Preparing For The Arena

Because I knew this blog would be the first one ever written and published by a Pepper Pike City Council member, and because of my experiences as a blogger over the last five years, I've already spent time researching how other elected officials manage communications and engagement with citizens via social media and web-based tools such as blogs.

Here are just a few of the resources I've consulted so far:

Blog of Seattle City Council Member Tim Burgess

Blog of Seattle City Council Member Bruce Harrell

Blog of Seattle City Council Member Sally Clark

City of Seattle's portal for its City and its City Council
(I totally covet their City Council site - forget about how much bigger the city is; this is about thinking in terms of scalability.)

Electing2Blog and Neary-Sighted, blogs by Lakewood, WA City Council Member Walter Neary who is also on Twitter

And from Walter's Electing2blog sidebar, a list of blogs and posts, via Friendfeed, written by other electeds around the country

MuniGov2.0 (a huge reservoir of information about what communities of all sizes, across the U.S. and in the U.K. and Australia are doing)

What else would you like to read? Who else would you talk to? What questions would you ask?


Paul said...


I like the look of this website, and have of course added it to my RSS feeds.

I've decided to keep my same SaveHilliardSchools blog as I have transitioned from engaged citizen to candidate to elected official. I think it will work in my case as this blog has always been about our local school district, while you have covered issues in WLST which are much broader than your municipality.

Seems like you will be challenged to figure out under which 'brand' to publish new material, and how to keep both brands going. There will be stuff that clearly belongs here, but maybe your WLST readers will want to read it as well. Do you double post, or just make cross-links?

And as you well know, if you don't have a steady stream of postings in both, the readership of the neglected blog will die off, diminishing the value/influence of the brand.

The real thing I'll be interested in is how you balance the use of the blog as a tool to inform your community vs a tool to influence your fellow council members.

The arena metaphor is appropriate - the challenge is figuring out who are your teammates, who are your opponents, and who are merely the audience. And I think there may be a few out there with money riding on the game, and aren't above trying to tilt the arena in their favor.

Regards.... Paul

Jill said...

Hi Paul,

Always wonderful to hear from you and read your thoughts.

I can completely see how continuing to blog at Save the Hilliard Schools makes sense, for everyone.

There's no question that the content at Writes Like She Talks and the content here will be very different. I also see the blogs as having very different audiences, at their core. This blog has to be about engaging the residents and enhancing communication with them, for them, to them, from them. If, in a year from now, few residents are getting anything out of this site, then I would have to re-consider its value. It is not to be about me, and if it were to become nothing but a chronicle of how I see things, I'd probably take it offline, because again, my hope is for this blog to become a hub for communicating, making city government more easily accessible and transparent and de-mystified.

And, as you know, I love all things Gov 2.0 - I just think there's value in having all this out there (again, take a look at the site for the City Council for Seattle - just wow!).

But it's a work in progress so, we'll see!

As far as the balancing the use of the blog as a tool to inform versus influence fellow council members, honestly? The only way in which I would hope it influences them is to encourage them about the positive contributions that this tool can make to city governance. But other than that, I don't have any expectations of influencing them otherwise. Pepper Pike City Council is a group of very very bright, talented and caring individuals. We may have different competencies and stronger familiarities with different segments of the population, but one reason I ran for office was because I do not want to see the institutional knowledge possessed by many of the city electeds get lost - I want leadership succession to occur. So - I'll probably stick to writing persuasively when I write about specific issues, but if that and face to face conversations and interactions doesn't persuade, well - that's the extent of it. Again - I do not want to make this blog about me, per se. Everything needs to go through the funnel of whether it's in the best interests of the city and our residents.

Don't you think?

You are making me curious about this! "And I think there may be a few out there with money riding on the game, and aren't above trying to tilt the arena in their favor." Please tell me you mean in general, not that anyone has money riding on me!? I can't imagine! I would not recommend it. ;)

Have a great new year. And as I develop a blog list of electeds who blog, I'll be sure to include you.

Paul said...

