By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
At a time when newspapers are struggling economically, Cotati gadfly and former City Councilman George Barich, who seems always to be pushing against prevailing political winds in Cotati, has launched one.
The 2,700 free copies of the first issue of the Cotati Independent — billing itself as “Real News, Real People, Right Direction” — hit doorsteps this week, amplifying criticisms Barich and political allies regularly level at city leaders.
“I was urged by supporters and friends to do something about the propaganda and lies fed to the local press by our city government,” he said in an email Wednesday. “The misinformation just became too much for us to handle.”
The eight-page monthly goes after most of Barich’s favorite marks, including the city’s multimillion dollar plan to redevelop its downtown and its reliance on grant funding.
It quotes and cites Barich frequently — an article about the city budget says: “Barich went on to point out line-by-line the glaring errors he discovered …”
And its columns rail at government regulations, socialism and council actions on ethics violations and police staffing levels.
Barich, who in 2009 was recalled from the council, said his goal is “to celebrate our political, economic and social diversity in Cotati” and “promote tolerance of other viewpoints.”
The broadsheet paper’s first front page presents a photograph of Mayor Janet Orchard under the headline, “Citizen Complaints of Ethics Code Violations Ignored by City Officials.”
The article, with no byline, takes the City Council to task for dismissing ethics complaints filed by Barich and others against Orchard, Councilwoman Pat Gilardi and Councilman Mark Landman.”
Orchard on Wednesday said, “Being Mayor, I see myself featured in a lot of places, so that doesn’t surprise me.”
Of the new paper, she said, “I haven’t really put that much thought into it.”
Barich and other persistent city critics, including the two people besides him who filed ethics complaints against council members, Greg Karraker and Ken Coleman, are contributors. Articles by the Pacific Research Institute, a freemarket advocacy think tank, and opponents of the Sonoma-Marin commuter rail project are also prominently featured.
“I see my role as pointing out in very factual terms what is being done right with local government and what is badly mismanaged,” Karraker said.
His targets in the first issue include a $35,000 city contract with an environmental consultant and its decision to hire a community development director.
Delivered free and sold for 25 cents at newsstands, the paper also is available at thecotatiindependent.com