by Mark Nuaimi, Mayor -- City of Fontana
When politicians want to run for elected office, they look for every avenue available to reach the voters – yard signs, magnets, mailers, those annoying phone calls, and knocking on the doors of voters at the most inopportune time. But something happens when we become elected officials – suddenly access to the “constituents” is not as important as access to the “voters” used to be (except during re-election years). But it is those constituents who elected us to serve them … except they don’t have easy access. Or do they?
Imagine you wake up on a Monday morning and the local fishwrap has just printed an editorial attacking an economic development plan that your city has been developing for the past six months. The editorial board opined from the safe confines of their ivory tower with minimal research done by their cub reporter (who happens to be a retread thrown out of the last city he covered). How many times have you wished you could print an immediate response to the garbage passed off as enlightened opinion? Well through the use of Community Blogs you can!
For the better part of three years, I have been an active participant in a neighborhood blog in my community. Posting under the name “Mayor Mark”, I have routinely answered questions about development in our community, our battle with the local water company, crime trends, landscape maintenance issues, proposed apartment projects, the need to increase a local tax, and – yes – I have responded to editorials and articles that I felt missed the mark on our local issues. But the great part of the blog is that residents can ALSO respond … and oftentimes they become the strongest defenders of the community.
What You Say Might Be Used Against You … No, you’re not under arrest. But rest assured that whatever controversy arises in your community will likely find its way to the blogosphere. And as an active participant in the blog, an elected official is open to attack from anonymous posters, oftentimes the opponents they face in the community. But is that something to be afraid of? In my opinion, if you won election in your community, you likely did so sharing a message with the voters and that message resonated. So take that message to the blogs and take on your opponents under your own terms. The alternative is silence … and when accusations are made and no responses are given, residents will believe lies if the truth is not shared.
If I Said It Once, I Said It A Hundred Times … It is not uncommon for your constituents to have the same questions. “Why are my taxes so high?” “What is redevelopment debt and why is the city in SO MUCH DEBT?” “Why are you approving apartments?” “What the heck is RHNA?” The blog allows the elected official to write once, answer often. Rather than having to field ten emails asking the same question, you can post on the blog a topic of interest and refer folks to the answer. In my community, this feature was utilized extensively as we battled rate increases from our private water company. Having the information on-line and then allowing “Mayor Mark” to expand on the information, we were able to get residents engaged in the battle … and it demonstrated to my constituents that I was fighting for them.
Don’t Be Afraid To Hit Delete … I close with one final piece of advise to the elected official interested in entering the blogosphere – don’t be afraid to not respond! It is not uncommon for the “lunatic fringe” of the community to taunt you into battles. For those bloggers, it is their five minutes of fame taking on the mayor. Sometimes the best course of action is to sit back and watch as other residents tear apart the arguments raised by the fringe. Sometimes the best friend of the elected blogger is the DELETE button!