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Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: Twitter city

Lawrence City Commission meetings aren’t the right time for Twitter users to offer their input on city business.

October 28, 2013

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Seeking public input on local issues should be a high priority for the Lawrence City Commission.

To that end city officials provide many opportunities for people to let commissioners know their opinions on various issues. Lawrence residents can write a letter or send an email or even come to the meeting and address the commissioners face to face. They should not expect to be able to express their opinions to commissioners through Twitter in the middle of City Commission meetings.

Commissioner Jeremy Farmer got a luke-warm reception to his suggestion last week that commissioners find a way to accommodate and consider comments submitted — both with names and anonymously — on Twitter during regular commission meetings. He suggested that the city might even consider adding a large computer monitor in the commission meeting room to allow a stream of comments from Twitter users to be visible to commissioners and others attending the meetings. Accommodating Twitter, Farmer reasoned, might broaden the city’s outreach perhaps to include a demographic — presumably a younger demographic — of people who don’t frequently offer feedback on commission business.

We’re all for open government, but allowing Twitter users to offer their comments to commissioners during a public meeting would be roughly equivalent to allowing people in the commission room to jump up and shout out their comments whenever the spirit moves them. It would be disruptive to the meeting and a huge distraction to those trying to conduct the business of the city.

Mayor Mike Dever suggested that rather than having Tweets projected as they are posted, the city might want to “filter” the messages and present a summary of them at some point in the meeting. That might be less disruptive, but who would decide which Tweets are worth mentioning to the commissioners, and at what point in the discussion would that information be at all useful?

As noted above, local residents have many good options when it comes to offering guidance to their elected city officials. City ordinances and most other major city decisions are considered at more than one meeting, giving residents the opportunity to voice their opinion after an initial commission discussion but before final action is taken.

Twitter can be a useful communication tool for friends, government officials, businesses and, yes, even journalists. However, there is a time and place for everything, and City Commission meetings are not the right time or place for officials to monitor and respond to people in the Twittersphere.

Comments

Seth Peterson 5 months, 2 weeks ago

140 characters to hold real discussions that could affect up to 80,000 individuals is silly.

It's a sad day when out City Commissioners expect less from our citizens than a teacher does a 2nd grade (and vice versa).

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Richard Heckler 5 months, 2 weeks ago

"Mayor Mike Dever suggested that rather than having Tweets projected as they are posted, the city might want to “filter” the messages and present a summary of them at some point in the meeting. That might be less disruptive.....

but who would decide which Tweets are worth mentioning to the commissioners, and at what point in the discussion would that information be at all useful?"

Exactly.

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Richard Heckler 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I say this is a back door move in hopes of having fewer concerned citizens show up at the City Commission Meeting. They are working too hard. Too many late hours.

I say the best option is having fewer items on the agenda per week. That would allow more time for in depth discussion that which is missing. No preferential treatment please.

Of course some could resign.

Twitter offers plenty of opportunity for voices NOT to be heard.

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Rex Hargis 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Here's an idea--if people want to have input into the meeting, they can go to the meeting.

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Marley Schnauzer 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Just look at who suggested this nonsense. Further proof he was not and is not qualified for his elected position.

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Bob Forer 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't understand the popularity of text messaging or twitter. The small keypads of the smart phones make keyboarding difficult and cumbersome. I can understand occasional use to send a brief message on the run when the recipient is not available by voice, but I find it absolutely absurd that people carry on actual ''conversations' via text messages. Truman Capote once said of Jack Kerouac's work, "that's not writing, that's typing." Perhaps, in a similar vein, it can be said, "that's not communicating, it's texting."

As far as twitter goes, I believe it would be somewhat difficult to communicate something of substance in no more than 140 characters.

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Marley Schnauzer 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I think twitter is only for total twits.

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