Fake news is a much discussed topic today. Who can we trust to give accurate, factual, unbiased information? I work hard to ensure that the information presented in this blog is well supported. Although I don’t try to hide my opinion on many things, I always provide links, documents, and/or pictures to show where I get my information. My goal is to present information for people in Charlestown that they’re not likely to get from our current administration. That’s why this particular post is so important.
Mayor Bob Hall has contracted with a public relations group to manipulate the messages you receive about the City. The Mayor wants to create Fake News and the tax payers are covering the costs.
At the Board of Public Works meeting on February 5, 2018, Mayor Hall introduced a contract for ProMedia Group citing
“negative press and wide-spread public descent [sic] for City Government decisions and management” (Contract, pg 2).
Through this partnership the Mayor intends to respond to negative feedback from the people of Charlestown by
“taking control of [the City’s] messaging” and cites the need “to stop relying on the media” to report on issues of concern for Charlestown.
This contract was unanimously approved by the Board of Public Works. The ProMedia Group will take over the City’s website, public communication, and social media pages. They will produce videos every month and create a quarterly newsletter over the next year. These basic services will cost the city $5,000 per month (February’s invoice was paid on March 5th). In addition to basic services, Mayor Hall requested an amendment to the contract that provides a “kick start” to the “Positive Messaging Campaign” that costs an extra $23,000. Check my math, but that’s $60,000 for one year of service + $23,000 in kick start fees for a total of…
…to a private company who will make sure that the City’s “social network will be monitored at all times ensuring that the City is represented in the best possible way” (Contract pg 4).
You’ve probably already seen some of the products of this new agreement. The “kick start” plan calls for the creation of 10-12 short “setting the record straight” videos scheduled for release each week in the first 90 days at a cost of “$1,500 per” (Contract pg 4). Since adopting this contract the City has released FIVE (5) videos. Are you counting? In the first five weeks we’ve paid ProMedia Group an extra $7,500 in addition to our monthly $5,000 fee.
Is the information in these videos correct? Probably, technically so, yes. But, is it all inclusive? No. The police station video fails to mention that plans for such a building date back almost a decade with no follow-through. The video for the Renaissance Project does not account for all the businesses and homes that the Mayor wants to demolish to make his vision a reality. The Indiana American Water video doesn’t mention that the Mayor ignored the Citizens’ petition to take the sale to voter referendum. The Springville Manor video doesn’t address the fact that many folks who move in are taking on debt (that their heirs will pay) when they had none and were already living in homes that were not damaged. Every time you watch one of these, remember that it cost you $1,500.
Do not fall for the bells and whistles, Charlestown. We’re smarter than that. Come to the meetings. The next City Council Meeting is Monday, April 2. If you can’t attend, then come here and listen to the audio I post. Maybe you see and hear all the information and you still think things are great. Fine. Everyone is entitled to form their own opinions. But you AT LEAST deserve all the information before you make your decisions.
You also should continue to be alarmed by the way the Mayor silences those who dissent (that’s the correct spelling) with his opinion. If you post a comment against the city on social media will it be deleted? Will you be getting accurate information after it’s filtered through ProMedia’s lens?
I guess the joke is on me this time, though. About a year ago, when I naively thought that our problems were caused by a simple lack of communication, I asked Bob Hall to start posting short video updates. I imagined Bob in his office with a camera and a free YouTube channel. I did NOT think he’d spend almost $100,000 in tax-payer money to manipulate the message.
*Edited to include signed contract and the official meeting Minutes*
You can read the full contract here: ProMedia Contract – Signed
Minutes for the meeting in which the contract was approved are here (This meeting also addressed phosphorus levels in wastewater): BPW Minutes 02/05/2018
PS. I apologize if this post costs us another $1,500 to “set the record straight.”