Charlotte City Council: Don't tweet while you meet

Twitter can be fun. It can also be a huge time suck. Seriously, like anything else, to make it work you have to dedicate time to it. I don't use a blackberry. I have no need for one and don't plan on getting one. I don't plan on taking my phone out to the garden to text to Twitter, "Just pulled weeds for 2 hrs. Back sore." Who the hell cares, right?

My first tweet was April 10, 2008. I'm down to one or two tweets every few days. I guess it's just not my thing.

What has been fun about twitter is watching it catch on among others, seeing how excited they get with their new toy knowing that soon many of them will spend less time on it than I do. It's fun to watch rather serious adults twitterize their language. See, how easy that was?

Recently, several members of the Charlotte City Council set up accounts on Twitter. Nancy Carter, Anthony Foxx, Andy Dulin, John Lassiter and Warren Cooksey are all tweeting to varying degrees. None of them are providing earth-shattering information.

After subscribing to them I noticed Anthony Foxx was tweeting during a city council meeting. I called my mother who happens to sit next to him and asked her if she had noticed him using his blackberry during the meeting. Unfortunately, mom was no help. She said if Anthony was using his blackberry he wasn't distracting others. Good for him, and he may very well have been posting his tweets during breaks, but if half the council is leaving the meeting at various times to go post a tweet we've got a problem. If they're averting their attention from speakers and discussions to post a tweet we've got a problem. What's next, ipods and hand-held video games?

I wasn't the only person who noticed the arrival of Charlotte City Council members on Twitter. Julia Oliver at the CharO noticed as well.

For a minute at Monday's council meeting, Councilman Warren Cooksey appeared to be transmitting code.

“The hashtags are clt dash cc and goat debate zero nine,” he said to the television cameras, before leaning back in his chair, smiling.

“What?” said Councilman Michael Barnes.

“It went over our heads, Mr. Cooksey,” said Mayor Pat McCrory.

“Oh, the Twitterers know,” Cooksey said.

And, thus, what had been an underground phenomenon officially burst onto the wonky scene of Charlotte city government.

Cooksey is one of four council members who use Twitter – a microblogging service started in 2006 that has grown to an estimated 4 million users – to send out short blasts of information to people who have signed up to “follow” them electronically. The messages, or tweets, are limited to 140 characters.

The Twitterers know? Oh good Lord! I guess Cooksey was so proud he'd mastered a new language he just couldn't wait to share. But, was it right for Warren Cooksey to transmit his hash tags on the public's time and dime? Can't he think of a better way to use our tax dollars? Seriously, requiring tax payers to pay for him to promote his Twitter account is just plain wrong. (Sorry, just wanted to see what it felt like to pretend I'm a Republican who bitches, whines and moans about taxes. What a horrible feeling. Please don't let me do that again.)

Hundreds of thousands of Charlotte residents are relying on these people to pay attention, debate, discuss, decide and vote to maintain and improve life in Charlotte. The world can wait for their tweets until after the job is done.



You are so right! Who cares?

And if elected officials are twittering during meetings, they should be ashamed. It's an insult to the voters if they are doing that. It's the same as taking out their cell phone and having a conversation with someone during the meeting! Their full attention should be given to what is being said AT the meeting.

And speaking of insulting the voters, it has been observed that at least two Union County Commissioners are looking down most of the time during the public comment portion of meetings. I don't know what they are looking at -- whether it's their manicure or their cell phones or blackberries -- but I don't think it's too much to ask that they show some respect and give the speaker at least the appearance of being interested in what is being said.

Sweet Union Dem

Disagree, with caveats

If a city council member can send out a tweet to tell people that something interesting is happening and that they should turn on their TVs and get more involved in the governmental process, I'm fine with that. If a campaign or personal assistants are sending out candidate tweets during a meeting, I'm fine with that. I'm also fine with anything that keeps members awake during meetings, because after sitting through a 7 hour school board meeting last Tuesday with 150 minutes of public comment that was almost monotopical, I wish that there had been a meta conversation I could have read about what people were really thinking.

I don't think Councilman Warren Cooksey was doing anything nefarious, and he was not promoting his specific twitter account (even if that ¶ was tongue in cheek). On a recent Charlotte area survey, too many participants said they had never attended any kind of government meeting. Anything that increases civil participation in our increasingly isolated society is probably a net good. However, everybody tweeting all the time is bad. Improbable, but bad.

I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. - Bill Hicks

It's no different than if he promoted his

web site, facebook or myspace page. There was no need to make that particular announcement. soon as he sent his first tweet with the hash tags people would know what they were. Why broadcast it to the people who don't care? Hell, if they're already watching the meeting on the teevee why not just keep watching? If they are solely on Twitter the announcement on the teevee isn't going to reach them until Cooksey sends his first tweet with the hashtags. I never said there was anything nefarious about it. It was a silly little indulgence and makes Warren look a bit like an idiot in my opinion. You can promote participation without distracting from the already too long meetings.

I haven't checked with Anthony to see if he had a staffer tweet the one meeting. Whoever did it, did a good job. I don't think there is anything wrong with that setup at all. I love when I have a chance to tune in to Mark Binker's and Laura Leslie's twitter feeds of the General Assembly and committee meetings. Very informative and fun. I think it would be terrific to have that for city/county meetings as well. I just don't happen to think it should come from the people who are supposed to be leading/conducting/participating in those meetings. An occasional tweet on a break is one thing, but running commentary should come from staffers/reporters/other interested parties.

I don't know if Warren has a web site, but maybe he just needs to have a block on the front page where he posts his hash tags of the day.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Still more caveats

[...nearing caveat limit...]

I wonder how soon the public record law will kick in? Ill-thought-out sound bites expressed in 140 character packets of chatspeak with an emoticon or two scattered about. I can see some potential value but, but, but...


There cannot fail to be more kinds of things, as nature grows further disclosed. - Sir Francis Bacon