LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk
Commissioner floats idea of City Commission meetings including comments from Twitter users
#LawrenceCityCommission. #LongMeeting. #OMGthey'restilltalking.**
No the # sign isn't me trying to bait you into playing some tic-tac-toe. It is, of course, the symbol for a hashtag on Twitter. And the three listed above are my early guesses at popular hashtags, if Lawrence city commissioners follow through on an idea to invite Twitter users to start making comments during their weekly Tuesday evening meetings.
If you are like me and know more about hashbrowns than hashtags, you may be a bit lost here. A hashtag is simply the odd little symbol that is used on Twitter to denote a particular topic, and it allows users to easily search for that topic.
At least one city commissioner would like to see Lawrence City Commission meetings become a hot topic on Twitter. Commissioner Jeremy Farmer has raised the idea of adding a large computer monitor in the meeting room at City Hall. During the weekly commission meetings, the monitor would stream comments from Twitter users who want to make a comment about something that is going on during the meeting.
Farmer said he came up with the idea when he recently had to miss a City Commission meeting due to illness. He watched the meeting on TV from his home, and also started engaging a few people via Twitter during the meeting. Farmer said he thought the idea of incorporating a Twitter feed into the city's weekly meeting would broaden the city's outreach, and perhaps change the demographic of the people who frequently give feedback to the commission.
We'll see if the idea goes anywhere. Mayor Mike Dever expressed some enthusiasm for the idea when Farmer raised it at this week's meeting. The other three commissioners didn't object, but did raise some concerns that it may be too distracting.
Dever also said that perhaps the city would want to "filter" the comments, meaning that they would not be shown live but rather a City Hall staff member would monitor them and then present a summary of them at some point in the meeting.
It will be interesting to see if this idea goes anywhere. Some questions come to mind:
— If commissioners decided to go with a filtered approach, who is the gatekeeper that does the filtering, and what criteria will be used to determine if a comment is worthy of being passed along to the commission?
— If comments aren't filtered, and are live streamed on a screen for both commissioners and audience members to see, could that get awkward? Picture a potential new industrial client coming to town and seeking a tax abatement or some other type of incentive at City Hall. I can certainly imagine what some anonymous Twitter users may post on the subject. If they're posted live and unfiltered, it certainly could leave visitors in attendance an interesting impression of Lawrence.
— Would the Twitter comments — which due to the nature of Twitter must be limited to 140 characters — be considered official comments that would be part of the City Commission's official minutes? Meeting minutes may finally become more interesting to read.
— If commissioners allow Twitter comments, does that mean commissioners are going to start accepting anonymous comments in general as part of their City Commission meetings?
Currently, the main ways to provide an official comment at a City Commission meeting is to step to the lectern, give your name, and then say your piece, which usually is limited to four minutes. Or, you can submit a signed letter or email before the meeting.
Twitter accounts don't have to be anonymous, but they certainly can be. (Fake Twitter accounts also are quite the rage.) If commissioners take an action that makes it easier for people to comment anonymously during their meetings, I will be surprised. That's in part because I know some city commissioners frequently lamented the formerly anonymous nature of the comment section of LJWorld.com in conversation with me. People argued to me that the anonymous comments produced a bad atmosphere for discourse. Of course, LJWorld recently changed its policy on anonymous commenters.
So, maybe now is a good time for City Hall leaders to start this. I bet you they can find a few anonymous commenters looking for an outlet.
I'll keep my ears open for any word that the idea is moving forward. I'll also be listening for an offshoot of the idea: Commissioner and staff comments must be limited to 140 characters.
In other news and notes from around town:
• After a few slow weeks, there's some commercial real estate sales of note, according to the latest filings with the Douglas County Register of Deeds office.
It did not take long for the old Vantuyl Motors used car lot along Sixth Street to sell. According to courthouse filings, a company led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton has purchased the property at 542 Colorado St., which is basically at the corner of Sixth and Colorado. If you still are having a hard time picturing the site, it is in between Jayhawk Pawn and the Lawrence Feed and Farm Supply store. (Don't tell me you don't know where the feed and seed store is. Don't we all have 4-H pigs to feed?)
Allison Vance Moore with Lawrence's Colliers International represented the buyer in the transaction, and she tells me that a limousine company is slated to go into the spot. At the moment, there's no plans for new construction at the site, which mainly just has a parking lot and a small A-Frame building that housed the used car office, but that may change in the future. Kelvin Heck, with the Lawrence Colliers office, was the listing agent.
Moore also handled the sale of a piece of property near the Wal-Mart on Sixth Street. According courthouse records, RCCH, LLC has bought the vacant piece of ground at 4930 Overland Drive, just north of Sixth and Wakarusa. The property recently was rezoned to accommodate an office building. Moore represented the seller in the transaction, and said she did not have information on the type of office use slated for the property.
It appears, though, that the buyer is out of Tonganoxie. According to records with the Secretary of State's office, RCCH, LLC, lists its address as 1196 Tonganoxie Road in Tonganoxie. That's a commercial building that, according to a website listing, houses a sales office for a building materials company and perhaps other businesses as well.