Preparing for the recent talk to other city council members in Washington, I hit up one of the best council bloggers in our state for a testimonial. Councilman Jon Snyder invests a lot of time into his blog for Spokane. Here’s his well-spoken words about why he does this stuff:
The reason I blog is to be proactive in communication with citizen.
As a councilman, I am very close to the issues and engrossed in the nuances of policy, but if I forget to take the time explain those nuances to my constituents I leave the door open for other interpretations that may be based in ignorance.
My blog, my monthly email, and my Twitter and Facebook feeds have been invaluable in focussing attention to this issues I think are important and getting my message out. It also shows my constituents what I’m doing with the immense amount of time I put into public service.
Ultimately how you spend your time is one of the most important decisions you make as an elected official. My electronic communication helps create a story of that effort that people can understand and respond to.
Some of the biggest reaction I’ve ever had to blog entry would be a very detailed response I wrote about a very expensive and controversial downtown real estate purchase. You can see it here:
Most of my entries aren’t this involved, but there are times when the blog is the best way to get complex treatment of an issue out to the public. I’ve found citizens respond positively to being talked up to instead of being talked down to. My weekly recap of our City Council meetings is my most popular regular blog feature. A lot of folks have thanked me for writing about Council meeting content that isn’t being covered anywhere else. I usually announce new blog entries on Facebook and Twitter.
The biggest piece of advice I would give about blogs is settle on a minimum posting frequency and stick to it.
Jon writes something worth repeating for someone considering elected office or someone in office: “Ultimately how you spend your time is one of the most important decisions you make as an elected official.”
That’s a point worth contemplating often. It was astonishing to me, once I got elected, how many times people expected me to come to events in a ceremonial role. These things, and many other aspects of elected office, public service, and public policy, all take time. I’ve found when I spend time too much time communicating, it takes away time I would otherwise spend on research. However, besides all the advantages Jon notes above, communicating about something forces you to frame and focus on the topic in a focused way that can help you make, or reinforce, a decision. Communicating is vital.
Frankly, it tells me something about Jon that he’s willing to take time to write, and fact check and self-edit, a post about elevator inspection fees. It tells me something good about him. When I look at my own workload, I find it pretty intimidating to write up topics in Lakewood to that level of detail. His desire to be definitive is impressive. I don’t think all of us choose to be that definitive because of other demands on our time, but it’s impressive to see in action.
How do other elected officials find time to communicate when there are so many other demands on their time?