Now that we have a new, inclusive and some say “cuddly” Mayor, can we expect to get more friendly and inclusive communications from the Wellington City Council itself.
I have been following the election closely for the last couple of months and was surprised at what I saw when I looked at the council’s communications responses to ordinary citizens and ratepayers in recent times and over the last few years. For example:
WCC Comms response to member of the public commenting on this blog, 12 October 2010:
“Thanks again for your lectures on how Council staff should behave but, as I told you last week, I think we’ll take a rain-check on the advice since you clearly don’t understand how the Council or the media works.”
(And they wonder why 60% of people don’t vote)
WCC Comms response to a member of the public commenting on this blog, 12 October 2010:
“Notwithstanding the discussion about iPods and holidays and my alleged attempt to have a go at an individual candidate, I think your complaint that the Council’s communications people take a provocative and confrontational stance is quite hilarious. Let’s be clear here – and correct me if I’ve got this really, really wrong – but this is a blogsite apparently expressly dedicated to scrutinising, unpicking and criticising the Council – we have absolutely no problem with that whatsoever and in fact welcome the attention. … If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the forum.”
(Bring on the heat)
WCC Comms response to Lindsay Shelton of Scoop, 17 August 2010:
“Unfortunately for you the Council is not obliged to leap to attention and into action every time you publish a piece. Sometimes we are interested, sometimes we are not. In this case I’ve told you several times that our planners may get around to responding to your piece about the Wharewaka. Unfortunately for you they have clearly decided that there are more important and urgent tasks to be dealt with.”
(I thought that under the LGOIM Act, councils had 20 working days to respond to requests for information. But this comment explains a lot)
WCC Comms response to members of the public commenting on Scoop, 10 February 2010:
“Regarding the various insinuations by Mr Shrapnell and others that there’s a whiff of Nazi Germany about the Council and, in particular, the Communications office, we could get highly offended but we’ve had a chat round the office and come to the conclusion that we should brush off the comments on the basis that they’re just pathetic and lame.”
(Might be better to de-escalate rather than use the ‘N’ word)
WCC Comms response to Scoop, 11 March 2010:
“In regards to the Council’s staff turnover if you had picked up yesterday’s Capital Times you would see a letter from me that explains the real situation at the Council. Last year our turnover was 23%, currently it sits at 16%. … The story in Capital Times should best be described as a shameless beat-up.”
(I think they spoke too soon, turnover was a lot more than 16% for 2009/10)
WCC Comms response to The Standard, 28 November 2008:
“The people opposing the proposed flyover are employing the classic old ruse of working up drawing to make the proposal look as terrifying and gigantic as possible. The artist who knocked out the image you’re running has clearly decided the flyover is going to be designed by Mattel – ie that it’ll be a giant Hot Wheels track that’ll cross over the fence into the Basin Reserve itself. This, of course, is all rubbish designed specifically to mislead the public and scare the horses.”
(What’s a flyover supposed to look like? It’s a shame WCC didn’t put more effort into getting some drawings into the public domain itself)
I could go on.
Most of the comments above have been from a council spokesman of longstanding (since 1995) apart from very brief periods with NZ Post and Ministry of Civil Defence – roughly the same timeframe as the Blumsky/Prendergast administrations). The more recent communications and marketing manager is also an author and poet (Fisherman’ Town, pg eight) of some renown. Perhaps we can expect to see releases and comments rhyming or in iambic pendameter. But whatever they are, let’s hope they are a little bit more respectful of the people they serve.