Sticker shock for $500K protocol office
Anyone preparing a future City Council proposal may want to take a cue from agenda item 7B on the calendar for Wednesday night's meeting, which raised the question of creating a "Mayor's Office of Protocol."
Placed on the agenda by Mayor Laurie Gallian, at the request of professional protocol consultant Sherri Ferris, the agenda item included a proposal for a separate office to advise the mayor and city officials about "diplomatic and consular matters; plan and implement ceremonies and events of civic importance; coordinate meetings for heads-of-state, diplomats, consular offices, and delegates of foreign governments ..."
The proposed price tag for this office and its two pages of activities was estimated at between $200,000 and $500,000 a year.
Ferris was quick to point out that the office would be privately financed and supported by a "host committee" of prominent citizens eager to help promote Sonoma's image to the world.
But the information that kept reverberating through the minds of three councilmember's was the price tag.
"I'm having a real hard time understanding how an office of protocol can be justified at any amount," said Councilmember Tom Rouse.
"I'm having a little sticker shock over the cost of this," said Councilmember Ken Brown. "Right now, Tom and I are trying to figure out how to fund a swimming pool."
Councilmember Steve Barbose said he could count "just 10 events" a year that might benefit from protocol assistance.
And while City Manager Linda Kelly confessed, "I'm a down-home girl, I'm the first to admit it, I don't know what to say to foreign dignitaries," she also pointed out numerous points of potential conflict and duplication between a separate office of protocol and existing city offices and committees.
Mayor Pro Tem Joanne Sanders objected that the discussion was "going in the wrong direction," and urged the council to withhold judgment until she could gather further information.
"We need the guidance," said Sanders, "We have people coming here ... What we have in the proposal here, I think this could exist for a lot less than the amount quoted."
Gallian related her experience attending a Cittaslow event in South Korea in June. "Call me a newbie," she said, "but I saw the potential for tourism and trade ... because everyone is interested in wine country.
When all was said and done, the council voted 4-1 (with Rouse opposed) to continue the discussion at another meeting for further consideration.