A piece titled “Manufacturing Growth throughout Story County” will appear in the county’s Fall 2018 publication, “Our Story,” even though one of Story County’s supervisors thinks it shouldn’t be included.
“Our Story” is a quarterly newsletter of the county that is distributed to residents countywide through the Story County Sun.
Supervisor Lauris Olson said that on “philosophical terms” she doesn’t believe the article, which reports on the recent announcements of business expansions at three Story County-based businesses that will, between the three, bring in 290 new jobs, should be in a taxpayer-funded Story County publication.
“In taking on third party information … I believe we’re going against our own communications policy,” Olson said.
The debate over this article had come up during a recent meeting, when Board Chair Rick Sanders and Supervisor Marty Chitty indicated they were fine with staff moving forward and putting the article into the publication, despite concerns from Olson about the article’s timing and from Supervisor candidate Linda Murken that the article might be politically advantageous for Sanders and Chitty, who are running for re-election.
Sanders opened discussion of the matter Tuesday morning by saying that he was surprised to see the item again on the agenda, asking if Olson had new information on the subject or “are you just unhappy that it didn’t go the way you wanted?” when discussed at the previous meeting, he asked.
Olson said she was concerned that the article doesn’t align itself with the county’s communications plan, which she pointed out, clearly states that the County is to produce and share government information. “County with a capital ‘c’ is indicative here…it’s County as in Story County, not county,” she said.
Olson also produced information about what she had asked both the city of Ames and Polk County to provide concerning what they put in their newsletters and published communications. She said both clearly stated that they do not provide information about third parties. “It really bothers me that we are using taxpayer money for entities that can promote themselves…,” she said.
Chitty at one point interrupted Olson, and pointed out that the expansion of the three companies is a County matter. He reminded her that she was one of the three supervisors who voted to approve support for Burke to get its expansion project. “We were in a bidding process … you voted with us to do that … and this is something we (the County) did that had a direct impact.”
Sanders weighed in also that he believes the news about the 3M, Burke Corp. and Eby companies is about Story County, which now employs the Ames Economic Development Commission to work on economic development. Sanders also pointed out that Olson was part of a very nice picture of the three supervisors with Iowa’s governor receiving a plaque (recognizing the three companies) that now hangs on the wall in the supervisors’ board room. He noted that because of concerns about the news being politicized, “we decided to error on the side of caution … so my picture and my name will not be associated with any of this (article inside Our Story).”
Olson made a motion to remove the article and replace it with news about the county, but that motion died for lack of a second. A motion made by Chitty to go ahead with the article passed, 2-1.
Olson indicated that she isn’t done talking about matters of communications or putting them on the board’s future agendas.
She also said she was upset that she was portrayed to not wanting the County to have “good news” or “happy news.”
“That is an accusation that is certainly not true,” she said. The list of other possibilities for the publication, she pointed out, “had plenty of positive information about what is happening in Story County … among the Story County staff and Story County government … When you choose this article (on manufacturing growth) over them (the County’s employees), a message was sent to staff — ‘What you do doesn’t matter as much as (these companies).’”
Olson said she wants Story County to follow the “best practices” of the government communications industry.
Also on Tuesday, the board heard a report by Jody Eaton, CEO of Central Iowa Community Services (CICS). Right now, Story County is in the 11-county region for CICS. The presentation was made partly because another county had requested to come into the CICS, but then decided to pull out that request. Still, the presentation was an opportunity for the Board of Supervisors to learn a little about what all is considered when the region thinks about adding another county, and about how the CICS is doing.
CICS is creating a regional system designed to improve health, hope and successful outcomes for the adults in the service region who have mental health disabilities and intellectual/developmental disabilities, including those with multi-occurring issues and other complex human service needs.
Sanders noted that originally, he was opposed to regionalization of these services. “I was wrong… the fact is there has never been a time that more mental health services have been offered to just Story County than there are now.”