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LETTER: We rely on the media to stay informed

letter-sta

Most people these days have very busy lives filled to overflowing with work and family commitments. This is especially true now we are in the grips of dealing with COVID-19.

This leaves us little or no time to focus on the details of our City’s politics or operations. Yet city politics and operations impact everything about our decision to live in St. Albert – our roads, our traffic, our buses, our schools, our parks, our recreation facilities, our sports facilities, our utility services, our land developments, City managing COVID-19, etc., and of course our taxes.

So how do we stay informed on all the complex issues that affect us so much? We rely on the media, largely the Gazette and its reporters, to follow the activities at city hall and administration, to do the research, ask the tough questions directly to the people in the know, summarize the facts and report on the details in a timely, clear manner so we, the residents and readers, can quickly stay informed and engaged.

The recent direction that all the Gazette's requests for information should be funneled through the communications department should be very concerning to all residents. The communications department may now be a delay and bottleneck in getting info directly from the source, the responses to the Gazette may be filtered, watered down, massaged and spun to the City's advantage.

I fear we will lose valuable insight to the detailed working of city hall and administration, work that we the taxpayers pay for. Many residents saw this firsthand five months ago when the Municipal Utility Corporation was being proposed.

Thankfully that proposal, which would have had major, dire financial and tax implications to us all, was defeated. At that time, the city administration and some council members were openly critical of the unbiased factual reporting done by the Gazette.

I hope this proposal to funnel all requests to the communications department and to shut down the Gazette's direct access is not in reaction to that. We have a right to know what's going on at the city even when it's bad news, like the cost to widen St. Albert Trail North more than doubling from $14 million to $38 million (for just phase 1).

I hope our city council, that we voted for, directs administration (after the COVID-19 emergency is over) to open up direct access to the Gazette and its reporters for all issues. Failing to do so makes St. Albert look like a dictatorship where only “news” favorable to administration is provided to the media and in turn the voters, taxpayers and readers of the Gazette.

Mike Killick, St. Albert