City staff took a step back in their proposal to change how the public is notified of construction bids, following concerns from the Gilroy Dispatch that the plan would erode transparency in city business.
The city council on July 5 will consider an amendment to the proposal that prioritizes placing notices in the newspaper.
On June 20, the city council approved placing a charter amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot, which officials say will modernize and speed up the construction bidding process if approved.
The city charter currently requires the city to formally bid a public project that exceeds $35,000 and then advertise the project to construction bidders in a newspaper. The measure, if approved by voters, would eliminate the $35,000 cap and instead follow the threshold set by the California Public Contract Code, which is $200,000.
As it is currently proposed, it would remove the requirement to advertise in the newspaper, and allow for bids to be published through other means, such as on the city’s website or by reaching out to a list of qualified contractors.
A June 23 editorial by the Dispatch called the proposal a “shocking sneak attack on the public’s right to know.”
In a report released June 28, city staff acknowledged the Dispatch editorial and wrote that they worked with representatives from the paper to modify the language of the measure.
The updated text requires the city to publish its construction bids in a newspaper of general circulation, “if available” at least seven days before the bids open. It doesn’t prohibit the city from also publishing online and in trade journals.
Dispatch Publisher Dan Pulcrano said bid advertising is not a major source of revenue for the newspaper or expense for the city, but the Dispatch’s concerns were based more on “principle than economics.”
“We think it’s really important that the public knows how their money is being spent,” he said. “If the city only uses trade journals and online bidding notification systems, it alerts prospective bidders but keeps the public in the dark. The Gilroy Dispatch is distributed to more than 20,000 homes at no expense to the city or the readers. No other vehicle can do this.”
Mayor Marie Blankley said she sees “no reason why the council would not fully support this point of clarity,” and the proposed amendment will make it “abundantly clear that the City would continue to use the newspaper when it is available.”
She added that the Dispatch, published in print on a weekly basis, requires lead time for publication, which can exceed what public notification deadlines allow.
“This can be especially true when the City receives a grant and is required to act quickly,” Blankley said.
Councilmember Zach Hilton said that if the council or city staff “missed something in regards to public noticing in local newspapers,” then the proposed amendment can address those concerns.
“I trust that staff wasn’t trying to circumvent any noticing and neither was I,” he said. “I am supportive of increased transparency to all of the city’s business, and supportive of our local newspaper. I appreciate the Dispatch for coming forward with their concerns.”
The Gilroy City Council will meet July 5 at 6pm in the City Council Chambers, 7351 Rosanna St. To view the agenda, visit gilroyca.iqm2.com/Citizens/default.aspx.