What if we could Twitter our ‘?’s to City Council?

images7My wife and I poured ourselves a glass of wine and turned on NCTV to watch the Nevada City Council meeting Wednesday night — hometown theater.

Short of setting up a Tiki bar in the back of council chambers — a money-maker in a recession—this is the most relaxing way to watch the drama unfold. You also can blog the outcome in real time.

The highlights: You can’t fight City Hall, so the outcome on disbanding the city’s finance committee was a foregone conclusion — despite some opposition. In most small-town governments, the staff directs the council, not the other way around. 

I hope a plan to form a new “citizen’s advisory committee,” as well as depend more on City Hall staff to help guide the council, works out.

But it was disturbing to see the staff errors that were corrected throughout the meeting: in the minutes, as well as a housing report. (In one case, the sales-tax rate from Measure S — common knowledge — was stated incorrectly.)

I’m all for working together, but our “public servants” need to be more careful in their work. We put our trust in them. City Hall jobs, and the benefits that go with them, are among the highest-paying jobs in a rural area.

Too often I kept hearing about how the council was a “volunteer” group, but we depend on them to be our “watchdogs” on complex matters. Some people might be offended, but you need to ask tough questions. 

We also elected our Treasurer, who sits on the finance committee. I was disappointed to see this item on the “consent agenda.” People want an open debate — without having to ask for it.

Most people attending the meeting were the regulars. Here’s a thought: What if people who watched on TV from home could “twitter” some questions to the council during the public comment period?

It would add an extra dimension — and maybe some more thoughtful dialogue — to the proceedings.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

3 thoughts on “What if we could Twitter our ‘?’s to City Council?”

  1. Jeff:

    Great idea having the public be able to comment and ask questions from home during city council meetings. In fact, at least 2-3 times in recent years I suggested we ought to find a way to do it –– and some folks thought I was joking. Coming from you, however, maybe they’ll realize that the concept is not a joke at all. It’s very doable and an idea that should be pursued.

    Steve Cottrell

  2. Jeff,

    Check out this post from a venture capitalist in NYC…I love the combination of a Twitter feed combined with a projector.

    http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2009/03/if-you-are-doing-an-event-bring-twitter-into-the-room.html

    I’m not laying bets on when we’ll do this at Sierra College…I still have some work to do to explain the value of Twitter. Our board norms call for “minimizing the use of technology in the meetings” — is that funny, or what? One day, we’ll have a little more time and I’ll make my pitch. 🙂

    Aaron

  3. And I recently heard from Bill Carlquist at NCTV that their web-streaming of Channel 16 should be in operation by mid-April. This is good news for those of us who don’t have cable (we have satellite).

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