By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
In the interest of improving discourse with the community, city officials have proposed adding a part-time communications specialist to city staff in fiscal year 2014.
The communications specialist would be responsible for communicating with and engaging the public, issuing press releases, communicating with the press and doing a small amount of work on the city’s website.
“Communication skills and design skills are not anything built into any department director's job description, so this position will make it easier to keep the public informed and engaged in ways which currently do not,” Interim City Administrator Jessica Kinser said.
The employee would be added to the city administrator budget. He or she would work four hours a week for $17.50 per hour, totaling $3,640 not including FICA/IPERS.
“The idea behind this position is not to handle call and inquiries from citizens but work behind the scenes to create the message of the city,” Kinser said.
Kinser said the amount of work on the website will depend on the skill of whoever is hired, but writing text is a minimal contribution to make the website more helpful.
The city’s website needs have caught the attention of outside agencies. In a review of seven Iowa city’s websites, performed by pro-transparency non-profit Sunshine Review, Clinton performed the lowest, receiving a D-.
Davenport received an A+, Cedar Rapids a B, Des Moines a C, Iowa City an A+, Sioux Center a C- and Sioux City a B.
Reviewers cited the lack of a search function as well as information on public records requests, taxpayer-funded lobbying and local taxes not being posted. The non-profit also took issue with the fact that budgets, audits, building permits, contracts and contact information from all council members was not posted when the site was reviewed last February.
Kinser believes the position will increase the city government’s availability to residents.
“As far as transparency, this position, even at 4 hours a week, will help us function and provide more information to the public than what we currently provide,” Kinser said.
Kinser said the city would advertise the position, but did have an employee who fits the bill if the wage and hours could not attract other suitable candidates.