City council has approved spending $35,000 on a communications plan for Kamloops Centre for the Arts and the referendum process and has launched online engagement.
The money will be funded from council’s contingency budget in 2019 and 2020. The annual contingency budget is $36,000. Council on Tuesday voted unanimously — 6-0 — in favour of the funding. Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian and Coun. Dieter Dudy were absent for personal reasons. Coun. Denis Walsh declared a conflict of interest, as he owns property at St. Paul Street and Fourth Avenue, across the street from the proposed arts centre, which would sit on city-owned land bordered by Seymour Street, St. Paul Street and Fourth Avenue.
City communications manager Wendy Heshka said the money will be spent on materials, including a printed mail-out to be sent to residents at a cost of between $12,000 to $15,000. The rest of the money has yet to be allocated, but will go toward audio-visual content, brochures, signage and/or mass media advertising. Heshka said the city will use as many internal resources as possible, including staff and the sign shop.
Council has expressed need for improved communications since the last performing-arts centre proposal, which was defeated by voters in a 2015 referendum. However, the $35,000 communications budget approved this week is a carbon copy of that used in the 2015 referendum.
Heshka said growth of the city’s communications department will improve communication.
“We have more human resources now, which is a really big asset,” she told KTW. “We have a new print shop and we have a brand new engagement website that really wouldn’t be offered for this project at no cost. The $35,000 fits well into council contingency and, therefore, it doesn’t take away from another service. We’ll reach more people because we have more internal assets and we’re not pulling it from a surplus. We’re not pulling it from anything but council budget, which is fitting because they’re the ones who supported it.”
Coun. Arjun Singh expressed some concern over the ability for council to advocate for the project while ensuring accurate information is communicated to the public. He put forward a motion, calling for staff to proceed with polling stations and locations for the referendum without council approval — to ensure the separation of church and state (council and staff) — as council advocates for the arts centre. That motion, however, was defeated.
Asked how the project will be communicated to the public, Heshka said the Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society and city council will be responsible for communicating the “yes” vote, while city staff will provide facts about the project and referendum. She said answers to the public won’t always put the project in a positive light.
“We just need to be really careful that we’re not trying to convince people to vote a certain way, but we are trying to convince them to vote,” Heshka said of the municipality’s responsibility in carrying out a referendum. “We want people to get out and vote in an informed way.”
City chief administrative officer David Trawin further explained that materials to be released to the public will include facts about the project and promote the referendum, but will not urge residents to vote “yes.” As such, city funds would not be allocated for any possible counter-group that may emerge in opposition of the project.
“We’re not giving money to either side,” Trawin said.
With the referendum date set for Saturday, April 4, and a communications budget allocated, the city also officially launched engagement for the Kamloops Centre for the Arts online at letstalk.kamloops.ca/KCA. There, residents can learn about the project — including reading the business case — ask questions of city staff and sign up for updates via email newsletter.