Over the years, we’ve published a number of articles about issues relating to the City of Bismarck. There’s been a couple of real doozy’s. Male strippers in a Renaissance Zone business comes to mind. And we shouldn’t forget about the ill-conceived “Pop-up Path”— also known as “Pedo Path”. Talk about embarrassing.
One of the more controversial issues, that led to a bit of an uproar from the citizenry, came in the form of a water rate increase that was approved in the Fall of 2018.
A current head shaker is the proposed $114.5 million rec center that some folks want to see built in the name of public health. The Park Board voted back in January to request that the City Commission put a sales tax increase on the June ballot to pay for it. They obliged on Tuesday of last week. Now the voters get to decide. (Side Note: Our hope is that it will be rejected.)
At least one thing these issues — and many others — have in common is that each one carries with it a public perception. And as you can imagine, that perception isn’t always very good.
So, what are Bismarck’s city officials to do in the aftermath of issues like these? Hire a marketing company, I guess. That’s right. And all in the name of better informing, educating, and engaging the public.
“Bismarck city officials are working with a marketing company to develop a plan to better inform the public, in a move tied partly to a decision two years ago to increase water rates.
“All five city commissioners and city staff met with Marketing & Advertising Business Unlimited Inc. representatives on Monday to discuss how the city can better communicate its work.
“Bismarck is paying $18,300 to have the company develop a plan to ‘help the city better inform, educate and engage area residents in discovering the good works occurring in Bismarck,’ according to an agreement signed in January. The plan is to cover such things as executive interviews, website and social media audits, and branding and planning sessions. It will include findings and recommendations.”
This is certainly a questionable move when we consider the fact that the city already pays someone to manage public relations. That person is Gloria David— Bismark’s Public Information Officer. As you can see here, her job description reads:
“Gloria provides public and news media services for the City, communication and public information services to community members, and crisis communications during emergencies. The Public Information Officer will assist members of the media.”
So, is hiring a marketing company a necessity? Is it even appropriate? Can’t Bismarck’s Public Information Officer handle the job? And if she can’t, why not?
This statement from City Administrator Keith Hunke isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of the current level of competency found in this area either:
“When we look at… some of those complex issues that we have to deal with… that involve citizens, we have difficulties doing a proper job of communicating those.”
I suppose we can give kudos to him for admitting as much. But is this really even about communication? Or is it an effort by city officials to put lipstick on the proverbial pig?
I admit to being a skeptic. But considering some of the things the City of Bismarck has done, I think there’s reason to be one.
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