Tuesday, March 24, 2009

When what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander! Does Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz and his Council tweet?

Photo of Mayor David Miller on CP24 call-in show from twitpic.com
While the Mayor Twitters away, city staff find site restricted at work
March 23, 2009 by Barry Hertz Filed under:
Mayor David Miller,city hall,Twitter

Dave Bowden

National Post

More than 4,000 people were updated yesterday morning after Mayor David Miller returned from his daily jog. But because of restrictions preventing access to social networking sites, most of the city’s 46,000 employees were barred from learning of their boss’s waterfront jaunt.

“Great run this a.m.,” the Mayor wrote on his Twitter Web site. “Waterfront magnificent today. Makes me glad I registered for the Scotiabank half-marathon in the fall.”

The city barred most of its staff from social networking site Facebook in 2007 when a review by auditor general Jeff Griffiths found that it was one of the staff’s most visited Web sites.

Twitter, the latest trend in social networking, has since joined its restricted ranks.

However, the Mayor, the 44 city councillors and their staff have carte blanche online, which allows those who choose to update sites like Twitter and Facebook as often as they like.

Mr. Miller has become famous as of late for his frequent “tweets,” using Twitter to post online updates about everything from his son’s peewee hockey tournament to proposals at committee meetings.

Fellow councillors Denzil Minnan-Wong, Adam Giambrone and Joe Mihevc also take part.

Mr. Mihevc defends councillors’ use of social networking, despite staff’s inability to access the sites, calling Twitter “a tool that allows us to take the pulse of the residents in the city we represent.”

“We are the networkers,” he said. “We bring the community into the business of city hall and the business of city hall out into the community. So, we need to be able to access the technologies that allow us to do that and Twitter does that.”

While Twitter and its ilk provide councillors with the means to connect to an increasingly tuned-in constituency, Mr. Mihevc said most city staffers need not tweet at work.

“By and large, that’s frankly not what we want them doing,” he said.

Councillor Rob Ford, who opts not to take advantage of social networking, said the city’s restrictions don’t extend far enough. Rather than an asset, he considers the sites to be distractions from council’s duty.

“I don’t see how Facebook or Twitter can get your garbage picked up or your trees pruned or your potholes fixed,” he said. “I don’t know what purpose it serves. I just don’t see how it benefits the taxpayer.”

Councillors already have enough opportunities to take the pulse of the city, he said, none of which involve informing constituents of their workout routines.

“I get at least 50 to 70 phone calls a day, over 200 e-mails a day and a few faxes. I personally don’t know how [councillors’] staff has the time to be playing on Facebook,” he said.

Mr. Mihevc admitted that Twitter is “highly superficial,” but said it’s important for councillors to acclimatize themselves to the changing ways in which citizens interact.

He accused Mr. Ford of being behind the times in not taking part in the trend.

“He doesn’t have any real technological expertise ... so he doesn’t want to do it,” Mr. Mihevc said.

Mr. Ford, for his part, said he has no problem living in the analog world. “It goes back to the old fashioned way of doing politics: ‘What’s your phone number, what’s your address?’ I’ll go to your front door to serve you,” he said.


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