In 2011 the City of Prince George conducted a telephone survey asking questions about how the city does its job. Those results were similar to the results of an online survey conducted by the city at the beginning of this year.
Most people seemed to be happy with fire protection, garbage collection and police services, and as Citizen managing editor Neil Godbout pointed out at the time, most people were unhappy with how the city manages its (our) finances.
However several members of council and mayor Shari Green poo pooed the results of the survey with excuses like: there weren't enough respondents to the survey; the sample is not enough to come up with a conclusion; it's probably not a statistically relevant sample; the process might have been hijacked by special interest groups; some people don't have Internet access; and from the mayor herself, "There's nothing to say one person didn't fill this out (online survey) 270 times."
But the topic of how the city manages its finances is a recurring theme, just ask anyone who pays taxes in this city.
Last week the city posted a job position for a communications director even though a position of communications and citizen engagement manager, paying $116,614, and held by Christina Bone already exists.
It's not as if the position of communications director already existed, or someone left the position and the city is now trying to fill it.
This is a brand new position with brand new responsibilities.
This position is also for a director, not a manager. With that title there seems to be some more responsibility like "raising awareness and support of municipal initiatives." This probably means: try to convince over-taxed citizens that some of the bad decisions the city has made (and will make in the future, otherwise they wouldn't need this in the job description) are in fact good decisions.
Another job responsibility: "Provides crisis management advice to the city manager and, as required, updates the mayor and city council."
This probably means: some spin doctoring will be needed from time to time. When the city screws up and is in crisis mode, the communications director will tell the city manager what to do and say and when the city manager decides, the director will also inform the mayor and council.
The position is also required to write speeches for the mayor and city manager if you can believe that.
Another way to look at it may be that the new city manager Beth James is not very good at public speaking and doesn't ever want to put her foot in her mouth (understandable), so one of the priorities of the communications director is to write stuff for her so that never happens.
I guess we could all do with a communications director from time to time, but unfortunately none of us has the wherewithal to hire one at taxpayer's expense.
If you look at what the other department directors at the city get paid, ranging from $130,000 to $190,000, and the communications and citizen engagement manager gets $116,000 you would expect this new position to pay between $120,000 and $130,000. Who knows, it could be more.
Is the city going to move Bone into the new position? If so, are they going to fill her vacant communications manager's position? If not, and they hire from outside, why do we need a communications manager and a communications director.
If they get rid of the communications manager's position what will happen to Bone? Will she be laid off or will the city create another position for her.
When Beth James was hired as the new city manager - at a salary of $212,000 (the previous city manager's salary was $204,000) - people were hoping that having a background in private industry with profit margins, disgruntled shareholders and lower-paid staff, she might be inclined to keep the expenses down, cut the waste at city hall and maybe put a smile on one or two of those disgruntled taxpayer faces.
Maybe she is. Maybe this is all part of a bigger plan that only she knows about.
But if creating positions like this is a taste of things to come it would appear that she, as well as our mayor and several members of city council, don't really care what taxpayers think.
They may spend more money on a third survey to ask us what we want, just to poo poo that as well.
Either way, they will have a new spin doctor in the communications director to "Provide crisis management advice to the city manager on what to say," when the taxpayers finally revolt.
Associate editor Mick Kearns