First Selectman Plans To Improve Communications from Town


Town Hall in New Canaan. Credit: Michael Dinan


Saying the town has failed in the past to communicate with citizens, New Canaan’s highest elected official announced last week that the municipality will issue press releases on matters such as approved contracts and fee increases.

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said that he is calling on department heads who come forward with spending requests to prepare draft releases that his office may send out individually following formal votes of the Board of Selectmen, or in one single summary report.

“It’s amazing that I didn’t think about this earlier, but I finally realized that the reason we don’t communicate well is there is no standard or pressure on people to do so,” Moynihan said during a Feb. 21 media briefing in his Town Hall office. “So this way, if want something approved by the Board of Selectmen, attach a press release. We [the office of the first selectman] will decide whether to issue it.”

Those at the briefing included representatives from Patch and Hearst Connecticut.

Examples of news items that would go into press releases could include votes on the municipal budget, proposed new fees for Waveny Pool permit-holders and changes to Town Hall hours of operation, Moynihan said.

“The reality is, the public wants the news and the government actually does things that affect their daily lives, like we changed the Town Hall hours and… we did it because the employees actually like the idea,” Moynihan said. “But the public is affected. When they show up at 4:30 or 4:15 and they say, ‘I didn’t know you had new hours’—it helps for the press to disseminate that news accurately.”

The first selectman said part of the impetus for the communications initiative are changes in the local media landscape that have brought with them reductions in staffing and coverage. According to Moynihan, a former print newspaper editor in the town had called for the government to issue press releases in the past because, the editor told him, there wasn’t time to cover all meetings.

Many larger towns, such as Greenwich, do issue their own press releases, Moynihan said, and he noted that the New Canaan Board of Education has a full-time position dedicated to communications. 

The press release initiative is timely, he said, in that New Canaan is planning a re-launch of its municipal website in the spring—one priority of the Technology Advisory Committee that Moynihan conceived and helped form last year.

“We are going to launch a new website in April and I want action items that are newsworthy to the public to be in the news column,” he said, referring to one section of the planned new website. 

On the current version of the municipal website, bulletins from government agencies are posted in a banner across the top of the homepage as well as in a ‘News and Events’ section that sits at the bottom of the homepage, though it is not updated frequently. 

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