Peter Weeber spoke to the Rotary Club last March, not long after he took over as Chief Administrative Officer for Penticton. Western News file photo

City steps up communication with Just The Facts

City of Penticton wants to set the record straight

Update: The city has chosen to call their new section “For The Record” instead of the working title. It can be found under the City News section on the City of Penticton web site.)

Penticton’s city manager said he just wants to clear up a few things and make sure the community is getting the facts.

“Just The Facts,” said Penticton CAO Peter Weeber, will be distributed through the city’s website and email in an attempt to correct what city hall sees as misinformation circulating in the community.

“We are going to start setting the record straight across the board, whether it be a letter to the editor, a local media article, rumour on the street or whatever it may be,” said Weeber.

Weeber said they plan to address two news articles when the page is up and running, the first being a response to articles discussing how in-camera meetings work in Penticton.

“The other one is an article we read recently on how the city has to atone for housing. We want to set the record straight on that,” said Weeber. “Essentially, it’s just a facts site. When somebody says we are not doing everything we can for affordable housing, we are going to demonstrate everything we are doing for affordable housing.

“Same with in-camera stuff. That is a big confusion for the community. Everyone thinks these things are loosey-goosey and big secrets, when in fact they are rigid and monitored heavily by me.”

Related: City must ‘atone’ for its part in housing crisis: city planner

Weeber took over as chief administrative officer in January 2017, and said this year has been about learning and understanding the challenges faced by the community. One of those, he explained, is communication.

That recent series was not about this year, it was about last year.

“All our communications have been reactive. We’ve been doing our best to connect with the community,” said Weeber, noting that he has personally been working closely with groups like Save Skaha Park and Citizens First.

“Virtually anyone that has an issue or concern with the way the city does business, we’ve been engaging with,” said Weeber. “We are just going to be a little more proactive in communications. That is something the city hasn’t really done a good job at and we are going to change that.”

Weeber said Just The Facts isn’t intended to be a negative initiative, or adversarial, though he does intend to cite the source material they are correcting.

“It is not like we are not going to be arguing with anybody, we are just going to be releasing basic facts,” said Weeber. “If something doesn’t fall in line with the facts, we just want to make that minor correction. The vast majority of the time, everybody is pretty much on the mark.

“Sometimes there is some outlandish stuff in the letters to the editor.”

Weeber said it is part of a goal of building consistent leadership, consistent policy and consistently being straightforward with the public, not working behind closed doors.

“Those are all principles that we have adopted here and we’ve tried to demonstrate that,” said Weeber. “We’re still not doing a very good job of getting our story out. If we are doing something wrong or we are not doing a good job, I am going to say it. We are not a perfect organization, we still have a lot of work to do, and I think a big part of that is around communication.

“Just The Facts is the first step to building that relationship with the community that they have been asking for.”

The City of Penticton hasn’t had a communications officer since Mark Parker left the position in the early part of summer. Weeber said they are in a second round of trying to find a replacement, after not finding anyone with the first job posting.

“We advertised, interviewed and didn’t find anybody that was the right fit. We’ve done it again and that process is still going.”