Does the City of Elk Grove really need to show pictures of a councilmember eating lunch during COVID19 pandemic?

Is the City of Elk Grove and the staff who manages their social media presence during this shelter-in-place using their powerful platforms to the best extent possible? Or is it delving into trivial postings for the broader political purposes of some of the councilmembers?

In perusing the Twitter platforms for other governmental entities in the Sacramento region, most, including Elk Grove, for the most part, try disseminating vital information. Let's take a look at a few examples from nearby cities.

City of Sacramento

As the region's largest municipality, Sacramento has many posts on topics ranging from unemployment benefits to health tips. Since the shelter-in-place order, and quite possibly before that, Sacramento's official Twitter account does not have tweets solely dedicated to Mayor Darrell Steinberg or any of the councilmembers.

The city's media department does retweet items from Steinberg and councilmembers, but in all cases since the start of the current state of affairs, they were posting pertinent information or thanking other entities for civic participation. Nothing retweeted or tweeted exclusively about the personal business of elected officials.  

Similarly, an examination of other nearby municipalities revealed the same practice. While many governments will post official information on occasion by the mayor of the particular city, including Elk Grove, individual tweets do not convey trivial, non-essential information about any elected official.

City of Roseville

Like Elk Grove, Roseville has featured tweets with their Mayor, but it was done so as the official spokesperson of the city council, and it was providing official, not a personal greeting. 
Below are links to Twitter feeds for nearby cities.

When it comes to Elk Grove, though, things are handled a bit differently. Consider the two tweets by the City featuring councilmembers, one of whom is facing an uncertain political future this November.

Is it imperative that residents know that Vice Mayor Steve Detrick is working from home for his day job at PG&E? Do we need to see District 1 Councilmember Darren Suen having lunch with some of his children?

During this challenging time where many families are facing uncertainty ahead, city manager Jason Behrmann ought to instruct city staff to dispense with trivial matters like what Suen is having for lunch or that Detrick is sheltering-in at his gated community abode. Likewise, Detrick and Suen, we know you don't like being out of the limelight, but please, quit bothering city staff to fulfill your self-gratification and just post your selfies on your personal social media accounts.

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2020. All right reserved.


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D.J. Blutarsky said...

The tone deafness of this is louder than the words!

For starters, I wouldn't be name dropping my employer if I worked for tried and convicted felonious public utility. Does the name San Bruno or Paradise sound familiar?

Secondly, I wouldn't be smiling at a table filled with food while being paid to work at home during this pandemic. Pretty sure Mr. Suen has some constituents who are laid off without pay and/or struggling to find where there next meal is coming from.

You can't teach empathy or natural leadership. So be it.

Atticus Finch said...

dBreaking news. Lots of people are getting paid to "work" from home and I'm using the word "work" very loosely. Mostly in the public sector unfortunately. Your tax dollars hard at "work"! A friend of mine works for Cal Trans, and he says he's getting paid to be at home with not much official business to do. A few emails and phone calls here and there. That's about it!

Could be worse. Detrick could have posted a photo of himself with a cocktail on his boat in his private lake. Suen....could be shown "working" hard for his constituents by taking online leadership and public speaking classes. Keep up the good..."work"!

Spoons and Forks said...

Maybe at the next meeting Steve Detrick can make a suggestion to amend the norms and procedures - this time to address the city's use of social media for council members political purposes.

City of Elk Grove said...

Constructive criticism is always appreciated and I'll definitely take these comments into consideration, however, I don't believe that this story captures "the whole story." Part of Suen's post is not included. The City asked all council members to provide some insight into their shelter at home experience that might resonate with our residents in an effort to reinforce that we are all coping during some difficult times, but there is some silver linings to be found in the COVID dark clouds. Councilmember Suen's post also mentioned their efforts as a family to support local dining establishments at least three times per week, an important plug to our current economy. Moreover, these posts are in addition to messages shared by the Mayor and other state, county, and local sources throughout the week that impart more information and resources. To isolate these posts to suggest that they represent the entirety of the city's public information efforts during this crisis is disheartening and disappointing to a team of public servants who have worked from home well beyond the 40 hour week each week since the onset of this emergency to keep online and social media materials updated and available for our community. Respectfully, Kristyn Laurence, Public Affairs Manager, City of Elk Grove

Elk Grove News said...

Thank you for the response. As we noted in the story, the city is conveying information.

Verbatim from the story in the second paragraph:

“In perusing the Twitter platforms for other governmental entities in the Sacramento region, most, including Elk Grove, for the most part, try disseminating vital information.”

What part of that did you not understand Ms. Laurence?

The question nonetheless remains - is it appropriate - especially compared to the social media practices of other nearby government agencies - to promote any elected official, especially those, such as Councilmember Darren Suen that are seeking reelection this year. Showing Mr. Suen noshing on a sandwich in the name of economic development is not the same as the mayor officially representing the city, either.

Are you or the person responsible for the tweet featuring Mr. Suen’s not opening up for another complaint to the Fair Political Practices Commission and yet another embarrassment for the city?
Could we not encourage dining out to support local businesses using someone other than an elected official?

This tweet gives the appearance of a blatant political advertisement for Mr. Suen on the backs of taxpayers.

As for the post featuring Mr. Suen on Twitter, it was embedded in the story in its entirety. If part of Mr. Suen's post was not included on Twitter as you say, it was something city staff failed to do, not an intentional omission.

Regarding your complaint of working more than 40 hours - be thankful you and your co-workers at city hall are not furloughed or laid-off. While many people in our community anxiously await for unemployment benefits and are relying on donations of food from the Elk Grove Food Bank, you still have the luxury of a hefty salary, taxpayer-paid CALPERS, a city-matched CALPERS, your full contingent of health benefits for you and your family and let's not forget the cushy wellness room at city hall – all from the largesse of taxpayers.

Working in the public sector never meant you were immune from working for more than 40 hours a week, especially during a crisis. That is the nature of working in the public sector Ms. Laurence.

D.J. Blutarsky said...

Not a good look from the City, staff or electeds. Public sector work is rooted in service, not "gimme the guaranteed 40-hour a week paycheck and the 'bennies."

Elk Grove is primarily a "government town", but not immune from the forces of the private sector. Be it the school district employees, State, Federal, County, special district, or local government employees, your day of reckoning is coming with the next fiscal year budgets.

With an estimated 20% unemployment rate and the main sources of sales tax revenue drying up, I would not be quibbling over EGN tweet articles. I'd be more worried about losing your next pay raise, the 3% city (i.e. taxpayer) match to your deferred compensation plan that supplements your state pension plan, and the extravagant boondoggle projects such as the animal-shelter Hilton, the waste transfer station, and District56.

This push to order takeout 3 times a week may sound good on paper, but the more I dwell on it, the more I wonder if these "public servants" are more concerned about keeping their nest feathered for next budget year?

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

It is somewhat of a surprise that Ms. Laurence was compelled to respond to a story that really would have passed into the ether.

If I am not mistaken, Ms. Laurence should have followed a chain of command. If Mr. Berhmann, as the city manager, approved her commentary, what does that say about his management of staff? Has Mr. Behrmann lost control of his subordinates, or does he not understand the ramifications of loosely managing employees?

Let's not forget Mr. Behrmann attended Councilmember Suen's political event last year. Is it coincidence Ms. Laurence's comments seemed to give aid and comfort for Mr. Suen again?

Atticus Finch said...

I thought City Hall and city council works for the taxpayers? Or is it the other way around. Perhaps City Hall works for city council? There should be no promoting of elected officials on tax payer money. They can post these images on their personal social media sites.

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