Transit spokesman will push info, not agenda

For the first time in its 30-year existence, Kitsap Transit will employ a public information officer. You might think that’s a big deal for me, a reporter. For you, not so much.

Just the opposite. I go to the meetings. When I need to talk to somebody, I dial them up. That’s my job. Not being yours, you’re harder for the agency to reach. Even if you had time, you wouldn’t go to meetings. Transit needs to come up with other ways to engage you.

Until now, tasks normally handled by a public information person were split up. They were considered “other duties as assigned,” said executive director John Clauson.

“Right now it’s not something that’s a high priority of any one person’s job description,” he said. “We need to focus more attention on it.”

That might have been reinforced when a survey last year revealed only a minority of Kitsapers knew about a cross-Sound ferry plan the agency had been working on for years.

The going rate for a professional communications person starts at $88,000, as determined by a salary survey of like agencies, Clauson said. Intercity Transit in Olympia, a bit smaller than Kitsap Transit, starts at $75,000.

Are they adding this position now to push the cross-Sound passenger-only ferry plan, you might wonder. It crossed my mind. The transit board will decide soon whether to ask voters to fund the service. If yes, they’ll choose whether to put it on the ballot in April or November.

Upon further review, a PIO wouldn’t be plugging the plan. It’s not allowed.

“As a public agency, we can’t campaign,” Clauson said. “What we can do is provide information, as long as it’s factual. They’re not going to be a campaign manager.”

The prospective hire follows earlier marketing efforts that include a new logo and revamped website that’s more appealing and functional. Clauson holds quarterly community meetings. A website — ­— has been created to provide ferry plan information.

“There’s a lot of information that we need to share and we just need to do a better job of that,” Clauson said. “It’s very important to us to remember who owns Kitsap Transit. It’s not me, it’s the communities, and the communities have a right to know.”

Kitsap Transit plans to add two other new positions this year — operations supervisor and mechanic apprentice — and bump the ORCA coordinator from half time to full time.

Transit board member Leslie Daugs of the Bremerton City Council asked during a budget briefing whether it’s a good idea to be adding positions with the “fiscal cliff” looming. That’s where revenues are estimated to increase 3.5 percent a year while expenses rise at a 5 percent rate. Kitsap Transit could be in a deficit position as early as 2019.

Clauson said the deficit needs to be postponed through other means, such as replacing diesel buses with those that run on propane, which is cheaper.

4 thoughts on “Transit spokesman will push info, not agenda

  1. It will be interesting to see how Kitsap Transit will reorganize if the passenger only ferry (PoF) actually happens. If it does, and it is not even sure yet what or where a ferry district would be, that would free potentially 1.5 million dollars for the public transportation side of Kitsap Transit. I assume the ferry side of transit would be paid by the new taxes or fees for the PoF. Will that be a totally separate staff or will Kitsap Transit bus service and Kitsap Transit ferry service “share” staff & resources like they will for the transit and ferry board? I know the idea is to have King County ferry service run the PoF side, so what will taxpayers think of that money going out of county? It will be interesting to see when more of the Kitsap taxpayers and voters see what is on the horizon for public/commuter transportation in the area and the cost vs benefit discussion sure to come.

    1. Still not understanding why KT and the board think collecting 10.8 million annually (3/10th’s) in sales tax to only gain what they state is a 9.3 million annual benefit is a good thing. To me that is a 1.5 million loss. Especially when they are outsourcing the jobs in majority to Seattle. There is the 9.5 million KT states as one time real estate value rises but that can’t come close to covering or justifying the amount of higher level grants they are seeking but have not secured. I am sure they look at it as it’s other people’s money but in the end we are still the other people just at a different level.

      Thinking the other direction it appears maybe 1.5 million could be recaptured that is being used now to support this program if the POF program was killed and no new sales tax would be needed. That is of course if the 1.5 supporting isn’t funding restricted to only ferry usage by the funding source.

      Thanks for going to the meeting Roger, I so wanted to attend but was ill that day.

      What are your thought Ed?

  2. I imagine it would be more cost effective to build on to the existing staff/infrastructure. It is a win for Kitsap County, as it makes the commute into Seattle ever more appealing vs. north, east and south commutes into Seattle. It will attract a larger tax base to the County, which will benefit us all.

  3. So according to the headline this is an open “SpokesMAN” position? Only for “Man” apparently instead of “Spokesperson” meaning inclusive. The expectation that professional references relate a little more closely with modern times, sure would be appreciated.

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