History, politics, people of Oly WA

Driving the local in civic dialogue

Walter Neary, Lakewood’s blogging city councilman, conducted an experiment via twitter and facebook and got no comments from the locals:

The news was that the city of Lakewood’s collection of traffic fines is up 40 percent for the first three months of 2009 compared with the first three months of 2008, for total of about $200,000 more. I have to say, I didn’t get a lot of feedback, but what I got was very high quality.

I have to tell you … I was very impressed with the points of view.


and there’s a BUT

Not a single one of these folks lives in Lakewood.

So … great views. Great Internet exchanges. Zip interaction with Lakewood.

A simple solution could be to create a facebook account for “city councilman” Walter Neary and only accept relationships with your constituents. It could be made semi-public so anyone could see your information and what is going on on your wall, but only friends could comment. It would also be separate from a personal account, which would make it easy to divide from personal stuff.

Or, in the long term, I wonder if something like this would work:

I’ve been toying around with an idea in my mind, a sort of super public comment tool for state government on down. Each level of government in Washington at some point has a need for public comment. It would be interesting to create a system online where a citizen could create a user profile using their voter registration (or some stand in for folks who aren’t registered) and then see open public comment processes in the jurisdictions they reside in.

So, in my case, I’d see public comment for the city of Olympia, Thurston County, the local PUD and port and the state of Washington.

I’d be able to post comment to any of the open processes and either have it archived for whatever public official will review the comment or immediately accessible to other users so they could comment back on my comment.

Of course, normal rules like not being able to overuse the system (three comments a week, for example), not being rude and not using particular language, would apply.

For this system, the important thing would be to segregate people into public comment processes that they actually are involved in. So, keeping Kitsap residents from commeting on an interesting issue in Renton would be a priority.


  1. Unknown

    Those are some good ideas. I’ll dive into FB and see how such an account might work. It has felt very odd leaving political updates in an account that includes old college and grade school buddies. Segregating accounts might be a grand idea.

    I like your broader idea as well, maybe for a newspaper to set up. It’s not so much that I don’t want to hear from people in other cities about a topic, because by definition almost any feedback is good, but that I do want to make sure Lakewood residents feel their feedback is important.

  2. Anonymous

    All this supposes a constituent has access to the technology to make electronic communication available. It also supposes a level of fluency and comfort with ever changing communications technology.

    I am not a Luddite. I like that technology is helping in political communications. (I’m using it right now) but I fear as it is embraced the old, poor and technologically less apt get marginalized further. And there is nothing in the brave new electronic world that sit down communications will ever replace.

    These are good ideas. Just don’t allow them to be the only ideas. Laurian

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