The "money riding on the game" comment comes from the observation that any governing body has within its power the ability to redirect money from taxpayers to private entities. For some, like my township, it's not much. One of the farmers plows the roads when it snows and another mows along the roads during the growing season. The only big bills we have is for police and fire protection, contracted from another township.

On the other hand, our school district has a budget approaching $200 million/yr. 90% of that goes to employee compensation and benefits, so you'd better believe the unions try to tilt things in their favor.

But there is also millions spent on textbooks, food service, building maintenance, and many other things. In each of these categories, there is one or more suppliers who very much want to keep the business, and prevent others from getting in. To do that, some suppliers will go to great lengths, including trying to influence lawmakers at all levels make laws and regulations that tilt the table.

I was troubled a few years ago when I dug a little and found that the big contributors to the election campaign for our last school bond (construction) levy turned out to be the architectural firm, general contractor, and bank who would get a big hunk of business if the levy passed. While not illegal, it feels a little off.

But the point is that there are players in the game who aren't your constituents, and frankly they care about how the game is played a lot more than the folks who cast votes.

That's precisely why we have lobbyists, which I think is the great infection of our governments - local to national - and needs to be eradicated ...

... except of course for those lobbyists who make good things happen for me.


Jill said...

Ah - ok - thank you for the reply.

Let me respond to this portion in particular - because I think the rest is explanatory and I get it now.

You wrote:

"But the point is that there are players in the game who aren't your constituents, and frankly they care about how the game is played a lot more than the folks who cast votes.

"That's precisely why we have lobbyists, which I think is the great infection of our governments - local to national - and needs to be eradicated ...

"... except of course for those lobbyists who make good things happen for me."

First, I am on record as saying that I believe that advocates - whether they fall into the pejorative lobbyist group or more of a special interest (I think of the Ohio Assn of Gifted Children - I am very glad they exist, Paul - they perform a lot of critical functions that frankly parents on their own could never do and they are comprised of parents) - do serve a purpose of sorts regarding educating legislators who often know squat about a lot of matters.

The burden then falls on the legislator - not to take the money, not to be swayed by the money or alliances, and to do the research and figure out what the constituents want. It's a bit chicken and egg due to how the system is set up - so I don't know exactly where the line is, but I think it's only fair to blame the legislators AND people who organize as a group to make a point, to a certain point. Then we have to say it's our fault for not demanding more oversight, stricker regulation about campaign finance and so on - do you know what I mean?

Now, as for me, at some point, my campaign finance records will actually be online at the Cuyahoga County BOE sight - but they've been public from the start. I know that and others should know that. I won't even tell you on this blog what I learned from pulling the campaign finance records of everyone who has run in Pepper Pike for council since about 2001. It's stuff I just had to know and not use but remember regarding what it says about alliances.

I raised money from a very very wide range of people - I'm proud of that. But the beauty of it being such a small city is that even with the vendors at stake as you say, there was nothing like that that came in to me anyway. I know what you're talking about, and I would say that I've seen that possibility in others' reports.

But again, if it's allowed, then who do we blame? We must keep the system that we do have accountable or change it.

I can only speak for myself and if I see something that looks fishy, ask questions, look into it. But I will tell you a quick story: within a very short time after the election, I did get an email from someone who does work as a lobbyist. I didn't know who it was, just knew the name, googled it and the firm came up. I just laughed - I mean, seriously - what on earth do they think I am going to do with this letter from them congratulating me and offering services?

And I wrote back an email and I said, thanks but not thanks. There was a follow up email that said that a mutual person had coincidentally mentioned me to them and that that's why I got the snailmailed letter and so I give them the benefit of the doubt for now. But regardless, you know - from my style, I value my independence and my attempt to research something with a 360 approach. I can't say never will something happen - I'm new at this - I suspect people may try to get me unaware. But I'll be working hard to keep my wits about me - and listen to the warnings from folks like you and others who care.

Keeping my eyes out for conflicts of interest was a big part of being a lawyer and social worker. I don't expect that to change now, but perhaps just intensify. Still, sometimes, you can be blindsided. I pray that doesn't happen.