Cape Coral city manager to launch website Jan. 1
By DREW WINCHESTER
City Manager Gary King plans on launching his own website Jan. 1, which he’ll use to convey his “thoughts, ideas and opinions” to the public.
The website is not being designed by city staff, and will not be maintained or updated by the city’s IT Department, according to city spokeswoman Connie Barron.
Barron also confirmed the site will be linked to Cape Coral’s homepage, capecoral.net .
The site was not built using public funds, she added.
“I can confirm that there are no City funds being used to create/host this site, and no City employees are involved with the website set up,” Barron wrote via email.
Gary King was “boarding a plane for Boston” during the time of this report, according to Barron, and was unavailable for comment.
King did indicate in the winter 2010 edition of the On The Move that the website will contain “updates and information regarding the most important topics of interest for City as we move ahead, without the media spin.”
Mayor John Sullivan said he supports the idea of the website, as the media has not done a sufficient job of conveying information to the public.
The problem, Sullivan said, is that local media outlets aren’t telling an entire story while reporting, leaving out pertinent facts and information in the process.
“I don’t believe the investigative reporters are doing the kind of investigation they should. It distorts what’s really happening,” Sullivan said. “Only part of the information is getting out there.”
Sullivan said he believes anything put on the site by King will be “on the money”, but said no political messages should be allowed on the site.
King recently hired Bill Towler to examine the city’s fleet. Towler edited grassroots09, which featured news and stories that heavily favored the “Road Ahead” candidates during the election last year.
Sullivan said King never once had anything published on grassroots09, and said he has no problem with a website conveying information about the city, despite the website not being maintained by the city itself.
“As long as there’s no political message he can do what he wants to do, as far as I’m concerned,” Sullivan said. “I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with it.”
Councilmember Kevin McGrail said he has no problem with the city manager putting out a website with a “personal touch”, but would take exception to any negative or political information being shared with the public.
“The big concern is it doesn’t turn into a political tool to promote any candidates for the dais,” McGrail said. “The whole point of a city manager is to stay above politics and handle the day-to-day operations of the city in a professional manner.”
Councilmember Pete Brandt could not be reached for comment.
Along with the city’s website, facebook and twitter feeds, the city also releases a monthly newsletter from its Economic Development Office.
McGrail said those outlets, along with spokeswoman Connie Barron, should be sufficient to convey information to the public.
“I don’t understand why this wouldn’t be done in house,” McGrail said. “If it’s political, I’m going to have a problem.”
City of Fort Myers IT Director Jim Barfield said his department operates and maintains all information for the city, including their city manager William Mitchell. Barfield said that Mitchell does not operate his own independent website.
“We’re not outsourcing anything, all websites are done in house,” Barfield said. “We also use facebook and twitter to notify citizens.”
Bonita Springs City Manager Gary Price said all information in Bonita is handled directly by city staff.
He said they were also looking into ways to improve communication with the public, possibly through a citizens committee, but would not feel comfortable turning communication powers over to citizens.
“They might have an agenda,” Price said.
Michelle Frisby, public information officer for the International City/County Managers Association, said staff was “sparse” on Friday and could not offer comment.
However, according to an electronic survey conducted by the ICMA of municipalities of populations over 2,500, which was conducted in 2004, 91 percent surveyed said they did have a website.
Of those municipalities that have a website, 30.7 percent said their IT Departments handled the website, 20.4 percent were operated by the city and/or county manager.
The International City/County Managers Association’s code of ethics forbids its members from participating in “political activities which undermine the public confidence”, according to their membership rules.
Gary King’s website is CapeCoralCityManager.com, and is scheduled to go live on Jan. 1, 2011.