Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Budget Cuts Don't Include Mailings; Budget-Slashing Council Member Clark Firmly Supports Newsletters

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Budget Cuts Don't Include Mailings; Budget-Slashing Council Member Clark Firmly Supports Newsletters

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL

Though the Jacksonville City Council has reduced spending in recent years on certain mailings to constituents, one of the body's most fiscal conservatives spent $3,600 last month mailing a newsletter to residents of his district.

Last summer, as the council's president, Richard Clark led the call to reduce government spending. However, Clark said the newsletter he sent to 8,600 homes in June is a necessary expense that the council should be doing more of, not less.

"It's one of the single most important things I can do to communicate with the constituency in my district," he said. "I get more people calling, more people stopping me in the grocery store thanking me for the newsletter."

Clark, one of 14 district council members in the body of 19, was the only council member to use taxpayer dollars to send a newsletter in the past three years.

The other district council members write columns in community publications and hold town hall meetings as a means of communicating with constituents. The town hall meetings are generally publicized through postcards that also are paid for using taxpayer dollars, but cheaper than a newsletter.

The council's postcard spending has also decreased in recent years.

During the 2007-08 fiscal year, $5,530.90 in postcards were ordered. The next year, $1,804.50 was spent on postcards.

So far, the council has spent $1,012.90 on postcards for the 2009-10 fiscal year that ends in September.

Councilman Warren Jones said Clark told him several months ago that there was money in the budget if he wanted to send a newsletter, but it was never a habit he embraced.

"I try to attend community meetings in the areas I represent and that is how I communicate with them," Jones said. "I don't have a problem with it, though."

CUTTING COMMUNICATION

Generally speaking, council members' town meetings are focused on specific issues in specific neighborhoods. That means hundreds, not thousands, of postcards are usually mailed each time.

"In my opinion it's more effective and you're giving folks information that's relevant to that particular neighborhood," Jones said.

Several years ago, Mayor John Peyton discontinued two magazines that were used to communicate with employees and the general public. Misty Skipper, the mayor's spokeswoman, said saving money was the bottom line.

"There was a concentrated effort throughout the executive department to severely limit and reduce printed material," she said. "If it is information that could be communicated electronically in a similar fashion and manner, then that is something that should be done."

Clark talked tough during last year's budget talks, repeatedly saying the city government needed to tighten its belt and spend less.

He led the Finance Committee in eliminating money for special events like the Veterans Day Parade, reducing services for senior citizens and cutting the Inspector General's Office. …

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