Around Chicago City Hall, PR needs its own PR rep.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports today that the city “abruptly canceled” 11 public relations contracts worth $55 million.
“We get it. We absolutely get it. We understand that it would seem absurd at a time like this to be using taxpayer funds for this kind of non-essential service,” mayoral press secretary Jacquelyn Heard told the Sun-Times.
The city already has, as the Sun-Times puts it, “an army of [in-house] media handlers” and after taking flak from reporters last fall for Chicago’s PR price tag Heard pledged not to spend another penny on public relations contracts until the city’s budget crisis ended.
And then the city did. Chicago’s Department of Environment signed a $5 million contract with firm Cultural Communications on Feb. 17, the Sun-Times reported.
What was it for? “Translation services,” Heard said.
At least one of the 11 firms claims the city stiffed them on their bill. And one Chicago Alderman—my alderman—Scott Waguespack, has crusaded against these PR contracts.
Calling the contracts “wrong-headed,” he said, “I don't think they provide any more service than the dozens of other PR people we have already in the city.”
Maybe that's true, and while PR contracts are an easy political target, Waguespack should be careful. He's an above average (rookie) city councilman known for his "independent streak" among Chicago's status quo in city hall.
In Chicago, an independent streak might hurt his chances for re-election. So let's hope Waguespack hasn't burned any bridges with the local PR community. He may need to enlist some heavy hitters to get re-elected.