Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mayor's changes to public access, connecting

Mayor Fenty campaigned as a man of the people, for the people.   The hole in the sole of his shoe was evidence.

Seems this strategy has run its course.   Or perhaps all it ever was designed to be was a campaign strategy.

The first public access element to fall was the public cabinet meeting in the community.   The idea was nixed after the first one was held in Ward 8 off of Stanton Rd. SE on a Saturday.   I remember the meeting clearly since I was on jury duty for two months and this was the only event with the mayor I could attend.   When I checked the schedule for other community-based, open cabinet meetings, I found none.   I asked key officials about it and they suggested I made it up.

Next to fall was Fenty File, the mayor’s newsletter.   There are 12 newsletters for each year 2007 and 2008.   In 2009 there has only been one newsletter, that in July.   Check it out for yourself.

And the most recent public access element to fall is the emailed schedule of the mayor.   It used to be that the mayor’s press office emailed the mayor’s schedule on a daily basis.   With no notice, the emails stopped.   I am told by one of DC’s leading journalists that the mayor’s press office refused to respond to emails asking why there were no more emails (I too experienced a lack of response from the mayor’s office about this question).   Seems that sending schedule updates by email was too taxing for press office staff.   After all, the schedule is online, said the Fenty staffer to the journalist.

Yes, it is true the schedule is online.   But how likely is it that the press and close administration followers will frequently check the Web site for updates?   The rest of us manage to blog, maintain Web sites, use Twitter, and even use email lists to communicate.   Why can’t the mayor’s staff?   It is not as though the technology is unavailable to them; OCTO is an executive branch agency, after all.   And it’s not that the mayor does not support technology – how many BlackBerries does AF have now?

Changing the way he communicates with the community is certainly the mayor's prerogative.   But notice is essential as is maintaining open lines of communication.   Change the method but please don't limit our access, Mr. Mayor.