July 04, 2005

UC Freeholders Come Bearing Gifts

Two little “gifts” were tucked into my daughter’s report card envelope last week. Actually these were promotional pieces from the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

Each one was approximately 8 X 2 inches and made of thin glossy cardboard. One piece appeared to be intended to pass for a ruler and the other a bookmark. Each of these little full color goodies had the dates, times and locations of the “Kids Kingdom”-Traveling Jubilee and “Family Movies in the Park”. Nice events, providing “free”, and I use the term free loosely because we taxpayers are footing the bill, family entertainment.

Undoubtedly part of the “branding” segment of the county’s marketing plan, the words Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders was emblazoned on each piece no less than three times. Also, taking up a full quarter of the card appeared a listing of the names of all the board members, just in case we forgot who they were. By the way, I determined this by using the handy ruler which is now attached to my fridge door held in place by the Union County magnet they gave me a couple of years back.

Now was all of this really necessary? The only thing missing here was the phrase “We’re connected to you!” At least we were spared that.

Taking a ride around the county it is noticeable that the quaint Union County Park signs which marked the entrances to our public recreation facilities for years have been replaced with what could be called billboards. Huge lettering reminds everyone that the freeholders should be thanked for making our county parks available. To my knowledge we are the only county around to make this announcement in this way. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to read “Paid for by the residents of Union County for the residents of Union County” or something similar.

Most residents are unaware about the county “Public Information Dept.” which is staffed with permanent employees who pump out press releases and pictures of the freeholder’s “good deeds” as well as an outside marketing firm paid for with tax payer money. A quarter million dollars has been paid to Media Squared of New Brunswick since May of 2004 for “professional media consulting services for the marketing of major initiatives and programs, artwork and graphic design”, this is taken from the freeholders resolutions. Seems to me they are getting a little carried away here.

Worthwhile programs, events and good deeds can promote themselves, finding a way into the media with a well written press release and by word of mouth.

County government doesn’t need to continually advertise who they are since there is only one and there is no competition for customers. Last I looked the county clerk’s office is the only place that one can register a deed or a mortgage.

So what gives?

Perhaps it is because they need to remind themselves just how “wonderful” they are. Maybe they should consider printing next to the county levy on residents’ tax bills, “Presented by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders”, that would certainly make it clear just how much they are really “Connected to You”.