A kind of unbidden and unwanted monster reared its ugly head at this latest meeting when we were presented with the 2016-7 budget. The Mayor wants us to hire a full time communications specialist in his department “to get the message out about Kentwood.” We apparently need somebody who was dedicated to and knowledgeable about our city to manage Kentwood’s Facebook page and websites, to address the news media if adverse stories emerge, to place Kentwood in a favorable light and to manage the forthcoming 50th (golden?) anniversary of our founding.
Commissioner Artz led the counter charge. She was concerned about costs and suggested that contracting with a company that could do these various functions would save money as other communities do. I agreed, adding that we could break the functions down so that we’d take advantage of the division of labor. A handful of specialists would be able to do these functions efficiently and cheaply. We would be prudent to begin this venture slowly rather than swallowing a large expense in one gulp. I even opined that my blog was the definitive and best written ongoing account of what was happenin’ in Kentwood.
But the troubling political power grab that information flows would be in the sole control of the Mayor hung in the air like an untreated sewage odor. Mark Rambo, his administrative assistant assumed great authority as he argued for hiring a communication specialist; one would have thought him a commissioner. We have already seen the mayor spend taxpayer dollars to effect the election for the city commission last November. He and other commissioners oppose the recently passed Michigan state law that forbids them from “informing” the voters on critical issues within 60 days of an election.
Now we will have a full time writer who deals in social media (overly rated IMHO) and delivers city hall’s version of things, controls information flows and talks in a familiar manner to TV, radio and newspapers. No one will need to look more deeply. We will have in effect created an information cocoon-an Oculus Rift World.
And no one in the room mentioned this aspect of the inconvenient and troubling diktat. It was not specifically voted on, but I guess that the final vote that approved the preliminary budget blessed this assault. I alone voted against it.
Eighty years ago my mother walked out on Hitler after 3 years of hearing his “information.” How did she know that he was evil and up to no good? She couldn’t, no body dared whisper the truth.