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Monday July 14, 2003
The Worth of Freedom
Stepping On the Free Press
By Howard Hobbs, Ph.D., Editor & Publisher
CA -- It is not always easy to separate society's need and the
individual's right under State and federal laws.
In the City of Clovis this week, however,
American constitutional guarantees to a free press are being indirectly
questioned and perhaps abridged if city fathers go ahead with
plans to force the local newspaper out of its editorial office
space at 754 3rd Street corner on Third and Hughes in Old Town
This is the more serious question of
the day. The inviolate role of the free press must be maintained
in preservation of the individual's rights to free speech and
in general, the right to the social good in confrontation of ideas
which presumably follows according to the historical figures,
Thomas Hobbes an John Locke.
The social good has been more compelling
than has the natural right. Society's stake in free speech and
the free press is critical in the structure and functioning of
a self-governing people.
It is only through a clash of ideas in the
open discussion can solutions to problems and sound public policy
be arrived at.
It may take a few years and a few million
dollars, but Clovis leaders appear to be openly endorsing a plan
that if carried through, will directly cause the eviction of the
Clovis Free Press from its Third St. Corporate office.
The City of Clovis announced its intention
to indirectly acquire ownership rights to local Old Town property
on a pretext that the space is critically needed for the a proposed
performing-arts center or possibly some other use or even an amphitheater
and veterans museum, according to statements by City officials
in the week.
The hastily established Clovis Community
Foundation has offered to pay for the center's development and
ongoing operational costs after the Clovis Memorial District board
of directors approved a conceptual map that laid out the area
surrounding the existing memorial district conference hall.
According to a statement released to
the press this week, by an official of San Francisco-based Mark
Cavagnero & Associates, which drew up the plant, the new building
at the Third St. location might include a performing-arts center
and outdoor amphitheater each will have 400-seat capacity, "...this
is the vision of how the city and Clovis Memorial District want
to see it developed."
Speculation in the neighborhood however,
is that the plan has been subtly designed to replace the present
tenant at 754 Third, St., the Clovis Free Press. In the past several
years, editorials questioning City planning actions have appeared
in the Clovis Free Press, which has a daily readership for May
The City argues that it needs the newspaper's
office space in order to integrate the Old Town Clovis business
district west of Clovis Avenue with the government buildings and
civic center east of Clovis Avenue.
It is clearly a City redevelopment venture
that the City hopes will attract more local and regional spending
and at city shops, theaters, and entertainment venues of various
sorts, according to Michael Dozier, Clovis community and economic
The controversial plan would only
add about 80 new parking places by closing a significant portion
of the Old Town Trail and relocating a significant portion of
it the permanently closed portion of Hughes Street.
City Manager Kathy Millison told
reporters this week the city is prepared to begin work on the
parking and trail realignment in the coming year.
Several successful small business in
the affected area 754 Third St. were stunned to hear of the City's
plan to force them out of the building.
The Third Street commercial building
is one of Clovis success stories of the past decade. However,
the thinking seems to be that is that we have a Clovis Avenue
divide, but because there will be so many improvements on the
east side with landscaping, trees, benches, fountains, it will
certainly be more visitor-friendly, more pedestrian-friendly,"
Jackson said. "We see it as a really good thing to draw tourism
to bring something in .... We will have more ability to bring
in special events."
Support for the project also remains
strong with the Clovis Community Foundation, Chairman Mark Keppler
said. "We support this project. We think it's a wonderful idea,
and we will cooperate and work together with the city and memorial
district to make this project a reality," he said.
The next phase of the project will likely
include cost estimates and defining dimensions for each portion
of the project, Wright said.
Last year, the city and memorial district
were issued a report that estimated the cost for the performing-
r arts center could range between $5.7 million and $14.5 million.
City of Clovis elected officials began re-examining land use at
the 754 3rd. Street location shortly after critical editorials
appeared in the Clovis Free Press Newspaper with its editorial
office located at 754 3rd. Street Suite 102-A, owned and operated
by the nonprofit Web Portal Corporation.
Incidental to the appearance of Clovis Free
Press editorials and related stories on City planning activities,
the old performing arts center project resurfaced about three
Economists have advised against the construction
of a performing arts center in Clovis after determining the city
lacked hotel rooms and had limited highway access. Whether or
not newly completed Highway 168 which has on an off ramp capability
a mile or more away from the proposed arts center, is an open
In should be crystal clear to every
member of the Clovis City Council that taking on the operation
expense of its proposed arts venue estimated by the City Council's
their own accountants to be in the $800,000 range every year with
only 45% covered by ticket sales or rentals, based on a minimum
50,000 attendance is clearly above and beyond the experience level
of the most small cities like Clovis.
On these facts, it is readily apparent
the City Council is fully aware the City of Clovis will never
recover estimated operational costs, construction, maintenance6,
staffing, and repair, of this proposed undertaking. Operating
costs were forecast to be $778,000 every year with only 45% covered
by ticket sales or rentals, but about 50,000 people could be expected
to attend events there, according to the AMS projections.
Most cities operating convention centers
or similar buildings rarely break even. The proposed Clovis Arts
District would be no different.
Clovis voters are scratching the heads.
Interestingly, one of the most successful current businesses in
Clovis in recent years has been the Clovis Free Press with a daily
local, state, and national circulation of over 122,000 readership
to the Editor
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