01/06/12 — Need? Or want? Hiring of public information officer raises questions about priorities

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Need? Or want? Hiring of public information officer raises questions about priorities

There are necessities and then there are luxuries.

Necessities are what you spend money on when the budget is tight and there are all kinds of things on your list that you need to accomplish.

Luxuries are what you spend money on when there is no budget and you have checked off everything else on your list.

And, for the city of Goldsboro, the term "necessity" seems to be a concept that many of those in charge cannot seem to comprehend.

Yes, a public information officer would be nice. The city certainly could use someone to explain some of the cuckoo decisions and questionable spending that have been the hallmarks of this past year.

And, come to think of it, someone could also unravel the mess that has become the city website, too. Tried to pay a water bill online lately?

But considering the size of the city payroll -- and the salary price points -- it would seem that perhaps a $58,000 public information officer would be an expenditure that could have waited a little bit longer.

Nothing against the hiree -- it is not her fault that someone put up the job and sought applicants. And it is also likely she had nothing to do with the salary offered either.

And, while we are talking about it, let's hope there is a plan in place for how to use this position effectively -- not just the vague idea that the city "needs a public information officer." There should have been an identified need and a plan in place to take care of that concern efficiently and economically. In other words, this is not a time to hire and "go with the flow" and "allow the position to evolve," which are code phrases for "We have no real clue why we need a public information officer. We just want one."

If the public information officer was a good decision -- or just another poorly timed use of taxpayers' money -- is something we will have to wait to see.

But since we are talking about using money, perhaps there are a few guidelines city officials could consider before spending any extra dollars.

First and foremost. Think first. Spend later. We are still not out of the economic downturn and many county families are still pinching their pennies. Taxpayers do not want frills right now -- no matter how appealing they might seem. They want basic city services and thoughtful planning to enhance those offerings. Nothing more, nothing less.

Second, consider some investment in some areas that could actually pay off. There is no question that the economic downturn has taken its toll on the city's downtown revitalization efforts. It is hard to attract new business interests when there are businesses just trying to survive. Perhaps it is time for a new perspective, a new action plan and a rejuvenated interest in the possibilities available on Center Street and beyond. That would be a much better plan on which to focus our attention than an out-of-the-way, pie-in-the-sky museum concept that might or might not have funding.

And last, but certainly not least, focus on improving what we have rather than just adding on. There are underutilized resources in the city -- places that could blossom with a little attention. Now is the time to be improving infrastructure -- if we can do so intelligently without increasing the taxpayers' burden.

So, for now, we will watch to see what the public information officer offers city taxpayers -- other than a new spin on some interesting decisions and expenditures.

Published in Editorials on January 6, 2012 10:49 AM