Friday, February 22, 2008

'Tis A Puzzlement

LCDC hires PR firm for $35,000. For a four month contract. Wow. That's nearly $12,000 per month. All to help solve LCDC's inability to communicate effectively.

Okay. This isn't meant to be an anti LCDC rant but I don't think they have to spend that kind of tax payer money to figure it out. First lets look at the make up LCDC. Business men one and all. Successful business men. Vice Chairman Jim Elder, if I'm properly informed, owns one of the more popular and long established restaurants in downtown. I find it exceedingly difficult to believe that Mr. Elder nor any of the other board members aren't well versed in how to communicate successfully.

Furthermore, the executive director is paid in excess of $100,000 per year. For this amount of money I would expect; no, demand he have those skills before hiring him to oversee the expenditure of taxpayer money. He apparently does not. When asked to explain why there was no bid process for hiring a P.R. firm, he claimed "there aren't many public relations firms in the region able to meet LCDCs needs." How is that known if you're hiring the firm to help you define those needs in the first place?

One cannot help but wonder if Mr. Berns is the right man for the job. He's the professional. If the city council has oversight authority yet doesn't understand the mechanisms of public relations, perhaps they aren't the right people in those jobs either.

Here's a little Friday pop quiz. Any of you recognize the names Christie Wood and Ben Wolfinger? Of course you do. Christie is the spokesperson for the police and Ben for the Sheriff's office. How do we know them? Because they are out there communicating with the community when there is a need to inform. I wager neither of them earns $12,000 a month. Does the city have a spokesperson? If so tell me the name. How many of you can name the members of city council and what their backgrounds are? How many of you know the names of the people on the LCDC or the Planning Commission?

Have you ever seen a Chinese puzzle ball where there is ball within a ball within a ball? Wonder how its done? No obvious way in or out. Could part of the problem be that there are so many layers of the ball enclosed in all things city politic that nothing gets out once its in? How many people serving today have shifted from planning commission to council to mayor and back again? How often do we see new faces and new ideas? Not very. No way in. Unless you know the secret.

Therein lies a problem. Once in nothing gets out. It was said LCDC is transparent because their meetings are televised. How often are the discussions that take place in the meetings covered by the press? How often are the topics to be discussed on the radio publicized. Radio? How many of you know where and what time they can be heard?

Transparency means coming forward before action is taken; not afterwards. It's public relations 101. Get out in front of the story. Transparency means think before you speak and speak the truth.

I know those who point out discrepancies are sullied by the powers that be. Sometimes their points are valid, sometimes not quite.  Yet they seem to gaining a foothold. One reason is they are accessible. Agree with them or not, they will respond to questions. I know that as fact. I've talked with them.

How accessible are council members? Other than on defense?  Don't send us to your web site. Not everyone has a computer. Don't send us to the press - you have no focused voice. For those of you who do speak out I applaud you.  But there are not enough of you.  And too often you're playing defense.  

Right now the best place to get information on the ins and outs of what's happening is spread between the Cour d'Alene Press blogs, Huckleberrries Online and the new OpenCDA .

I blog so I read them all. For everyone else, take your pick of where they are likely to get their news. Learn your media and how to use it. There. Another freebie from an old P.R. hack. See? If only everyone read the blogs!

But then you'd have the responsibility of sorting out fact from opinion.  Not easy.

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