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Phoenix mayor to clarify new media-contact policy

Mayor Vicki Bear defends the effort to provide media with 'accurate information'

PHOENIX ' A memo is expected today clarifying a recently established city policy for providing information to local media.

The policy came under fire this week when recently elected Mayor Vicki Bear notified the Mail Tribune and Ashland Daily Tidings that she would be the sole spokeswoman and that city staff should not be contacted for interviews.

While the directive did not specifically mention council members, Bear said in an interview that any member of the media has every right to ask the council or myself questions, but the council will not comment because we are focusing the information we provide.

When asked to comment, several council members acknowledged their concerns. Council President Carlos DeBritto supported the directive fully but agreed some issues might need to be brought up with Bear.

Bear said Wednesday that city staff and department heads would not be prohibited from speaking to the media on issues included in public records but that she preferred to be contacted first to direct reporters to the best source.

— Councilman Steve Schulman, also new to city government, told the Ashland Daily Tidings that he will propose a resolution to lift the no-talk directive at Monday's council meeting.

We didn't just shoot ourselves in the foot, he told the Tidings of the policy. We shot ourselves in the head.

Schulman said he had the support of two other council members in adding his resolution to the meeting agenda.

He said that about a month ago, the council and mayor discussed speaking with one voice on negotiations for a potential Home Depot store, but he didn't know it would apply to all city business.

Bear didn't know why Schulman would think that.

I believe it was made clear that it was for all consensual decisions by the council, said Bear. If he's saying it's not a good idea he should have said it then at the meeting.

Bear said Wednesday that the policy, which she drafted, was agreed upon Jan. 31 at a workshop by DeBritto, Helfrich, Schulman and Council vice president Dean Martin. Councilmen Otto Caster and the recently resigned Harold Burks didn't attend.

News that some council members were challenging the directive frustrated Bear, who said she was merely following what she believed to be the council's wishes to ensure the media received accurate information.

Bear said she's done nothing out of line.

I wouldn't have changed anything except that in hindsight people have come forward like the press and said what about this and what about this, Bear said. I would just say that challenges do come up — so let's fine-tune it. That doesn't mean the decision that was initially made was incorrect.

But we're still going through some growing pains and getting to know each other. Given that half the council is brand new, I think were doing a bang-up job.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com