CARBONDALE — Amid rumors and accusations that the city of Carbondale did not follow proper procedure when it requested services to start its recent rebranding, City Manager Gary Williams and Public Relations Officer Amy Fox said Wednesday that is not the case.
Williams said the city has formal contracting procedures when it spends more than $10,000, which is usually for public work projects like the downtown streetscape, sewer projects and sidewalk projects. There is a public notice published, invitation to bidders and the bids are opened in a public setting in front of those who submitted bids.
There are exemptions to the formal bidding process. In the case of hiring Northstar Destinations Inc., out of Nashville, Tennessee, to do the city's rebranding project, the city code says the formal bidding process is not required when the services required are for professional or artistic skills pursuant to a written contract.
Still, Williams said, it published a request for proposals for the rebranding effort on professional websites like the American Planning Assoication and LinkedIn.
“Consultants scan those sites every day,” Williams said. “The real issue is that the city is accused of not being transparent, but we are doing these things to be more transparent than we have to be. We could have went and hired anybody we wanted.”
Another issue raised in several social media circles is the idea the city spent $98,000 for the logo. The logo was released during Mayor Mike Henry's State of the City Address in December.
CARBONDALE — The time has come for both Carbondale and Southern Illinois University to boldly reimagine themselves, Mayor John “Mike” Henry sa…
Fox said the logo was only about 5 percent of the work done by the consultant.
“It was very, very small. The bulk of it was spent on the research, which was $44,000,” she said. “The project was divided into two phases. The first phase was strictly research, analyzing that research, and the results of that research.
“The second part was the creative process, and we are still in the midst of that.”
Williams said one of the biggest goals with the research portion was for driving marketing, branding and tourism for a number of years.
“It has the raw data that we will use to operationalize later to drive marketing plans,” he said, referring to the 243-page report generated by Northstar.
“It was very extensive,” Fox said. “This process began in February and we didn’t get done generating this research until the end of July.”
Former downtown advisory board member Nathan Colombo wants the city to acknowledge the negative reaction to the logo and take the steps to listen to residents.
“If they would simply acknowledge the people who do not like this and say we would like to better understand the real cross-section of the community who don’t like it,” Colombo said. “If you can spend thousands of dollars to survey the community before you make the logo, you can spend a little bit of time to survey the community after you’ve released to see what people actually think of it.”
He disagrees with the notion that several comments on a post on social media couldn't be indicative of a larger community.
“A small cross section of folks can be large enough to represent larger, broader public sentiment. When you stretch this across three comment sections or five comment sections and it's getting kicked up to a national television station to make light of,” Colombo said, “eventually, we need to evaluate if we made a mistake, because we were seeing feedback not just from a single core group but several sources.
“These posts would not have happened and the communication wouldn’t have gone out if there wasn’t a problem with this logo and tag line.”
Williams admitted the city made a mistake in the initial rollout of the logo, saying “it put the cart before the horse.”
“I think that if we had all the deliverables, the logo, and the strapline were seen in the context of a bigger marketing plan, it would make more sense,” he said. “The nature of marketing and rebranding, there is always going to be a percentage of the community that isn’t going to like it, and I think that is consistent with our findings with what has happened all over America.”
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but at least if they had all the facts of how the process went, I think that it speaks volumes,” Fox said.
Outside of the logo, the city will receive graphic designs for billboards, magazine ads, social media ads, business cards and economic development packets as part of its contract with Northstar.
The city plans to do another rollout of the logo once the consultant is completely done with all of the work. Fox said the graphics on the other deliverables are still in “draft mode.”
Colombo says he thinks something good will come out of this whole process.
“I think that this whole process — regardless of the logo and where we are now — is going to lead to positive change,” he said. “Because the logo had a negative reaction to it, people are going to be paying closer attention to it now.”