So now we know the real reason why the city hired a big city firm to look after its communications needs despite the availability of high-quality local communications talent, In an article our CAO is quoted as saying “I’ve seen the (company’s) background and it’s significantly sophisticated.”
Sophisticated? Really? Is that what we need? Consider the Wiktionary definition of the word sophisticate: Make less natural or innocent; practice sophistry; change the meaning of, or be vague about in order to mislead or deceive; alter and make impure, as with the intention to deceive; make more complex or refined.
To make it even more stark, the word sophisticate is derived from the Greek word sophist, the meaning of which is one who reasons with clever but fallacious arguments. The modern equivalent of this is “spin doctoring” Ń the use of disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics to influence public opinion (Wikipedia).
Now I will agree that another loose definition of a sophisticate is a worldly wise person. However, in today’s highly mobile and connected world, one does not have to live in the big city to be worldly wise. If that was what our council wanted, there is abundant local highly qualified talent that would have been able to do an excellent job. If our city council truly wanted to reach out to its constituency to share knowledge, improve understanding and promote engagement, I believe they would have tapped into this local talent pool.
However, if their communication goals were to make things seem what they are not and to manipulate public opinion, then I guess it’s not surprising that they would hire a big city sophisticate to help them spin their messages, knowing that our local communications talent would have trouble with such shady practices.
We can hardly blame our new CAO, whose job it to follow the policy instructions of council, who then hung her out to dry by saying it was her decision. Knowing this is where their values are, perhaps it’s a good thing for them that none of our local communications experts were hired.
With municipal elections looming, I think our citizens should be very interested in the intentions and the ethics of our council as illustrated by this decision.