On July 19, 2008, Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad, an elected public official in this county for some reason decided to launch a war against the Yolo County Flatlander, a small, low profile, alternative news publication that is published and distributed primarily in Davis on a bi-monthly basis.
The Supervisor wrote:
“I encourage new ideas, new blogs, and new publications in Yolo County. The Flatlander however, had been a complete piece of trash in the past few years. We really have no idea who the publishers are and the authors of “articles” are not usually included in the publication. The only thing I can do is hold the advertisers accountable.
If the Flatlander is the same sort of crap it has been, please let it be known that I will be working to hold the advertisers accountable — all of them. I don’t want to hear “I didn’t know” or “I can’t control content” comments. This publication has a shameful history that certainly is well known by anyone with a clue is aware.”
The crime committed by the Flatlander was unclear. However, the Supervisor seemed to back off his threat later on–which was the correct course of action–unfortunately it did not stay that way.
However, this month’s publication of the Flatlander seemed to incite him once again.
“Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad is carrying censorship’s flaming torch. In our August issue, we reported on Rexroad’s adventures in print-banning.”
“Of course as an attorney, Woodland’s flaming torch of censorship should know that if he uses his position as an elected official to block trade or censor free speech, he will lose his license to practice law. After two-month’s, no Flatlander advertiser told me of any response from Rexroad.”
Still they say,
“Flatlander editors couldn’t help but feel flattered that book burners of the world took the time to classify the Flatlander as a banned paper.”
They then inflame passions comparing the Supervisor’s censorship attempts to those of Hitler, Stalin, and Sarah Palin?
“Rexroad’s flaming torch of censorship puts him in the same category as Hitler, Stalin, and Sarah Palen (sic).”
“Flatlander editor Sally Parker denies that the paper is as dangerous as Rexroad claims. She assures readers, ‘The Flatlander is safe to read, just don’t inhale.”
For his part, Matt Rexroad told me that he does not believe they can sue him based on his proposed boycott.
As he wrote yesterday:
“I am happy to take my understanding of the first amendment and my ability to practice law in this state over theirs. As a result I am boycotting the following businesses…”
He then goes on to list a number of the advertisers of the Flatlander, I shall not repeat them in this space except for two which really emphasize I think how absurd the Supervisor has become on this issue.
“Further — Vote No on Measure N… Don’t reward Manuel Cosme with your vote for Assembly”
In other words, he is now urging that people vote against Republican Assembly nominee Manuel Cosme, who faces Mariko Yamada for the 8th Assembly District and vote against Davis’ Charter City, because both have decided to advertise in the Flatlander. Why is he taking his vendetta against the publication out against public policy? Why is he letting this grudge interfere with his primary duty as an elected public official?
“If I forgot anyone — then I am boycotting them too. Everyone that paid to help put out the Flatlander.”
Just to be clear here, in the text of his entry he says that he is boycotting those business but the title of the entry does attempt to incite others to do so as well:
“Boycott the following businesses.”
Contrary, to the Supervisor’s assertions, I had no trouble tracking down the editors, one of whom was mentioned in the article, Sally Parker, and the other is Jim Leonard.
In response, Jim Leonard told me that he thinks Rexroad is a “bad Republican” for undermining small business, a “bad American” for undermining free speech.
“He’s in a position to support the will of the people, but he undermines it to achieve his own private ends. Therefore, he’s a fraud.”
From my perspective, I do not understand why a public official is spending time on this. Matt Rexroad is an elected public official, he has other things that he should be concerned with other than a publication that frankly spends a good amount of its time trying to argue that 9/11 did not occur. The issue here is not what you think of the Flatlander. From my perspective I do not always agree with them, but I do not see a good reason to spend time attacking them either when I disagree. They have the right to lampoon Mr. Rexroad, a public official as they see fit.
Mr. Rexroad’s conduct in this instance is completely irresponsible and unbecoming of a public official.
He claims that this is not a tort offense, I have heard varying opinions on it, but that almost does not matter. In this case, his actions seem petty, childish, and he looks like a fool. He needs to drop this nonsense and focus on the serious issues that are facing this county as the result of what is developing into a severe recession and a budget crisis. If the Flatlander what’s to satirize him, let them. I have always respected the fact that Mr. Rexroad has been open to criticism and upfront on where he stands on public policy matters. Frankly this is not the kind of conduct I have learned to expect from him.
In short, this needs to stop and we need to get back to the business at hand. There is not another public official in this county that I would have expected to see take on this kind of issue. Can you imagine anyone else doing this? It is very disappointing to see it happen here.
Let me be very clear here: Matt Rexroad’s conduct here is irresponsible and unbecoming of a public official. Again, I cannot picture another public official in this county behaving as Mr. Rexroad has. It is very disappointing to see him do this.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting