The bus schedule

In our third floor safety meeting yesterday, we drifted to the subject of change. The webmaster weighed in with the currently accepted conservative message regarding public input on the website. I was able to respond, “Change is like the bus. You can either get out of the way, stand in front of it to stop it, or you can get on. Government by definition needs a “contact us” link.”

The attorney shook and lowered her head smiling, others present fidgeted a little and we moved on to slips and falls.

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Dennis McDonald

Sepaking as someone who “got on the bus” long ago, I do worry about those left behind!

Seriously, one thing I wonder about: when using social media to manage an ongoing “conversation” with segments of the electorate, is it possible for the managing entity to be objective and nonpartisan if and/or when that entity represents one side of an issue? There will be times when straight service delivery or defined processes are not the only thing being delivered “online” — there will be honest to goodness debatable issues and questions of value at stake. In such instances can agency personnel act as bystanders or must they act as part of the conversation?

Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D.
Alexandria, Virginia, USA
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Mark Danielson

Thank you Dennis.

I think you hit the nail right on the head. I am hoping to start with “contact us” links everywhere applicable on our website. Routing emails to folks who will be able to find an answer. I think there is enough precedent set in the use of email at this point to integrate the email tool more fully with a “billboard” style city website. Communication will at least take place.

Web design and the priorities of the website are linked to any discussion of making a site “two-way.” What we have done is move incrementally: Public Works request page, Electric Department utility worksheet page. Auto-pay billing, GIS zoning/maps and tax applications. What I am hoping to accomplish with the next step is placing a “contact us” link at the bottom of (nearly) every informational post we put up. Make it easy for citizens to communicate with their local government.

Comments, blogs and the anonymous flame wars of the past that make us all nervous I think, are the next step. The argument over parameters of free speech on a publicly maintained website is a thorny issue.

Dennis, I’ve always struggled with your last question: government and issue neutrality. Thank you again for your comments. Sincerely MD