Yesterday on Haldimand County’s website I was reading through the 2018 Draft Tax Supported Operating Budget—not a page-turner, but essential reading for anyone who wants to know what’s going on in Haldimand County. I found the following information on page 58  :

“With increasing expectations from the public regarding County communications and associated reputation management needs, this new initiative proposes the creation of a new position – Division Support, CAO Office – to support the Coordinator, Strategic Initiatives with administrative & communications-related activities.”

I was flabbergasted. Haldimand County finds that as a result of “increasing expectations from the public regarding County communications,” it now has “reputation management needs”! In other words, because citizen groups have recently caught them wasting millions of dollars on unnecessary projects about which they have provided inadequate information or even misinformation to the public, they now want to spend even more money hiring yet more staff to do damage control because they can’t be bothered to do it themselves!

This is absurd. The individuals who occupy the positions of Manager, General Manager, and Chief Administrative Officer for Haldimand County are all supposedly highly-qualified people, mostly university educated, and almost all on the Sunshine List. They should be willing and able to handle their own communications with the public.

Seven years ago, when Haldimand County launched a competitive process to choose a single newspaper in which to place all of its advertising, it demanded that the winner provide free space for a  weekly editorial submitted by the county, among other onerous demands. The Regional News This Week felt this smacked of government control of editorial content over independent newspapers and declined to bid. This left the Sachem as the sole bidder since the other newspapers of the time were not invited to bid.

Ken Hewitt wrote (or at least signed) a few editorials, but they quickly petered out, and we didn’t hear from him again until November 23 of last year when he published his infamous “Council isn’t spending like drunken sailors” piece. Since that piece was met by the public with skepticism at best, Hewitt has again retreated into silence.

It is the responsibility of the mayor, the councillors, and the management of Haldimand County to communicate frequently and effectively with the public. Any who are failing to do so must be held accountable. They must not be permitted to unload their responsibility on someone else at additional cost to the taxpayer.

David McClung, Cayuga