A St. John’s councillor says he wants city services to get back to basics, starting with redeploying the city’s communications staff.
Coun. Art Puddister at Monday night’s regular council meeting said he wants the city to examine the salaries of the three main communications staff for St. John’s “with a view to taking this money and putting it towards snowclearing” with the employees put to work elsewhere in city hall.
Puddister tabled the salary ranges for the positions — a manager ($76,400-$92,831) and two officers ($57,208-$69,513 and $59,598-$72,417) — at the meeting. Afterwards, he told media he has no problem with individual personnel, but wanted to draw attention to the rapidly growing communications department.
“Why are we spending in excess of $200,000 on communications?” asked Puddister, who also criticized city policy of prohibiting media from speaking to city staff without authorization from the communications department.
“I trust our deputy city managers. They’re well-paid. They’re well-informed. They know their jobs, and I think they should be completely authorized to speak to the media at any time.”
St. John’s needs to focus on basic priorities, said Puddister.
“I think what they do now is meaningful, but in my view I’d like to see them do something which is more meaningful, and that the cash resources be allocated to the snow-clearing budget,” he said.
“I believe that we should get back to the basics, which is core services. Core services are basically snow-clearing, clean water and garbage collection, humane services.”
- Read more special articles:
- Build your own pothole crawler
- Route 90 needs more than patching: paramedic
- Old cars and potholes ... so what else is new?
- Province will spend $200 million on towns over next three years
Coun. Dave Lane defended the communications staff, pointing out that the department does much more than serve as first point of contact for media inquiries.
“The idea is that somehow our communications department, or the personnel in the strategy and engagement department are somehow restricting communications or input from the public,” he said.
“I don’t think that’s the case. And even if that was an issue that we’re talking about, that’s only a small portion of what the communications people do. So I think we have to very careful in deciding whether or not to keep or cut.”
Communications staff are responsible for informing people of snowclearing schedules, garbage pickup and special events.
“Look at the things the strategy and engagement department do for us. They co-ordinate the Municipal Plan release and the consultations surrounding all of that. Affordable and attainable housing strategies. Rennie’s River flood strategy. Convention Centre marketing. Snow-clearing study. Regional mobility plan. … It goes on and on. This is a fairly crucial department that does their job so well, we probably don’t even realize they’re there.”