There was a fascinating article in today’s Miami Herald discussing how so many politicians are embracing social networking sites as a method of establishing communication with certain voter demographics that they might not otherwise interact with. Much of this has been a result of the amazingly successful campaign of Barack Obama, which truly set the standard for interfacing social networking and political campaigns. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) is cited for her embrace of YouTube, and Florida Senator Mel Martinez (R) is interviewed about his newfound love of Twittering. (Of course, I must mention…if you really want to follow a humorous elected Twitterer, follow Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)—she’s a college basketball nut who Twitters about everything!)
So, where are North Florida politicians in this media revolution?
Five of Jacksonville’s Nineteen City Council Members have a profile on Facebook. Of those, only one appears to use it to engage in political discussion. Two of the City’s Constitutional Officers have Facebook profiles, but neither appear to use it to promote their office or campaign. The Mayor has no presence on Facebook—hardly surprising considering he doesn’t even have a published e-mail address on the City’s website.
Only one member of the Jacksonville City Council can be found on Twitter, which truly begs the question: “How is it that a Senator from Missouri can Twitter with her constituents, but a Jacksonville City Council member cannot?”
It’s truly about an embrace of open government and a commitment to engaging the younger voting population—the population who will be most impacted in the long-run by the decisions being made today. Unfortunately, open government in Jacksonville remains something out of reach. Only five of Jacksonville’s nineteen Council Members make their e-mail readily accessible to their constituents via the web—Daniel Davis, Kevin Hyde, Ronnie Fussell, Johnny Gaffney and Glorious Johnson. Councilman Richard Clark, who will most likely take over as President of the Council next year, has already made it abundantly clear that he has no intentions of following the precedent of previous Council President’s in putting his e-mail online.
While the Mayor does put his e-mail online, his staff is typically running one to two weeks behind in making their e-mails accessible.
North Florida’s State Legislators and School Board Members are hardly an exception to North Florida’s refusal to embrace social networking campaigning. Florida’s two Senators are on Twitter, but our local Representatives are not. (Ander Crenshaw has a Twitter, but has only four followers, and apparently does not let his constituents follow him—I’ve been trying.) I was unable to locate any of our local State Senators and Representatives on Twitter.
How will Jacksonville politicians ever manage to engage the voting public if they are unwilling to go to where the voting public is? When will we have a local government that effectively uses YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other media outlets to communicate with its voters? When will Jacksonville’s leaders embrace the idea that open communication and transparent government is something to be celebrated and embraced?