You might call it Penticton’s forgotten page.
In October last year, the City of Penticton set up its For the record page, modelled after a similar page by the same name on the City of Kelowna website.
The description of For the record on the page says it is intended to provide the city’s views on issues “with so many different sources of information” in the community.
But unlike its northern counterpart — which has 23 posts since February 2016, including at least two from this year alone — the City of Penticton’s page has had just two posts.
Those two posts were just a couple of days apart and only in October last year, despite apparent direction to add further posts to the page.
In December, chief executive officer Peter Weeber wrote to Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, in an email obtained by the Western News, that information regarding the infrastructure deficit, compiled in response to a media report, “needs to be sent out on our for the record platform.”
In a phone call, Weeber pointed to an ongoing legal battle between the city and a local homeless man over panhandling tickets as an issue that should have been published on the For the record page.
Yet, neither issue made it onto the page, with the city’s response on the latter example only sent out as a news release.
The Canadian Association of Journalists said it has been seeing similar pages popping up across the country.
In one comment, a CAJ director noted that the For the record posts were “quite factual and full of the kind of information the city should be publishing on its website anyway, for all its residents to access.”
“It shouldn’t take media coverage to lead to this,” the CAJ director said, contrasting the accessibility to jargon-filled council reports.
“If the city really feels the paper published a factual error, it should seek to get that corrected,” another director commented.
Weeber pointed to a series of fact sheets on topics like taxes and budgets that the city is working on for publication as examples of further content for the page, saying the page was not directed particularly at media.
“The fact sheets are the focus of that area. So when somebody comes to us — and I get it every day, somebody comes with some colourful account of what they think is happening, and then we would be able to refer them to one of the fact sheets,” Weeber said. “It’s not designed to interact with the media. It was designed to correct misinformation if there is any.”
But corporate services manager Laurie Darcus said those fact sheets would likely go on another page, separate from For the Record, leaving just two posts still on the page, both directed at media reports.
In an October 7 email, engagement officer JoAnne Kleb wrote to Weeber that they intended to write a Facebook post announcing the page “where we clarify some of the information provided through local media.”
“I want to be very careful not to antagonize the media. They have a very important role to play,” Kleb wrote in the email. “I also don’t want to sink to the level of the letters to the editor, etc. or validate their contributions. Cooler heads will prevail.”
In a follow-up email, Kleb clarified that the letters to the editor at the time were “rather harsh.”
“My recommendation on the approach to the For the Record page was to provide more information in a way that respects the role of the media and the public’s right to comment without becoming argumentative or reacting to the harshness of the language,” Kleb said.
Both Kleb and Weeber said there has been less need, of late, for the For the Record page, since the hiring of Phillip Cooper as the city’s spokesperson.
“We didn’t have the capacity until we had Phillip in place,” Weeber said. “I think communication’s pretty effective, right now.”
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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter
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