Council Adds Communications Position After Social Media Posts, Complaints

La Puente’s city council decides the position is needed now more than ever

Mayor+Valerie+Munoz+addresses+resident+concerns+at+the+second+town+hall+in+the+La+Puente+Community+Center+on+Aug.+15.+Photo+credit%3A+Joshua+Sanchez%2FSAC.Media.

Mayor Valerie Munoz addresses resident concerns at the second town hall in the La Puente Community Center on Aug. 15. Photo credit: Joshua Sanchez/SAC.Media.

“Where the past meets the future” will be more than a motto after city staff fills a new position approved by the city council on Aug. 13.

La Puente has considered putting this position on the books for quite a while. The decision to finally add it was influenced by individuals stating the city has not reached out to the community enough, and by posts on social media regarding the city.

Mayor Pro Tem Charlie Klinakis voiced concerns over potential pay scale for the communications and information technology analyst position when it was first proposed to council on July 23, but he has since said that he is in favor of implementing the position.

Council member John Solis also called it a good thing, but expressed concern that there was no provided comparison for how much this hybrid position pays and that aside from the savings, there is no way to really know if this is a good deal or a bad deal.

City manager Robert “Bob” Lindsey said that this hybrid position compared with other cities by being right in the middle for the respective positions, while merging both into one.

The position was first proposed as a public information officer instead of the broader communications classification, but the monthly salary steps has remained at $5,870 to $7,137.

When it was first proposed, the staff reports only listed the projected cost of $99,700 for the proposed position alongside the job duties. After having been tabled for further information at council member Violeta Lewis’ request, the new report gave an exhaustive breakdown of the fiscal impact:

This position will create $98,700 in yearly savings and cost $105,500 each year.

The savings come from these seven sources:

It will also free up a potential $35,000 to $55,000 in one time savings, which is enough to offset the $6,300 difference for six to eight years. This one time amount comes from keeping sophisticated drawings and plans from technical work in-house.

Other benefits include providing the city with more than two days of on-site IT coverage and added social media assets. This full time coverage will improve coverage by 150 percent and allow the city to better utilize websites.

The city hopes that the position will, alongside “Go Request,” serve as a platform to facilitate the reporting of issues and concerns, as a media profile to help grow the city’s online presence, and as a community posting board to eliminate false information among other things.

To best summarize why this position is important, a portion of the text of the agenda report reads as follows:

“…social media attacks are on the rise, misinformation on social sites is prevalent, city officials and staff are being minimized and falsely represented, entire departments are being undermined, and political aspirations from outside entities are being played out at the expense of the city.”

In essence, people on the internet are spreading out information that is not true.

Certain city functions have already been severely impacted by false rumors. The city’s Independence Day celebratory fireworks show, which is normally packed, had a noticeable decline in attendance this year after postings made the venue appear to be unsafe.

This position would be intended to monitor social media traffic in order to avoid similar postings having such an effect next year.

Individuals, like resident Manuel Maldonado, who have been critical of the city’s outreach efforts and have said that the council needs to do a better job in reaching the community will also have their concerns addressed by the person filling this role, according to the job description.

Aside from the largely technical job specifications of IT work, the communications side of this position involves marketing “events, activities, programs and meetings citywide.” The position will also report on activities, actions and calendars of all city departments, according to city staff’s report.

As council member Dan Holloway put it, this is a way to “make information more accessible” and to change how the council communicates with the community.

Lewis said that there has been a year without change and that it is time to change that. She also suggested other ideas and mentioned one blank billboard in the city and a potential need to change over to digital signs.

The only change to the job’s essential functions in the revised version is that this position must now “coordinate with human resources” for city opportunities as well as recruitment and volunteer needs.

This new version also revised “may write and produce public service announcements” to require that the position involves writing and producing public service announcements, marketing the city as well as its events, and reaching donors through social media, expanding its current capabilities.

The previous version did not have those elements or a breakdown of cost savings, but the combined position is expected to perform.

Klinakis said he will be expecting a lot from this position because of the amount spent on it, and Mayor Valerie Munoz suggested that there be quarterly updates on what this position has accomplished so that the council ensures it is being fiscally responsible.