A modest proposal: dressing up the Address

(4th in a series of modest proposals)

Gadfly is a shy guy, doesn’t like spectacle (wink, wink, to you-know-who-you-are), spent his academic life with the American Puritans and Pilgrims (“plain people”), distrusts politicians who live to talk (Stephen Crane called them “wind demons”), but, curiously, he wishes he heard more from Mayor Donchez.

Gadfly means no disrespect, but the Mayor does not speak much at “Mayor report” time during Council meetings, and I remember thinking it took me a while to recognize his Donchezvoice. From the Gadfly observation post in the cheap seats, the Mayor looks like a man who doesn’t waste words. And that is good, very good.

But, still, Gadfly wishes he heard more from the Mayor. At least, at times.

The “State of the City” address is coming up: this Thursday, March 7, 7:30AM, Arts Quest.

Gadfly was not Gadfly last year at this time, and he remembers that the address was over before he heard about it. And that didn’t seem right.

It seemed to me that there really wasn’t a lot of coverage by the media. I even had to dig down a layer or two on the City web site to find the text (it was subsequently moved to the Quick Links on the top page). The accompanying video is poorish quality (and mostly slides), seemingly recorded from within the audience at a distance. The Morning Call had a one-minute interview with the Mayor that felt rushed and competing with collateral noise. To me, the Mayor understandably looked kind of uncomfortable in that squeezed situation.

Just didn’t seem good. Not first-class. There was lots good and positive in the address itself, but, to me, the medium seemed to diminish it. Here was the highlight speech of the year, and it did not seem – to Gadfly – to have the highlighting it deserved. And the Mayor deserved.

Gadfly feels that this is the occasion for the Mayor to strut his stuff proudly in a more widely distributed and visible way.

For the “State of the City” address is hosted by and delivered to the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce: “The Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce is comprised of approximately 750 Bethlehem based businesses that are members of The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.”

Mayor State of City

Now Gadfly realizes how important business and businesspeople are to the quality of life in a city. But he is by nature and nurture a populist.

And asks.

Why is the “State of the City” addressed – or addressed only – to businesspeople?

Why not to “the people”?

As writing teacher, Gadfly used to stress that job #1 was to consider your audience. Who is your audience? Whom are you writing for? Different audiences demand different content and different delivery.

This Chamber event costs $99 to attend. Gadfly would like to attend. Nothing like being there. But that’s too much. And too much for the majority of “the people.”

And Gadfly wonders how differently tailored the address would (have to) be to an audience of “the people.”

The “State of the City” address might well (need to) be different delivered to businesspeople at Arts Quest over breakfast than to Southsiders on bleachers and folding chairs in Donegan School at dinner time.

Symbolism is meaningful.

So Gadfly’s latest modest proposal is to find ways to better engage the general public in the “State of the City” address and to think how to significantly improve the means of transmission and distribution.

2 thoughts on “A modest proposal: dressing up the Address

  1. Here is a thought about this event. Why not do it Town Hall where it can live streamed? Then it can be watched live and stored on the City’s website with a link for anyone who wants to view it. And, for FREE!

    How many City officials will attend, pay their $49 or $99 whatever the cost, and then submit it to the City for reimbursement? That is just plain wrong that Bethlehem taxpayers should be on the hook for any costs associated with a speech to which they should have unfettered access. And, at $49 (which is the cost several people have quoted to me who won’t be attending), that’s one heck of an expensive breakfast!

    We go to the Hotel Bethlehem’s Sunday brunch several times a year, and you’ll get a far better selection of food at much less the cost.

  2. Thanks Gadfly – agree 100%! I came across last year’s address (by accident/happenstance) on the city website and I was stunned to learn all the news he shared (I see as I’m typing this that you also have it linked on your blog :).

    I’m guessing the venue/audience was changed to the Chamber in response to low interest/low attendance, but I agree it’s time to rethink how to share the news. Can we think, “get a better quality video” and make available to view, maybe at the Library – or “get a decent audio” and make it a podcast (hey, the Library has a new set-up for making podcasts). Either/both could be available on the city’s website and social (in fact, all the city departments’ different social accounts should push it out, for better distribution). And – radical thought – include a QR code to link to audio/video with a short article in the next (boring/boring-looking) city newsletter.

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