Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Branding of Smyrna Delaware

Lately I have been ranting on general stuff that just irritates me.  Like Cell phones, healthcare and the famous President Obama.  Today however I want to talk about a local topic.  Specifically Smyrna Delaware Politics.  Smyrna Delaware sits just North of Dover and South of Middletown.  I went to the town website which I have linked to here in this article and came across the general information page which includes a map of where Smyrna is situated.

Now before I get started on the topic of the day.  I just want to make a few statements:
  • I love Smyrna, Delaware 
  • Smyrna is a great place to raise a family
  • The people of Smyrna are great.
Having said this, there is a side of Smyrna that quite frankly is, for a lack of a better term, IDIOTIC.  I am specifically referring to the Government makeup of Town Hall. (Thought I was getting off the Political soapbox didn't you).  

The Smyrna Town Council consists of an elected mayor and six elected council members.

In order to adequately address the issues of Smyrna and its residents, there are several standing and ad hoc committees. These committees will consist of at least one council member and at least one citizen, appointed by the mayor.

For our purposes today, I want to specifically discuss the Business Development committee.

On the first Thursday of each month, the Business Development committee of Smyrna meets at 8:30 am in the Town Hall.  The public is welcome and on an average meeting we have about 5 visitors sitting in on the meeting.  During the meeting the visitors are allowed to voice their opinions on the topic at hand.  (You can imagine the amount of opinion I voice.)

The topic of Town Branding came up about 2 months ago.  In Smyrna's race to be like Middletown (yes I said it), where as Middletown hired an agency to 'Brand' their town.  So this prompts Smyrna to begin the race to catch up and 'Brand' Smyrna.  Here is where the lunacy begins.  Well I call it lunacy, but Crazy, stupid, irresponsible, or any similar word works here.  They feel that this branding is so important that they are having public roundtable discussions for branding suggestions which on the surface appears to be just ego's getting in the way of sound judgement.  However here is the rest of the story:

During the last meeting October 4th 2011 the Mayor, Pat Stombaugh, stated that the town has a deficit of about $500,000.  The town decided to cut their budget and stop funding anything until the shortage could be eliminated.  So after cutting department budgets, including the Business Development's small budget, the town is now about $40,000 short.

After having announced this at the meeting we then heard a presentation from an advertising company to place an ad in a Kent County book at a cost of $1,200.  The business development committee voted and approved the go ahead with a recommendation to the finance committee.  Which later in the week they approved the funds (Oh it gets even better).

The Committee then talked about the Branding efforts, which at this point I stood up and asked how much would this cost the town.  (I'm glad you asked) The upfront cost for the company to come up with the branding idea for our town is $7,500.  Now there is one grant from the the State I believe for $3,750 and another $500 grant from a local town organization.  Making the total cost to the town $3,250.  This apparently was approved in a previous meeting (I must have been absent).  Now this money is not the total cost of this Branding effort.  Once the town has the final brand logo, we must start changing all the signs, letterhead, vehicle stickers and town literature.  So the cost to the town will far exceed the $3,250 for the idea of the brand.

So I ask you, "Does this make any sense?"  Just the initial cost to the town will be $4,450 (Cost of the Brand plus cost of the Ad) which happens to be about 10% of our total deficit in the budget.   So, I don't know, let me start thinking outside of the box here.  Perhaps we should take that $4,450 and supplement our town budget to become solvent before we stroke the egos of the Council and town manager.

Now here is what will really happen.  The town will once again raise the electric rates, causing a hardship on all the business' in town (because we pay the highest rates in town) which of course is not 'business friendly'.

So for those of you interested, the town of Smyrna would like to cordially invite you to a round table discussion about the 'Branding of Smyrna'  I am, unfortunately, unable to attend.