in Cortland.
We applied for this funding because we believe we met all of the grant qualifications, and the city’s loan review committee agreed. On Dec. 30, the committee recommended funding for our project, and the recommendation was sent to Cortland Common Council for final approval.
At city hall Tuesday night, council members decided to table approval of funding for our project after concerns were raised by John Eves, general manager of WXHC Radio, that council’s approval could present a conflict of interest for our news organization. Specifically, Eves stated, “I don’t think that Common Council should be sustaining a news operation that is going to have to cover them in the future.”
While I disagree with his conclusions, I believe Eves’ statement warrants a thoughtful response.
While Cortland Common Council has a role in deciding how microenterprise funding is distributed, the program is funded entirely by New York State. None of the funding is being provided by the city of Cortland.
It’s also important to note that local newspapers have relied on revenue from local governments through the printing of certain legal ads and notices for decades. Rarely, if ever, has the public come forward to suggest that doing so compromises a newspaper’s ability to hold local officials accountable.
There would also be several tangible benefits to the Cortland community if we were to be awarded this funding. In our project budget included in our grant application, we allocated funding for an advertising director. If our project is approved, it would bring a full-time job to the Cortland area that would otherwise not currently be feasible given our limited financial resources. This would help create a solid foundation for our business that will, hopefully, lead to more full-time jobs for our organization and for the city of Cortland. The Cortland Voice is a one-person operation and would greatly benefit from this grant funding.
We believe the city of Cortland has an economic incentive to support a small business start-up like The Cortland Voice. We hope Common Council will consider these points if and when it decides to vote on this matter at its next meeting.
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