Public relations consultant Gail Soorza-Gill stood before the Chula Vista City Council Tuesday, June 1, and presented her findings. “The city needs to build a new image. The city needs to aggressively market itself,” she declared. For these pearls of wisdom, the city paid somewhere in the vicinity of $60,000, a price tag that should have required city approval and public debate not to mention.
$60,000 bought the City of Chula Vista 27 one-on-one, supposedly, random interviews, two group discussions with the City Council and their staff, and a slick presentation. The irony in this is that the City Council already knew the information acquired from these hooplas, a fact that raises the question: Why is the city spending this type of money for information they already, or should have, know? This would, in turn, question the fiscal responsibility, and or common sense, of the city leaders in tough economic times. Shouldn’t they have been reading the preliminary vision statements, or, at the very least, attending public forums?
The city is in the final stages of a two year process of preparing a 20-year vision plan for the City of Chula Vista and, as such, has held many public meetings where these same concerns and issues, now costing tens of thousands of dollars, were addressed and incorporated into the vision already.
As a resident of Chula Vista and sitting member of the Economic Development Commission (EDC), which is composed of City Council-appointed business and community members, it has been a frustrating experience when the best and brightest ideas do not go much further than a conference room full of city staff. If a council member had found the time to inquire, they could have received the same bit of advice that they received from Stoorza-Gill and saved the city taxpayers $60,000, but there is the old saying that declares, “Advice is only worth what you pay for it.” Apparently this is so.
On one hand, the city has done a commendable job of listening to the community, about the advancement of the waterfront plans in particular. On the other hand, it is letting go to waste valuable input and dedicated work by community groups like the EDC, which has been put on hiatus since the beginning of the year, pending the creation of a new co-existing redevelopment agency.
If commissions are created to represent the communities and to advise the City Council about such particular issues, then the City Council should take advantage of the expertise available instead of arbitrarily wasting money. If not, they should do the commissioners a favor and do away with the whole façade of inclusion and input.
The Chula Vista City Council is tentatively scheduled to discuss the future of the EDC in July.