The Smoke & Mirrors Of Press Releases

It is only a press release and I should not let it bother me, but I feel compelled to highlight the smoke and mirrors of a recent politician press release.

Not much of substance typically happens at a Erie County Legislature meeting (Buffalo, NY). A typical Legislature meeting consists of resolutions honoring people who recently passed away, tabling a few local laws that have been introduced, receiving and filing some letters and passing a few symbolic resolutions that call upon the state or federal government to do something.

You can view the minutes from past leg meetings and see the agenda for upcoming meetings here. As not much substance happens at a Legislature the headline of a Lynn Marinelli press release caught my eye: Legislator Marinelli Tourism Initiative Receives Unanimous Approval.

Interested in learning what great idea of Marinelli’s received unanimous approval I read the press release. What the Legislature unanimously approved was a resolution that supported continuing the operation of the Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist. The press release stated further that “Marinelli’s initiative also supports continued state investment …for ongoing infrastructure improvements to walkways and other visitor amenities”.

So what exactly is Marinelli’s “Initiative”? It is the passage of a symbolic resolution regarding a tourist attraction that the Erie County Legislature has no say over, that supports the expenditure of state dollars.

Marinelli’s resolution is nothing but smoke and mirrors. It gives the impression that she and her fellow Legislators are doing something of importance. There is no idea contained in this “initiative” and no expenditure of county dollars, just an expression of support.

Marinelli is not the only elected official guilty of exaggerated hype in a press release but her press release is an example of how far elected officials have to stretch to make it appear that they are doing something signficant. Check out the web pages for County Legislators touting their efforts and what you see is Legislators sharing information about free rabies clinics, income tax filing assistance, civil service exams. All nice things, but nothing really of substance.

I have contacted every Erie County legislator by email on three different occasions and offered to assist in drafting resolutions regarding:

– The establishment of an independent Citizens Budget Review Commission, where members are selected by community organizations and not Legislators.

– The establishment of 3 high priority goals for each County department. Without agreed upon goals between the County Executive, Legislators and department heads, it is difficult to accomplish anything and to hold people accountable.

– The adoption of an Open Government policy, which would require taking specific steps to make County government operate in a more open and transparent manner.

Not a single legislator expressed an interest or willingness to introduce any of the above resolutions. In fact most don’t even provide the courtesy of acknowledging receipt of my email. Yet meeting after meeting time and effort is spent on resolutions that honor folks or hype “initiatives” that really aren’t.

Oh well, I feel better now that I got that off my chest. Does your local government meeting contain more fluff than substance?

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