Providence City Council hires press secretary
By: Rebecca Turco
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Providence City Council hired a press secretary in hopes of increasing transparency, though some are questioning if this is the best use of funds, since the city is already $5 million in debt from last fiscal year.
"I don’t think you can go and hide under your desk and hope it’ll all go away,” explained Cyd McKenna, the council’s chief of staff. “I think that’s the time when you really need to drum it up, get out there, bring tools out there and get working on what can be done to grow the economy.”
The $55,000 a year press secretary is one of two new positions the city council has made, aiding in the budget’s increase of more than $160,000. The other position is for an administrative assistant, with a $47,000 salary.
"I don’t think we should be hiring new individuals for newly-created positions that frankly might not add a lot of value to what we do in the council office,” countered Councilman David Salvatore (Ward 14). He said the work of communicating with the taxpayers is what the councilors should be doing themselves anyways.
The council has done without a press secretary for more than a year. McKenna said the new position will be a positive for the city. “It’s not a fluff position where you’re just sitting there spinning information trying to make us look good, it has nothing to do with that,” she explained. “It’s really about getting our initiatives out to the public so that people can interact with how we can help them grow the economies in the neighborhood.”
Salvatore, however, feels now is the time to be pinching pennies. “We shouldn’t have an open checkbook and hire folks for the sake of filling positions,” he said. “We have to manage our budget responsibly.”
Meanwhile, the mayor is completely staying out of the matter. “That’s the city council’s decision,” he told ABC6 News.
Michaela Antunes has been hired as press secretary. The Rhode Island native previously managed communications at the Hope Club, where she was instrumental in bringing Woody Allen’s film Irrational Man to film in Providence.
© WLNE-TV 2015