Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Convention Center Seeking "Specialist"to Ballyhoo Expansion
The San Diego Convention Center Corp. is seeking a full-time "community outreach specialist" who would, among other things, "develop community outreach and education programs for expansion project phases." Translation: propagandize for the convention center expansion. The job opening, which pays $42,115 annually and includes "competitive benefits," was originally posted August 20 on the job board of the San Diego branch of the Public Relations Society of America. I could not reach Steve Johnson, convention center spokesperson, to learn if the job has been filled. It is still posted. The so-called specialist would "develop and maintain relationships with business and community groups" in relation to center activities, including the expansion. The specialist would communicate with the public "via email blast, online interaction, social media, blogs, video, etc." and develop "story angles/ads highlighting [convention center] accomplishments."
This was posted about a week before Johnson called Professor Heywood Sanders, the nation's expert on convention centers, a "whack job." Sanders warns that convention centers are overbuilt nationally, and has shown how the local convention center uses distorted statistics to make its case.
The hiring of such a propagandist raises an old question about government public relations practitioners. Taxpayers will have to pay for the proposed expansion in higher taxes and fees. But taxpayers will also be picking up the tab for the outreach specialist who is trying to seduce the public into supporting the expansion. "It may be a conflict of interest, but it's standard operating procedure," says UCSD political science Professor Steve Erie. "It's a sign they are desperate -- that they don't have their ducks in order, don't have a coalition." Adds Erie, referring to critics of President Obama, "I thought Republicans were against community organizers."
Today, Mayor Jerry Sanders (no relation to Heywood Sanders), in a speech about the local economy, again pushed for the convention center expansion and lashed out at those who disagree with him on his various construction proposals.