Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chairman Deke's $100,000 Ministry of Propaganda

Tuesday Nov. 29, 2011
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider

There will be a lot of belt tightening in Augusta for the coming year. Not because of over-indulging in a carb and fat heavy  Thanksgiving feast, but because the recently passed Augusta city budget requires over $6.3 million in cuts. To achieve that, virtually every city department will have to sacrifice and a tleast 34 positions are already on the chopping block and that number is only likely to rise. 

But not all are having to sacrifice in these hard times.  In fact, the Mayor's office will be expanded under this new budget, by $100,000. The mayor is calling it an "Economic Development Micro Department"  but let's call it what it really is: The Mayor's Ministry of Propaganda. 

Deke has asked for such a public relations department before, but each time commissioners scoffed at the cost and the necessity. Maybe that was because back then Deke made the mistake of calling it what it really was: A PR Department. But now after his political consultants tweaked the verbiage a bit by calling it an "economic development micro department" it was successfully included in this budget, despite just about every other department facing major cuts. I mean how can anyone be against "economic development". In marketing,  packaging is everything.

But what about basic city services like public safety? Well, the Sheriff's Office has 34 fewer deputies today than it did 10 years ago, and there is no money in the new budget to hire more. In fact, the Sheriff was lucky to not have to cut more from the payroll under this new budget.  The Sheriff is already having to cut $1.5 million from the jail, by incarcerating fewer criminals, to save money in these tight economic times. 

So just how did commissioners find $100,000 for a PR guy for Deke when they can't find any money in the budget to hire a few more deputies? And  by creating a new "micro" department that will need to be staffed, this is $100,000 that will need to be budgeted year after year. And didn't we have commissioners who were trying to save $150,000 by leasing out The Patch?  Well it looks like most of the savings realized from that will be going to pay for Deke's Ministry of Propaganda. Did the commissioners even read that part of the budget? Heck, Matt Aitken didn't even know it included 34 lay-offs after voting for it so it's quite plausible some commissioners didn't read about the $100,000 going to the Mayor's office.

In an economic climate where city budget deficits seem to becoming  yearly occurrences and are only expected to grow, is it fiscally responsible to be creating any "new" city departments at this time.. even if they are called "micro"? And just what is the purpose of this new department? Augusta already has The Richmond County Development Authority which is focused on recruiting new industry and business to the county. The Downtown Development Authority is supposed to help attract new business and development downtown. So what is holding Augusta back is that it lacks yet another bureaucratic office? 

What benchmarks have been set up to measure the success of this new department? The construction of a new baseball stadium downtown, perhaps? Because let's be serious, that's really what this is all about.

And  it's not like the mayor's job is really all that time-consuming. He basically has to show up at two commission meetings a month to act as parliamentarian, cut a few ribbons, send out a weekly propaganda email, give a few speeches, stage a few publicity stunts for  the next campaign, ride in a parade or two, meet with Ripken baseball officials... well actually mostly meet with Ripken Baseball officials. A look at the mayor's schedule from a couple of years ago showed that meeting with Ripken Baseball officials dominated his calendar. I mean that barely leaves enough time for the Mayor to stop at the 15th St Kroger to buy dog food on the way home.  

The mayor, unlike commissioners, makes a full time salary and has a full-time staff, so just what has been keeping him from being Augusta's chief PR guy for recruiting new economic development.?Isn't that what people thought they were voting for when they elected him thrice? And whatever you may think about Deke, he sure does seem to know PR and how to get the media to fawn over him. He's a master at garnering free positive publicity. So why the need for $100,000 to hire some outside PR guy? Can't Deke do the job on his own? Isn't that what he's supposed to be doing anyway? I guess his time is just too consumed with meeting with Ripken Baseball officials.

Perhaps it's that Deke is running out of Buzzwords.. maybe he just lost his mojo and needs some new ideas. Maybe what Deke needs is a propaganda blitz to sell some of his unpopular ideas like a taxpayer financed ballpark. Yeah the whole "Moving Augusta Forward" shtick is getting old. So are other buzzwords like "Building a consensus,"  "Uniting Augusta", and "Looking forward instead of backwards." And just maybe Deke's Ministry of Propaganda can come up with some new material for Matt Aitken, because, really, the " we need to grow the city" line is beginning to sound like a broken record. 

The great thing about propaganda is that you don't actually have to accomplish anything, just so long you can package it in such a way to make people believe that you have. It's like wrapping a cheap drugstore cologne in expensive gold foil. That way an $8 per hour call center job miraculously starts to look like a $25 per hour job at an Audi manufacturing plant. 

But  to the more than 34 city employees who will be out of a job soon, it still must seem like a slap in the face for Deke to be getting $100,000 for his new Ministry of Propaganda. And especially for The Sheriff's department which has had to make do with a personnel shortage for years. And the crime situation certainly doesn't seem to be getting any better. You have to wonder if having a fully staffed public safety department would be more attractive to new business, industry and residents then the mayor having a Ministry of Propaganda. And what about more money in the city budget for code enforcement to demolish blighted structures that plague many parts of the city and create a negative "first impression"?  But in the end The Boy King seems to get what he wants.

CityStink.net Challenge:

Perhaps we can save Augusta $100,000 for the Mayor's Ministry of Propaganda by developing a new list of Buzzwords that Deke can use. In the comments section below this article list your new buzzwords or phrases for the Mayor.

And for the artistes:
We also thought it would be fun to come up with some propaganda posters for Deke's new Ministry of Propaganda. We have included one at the top of this article. Using that as inspiration, we would like our readers to submit their own. We will post them here on CityStink.net for an upcoming article. Send your Ministry of Propaganda posters to citystink@gmail.com.

Be Sure to Take the Augusta Government Improvement Survey: Augusta Govt. Survey

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Riverman said...

Nice to have your own PR person working for you. I bet I can match her rose colored glasses descriptions of Deke with my own realistic ones that I'm not paid to deliver.

City Stink said...

Thanks for your comment Riverman. Why does Deke need a $100,000 PR Dept when he has (c)ountyman posting at the Chronicle and elsewhere?

Riverman said...

I wonder if he already has a certain person in mind? Female? I'll bet it won't go out like they are openly seeking someone for the position. Deke will bring in the person he has already chosen.