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Ald. Jennifer Florida First St. Louis Alderman to Begin Blogging

October 28, 2006 Ald Jennifer Florida, Media, Politics/Policy 6 Comments

It seems Ald. Jennifer Florida has become the first Alderman in the City of St. Louis to start a blog as part of her means of communications with constituents and other interested parties such as myself. This is an about face for Florida with respect to blogs, in June she called this site a “stupid blog.” It would appear that Florida has seen the effectiveness of the web as a means of communication and wants to take more control over the message in the 15th Ward. My reaction? Great, what took so long and when are the rest going to follow suit?

When I was running for the St. Louis Board of Aldermen in early 2005 one of the very first things I did was work on a communications strategy. On 1/22/05 my campaign blog went live. From that first post :

I’m pleased to announce that the latest news for my campaign will be presented in a blog format. I will keep voters, volunteers, contributers and the public informed of happenings and appearances via this space. I will also be discussing various issues in greater detail here as well. I will demonstrate to the voters that I am a thinking candidate – I will bring up issues and offer solutions. The comments section will be an opportunity for the public to tell me if I am on tract or not. Public feedback to aldermen is a key component that is missing from our current system. Part of the reason I decided on 25thward.com as my website address is because I think this will serve me well once elected to office. Through this website address I will be able to keep the residents of the 25th Ward informed of hot issues, public meetings, request feedback on upcoming decisions. Making use of current technology will just be one way of being an effective alderman

I touched on this issue a week later on 2/1/05:

So many people say we are not Chicago. True, we are not. We don’t have the population density, the vibrant streets, the thousands of bike racks or Aldermen using the internet to communicate the relevant (albeit mundane) information to ward constituents. Chicago’s aldermen are taking that extra step to use the internet to keep their constituents informed of issues and meetings.

St. Louis’ current system of keeping constituents informed is for aldermen to attend the various neighborhood meetings and give a city hall update to the few people present. Little information is actually communicated – no visuals, no maps, no links to other resources. If you didn’t make it to the meeting you are out of luck. You might get some of the information in a neighborhood newsletter a month or two later – if you are on their mailing list.

My campaign is about bringing fresh thinking to the 25th ward and entire City of St. Louis. Moving the level of communications between city hall and constituents into the 21st century is just one example.

In numerous posts since then, and by way of example, I have shown that complex issues can be effectively communicated and debated. Not everyone will agree on issues. That is the purpose of public discourse, to share perspectives. It is imperative for our elected representatives to hear all sides of issues and from as many people as feasible. With the internet that is unlimited. It is also important to get feedback from all city residents as development projects, by default must take place within a ward, they can have an impact on the entire city.

I applaud Jennifer Florida for being the first St. Louis alderman to make that leap into the 21st Century with modern communications technology. For those aldermen reading this on their old Gateway computer with Windows 95 let me help clarify for you what we are talking about. A “blog” is a form of website. In the old days of the internet, websites were complicated and often costly to set up. No so these days, the blog technology behind the scenes make the setup and posting amazingly simple. The underlying software that runs a blog is referred to these days as “content management” software. So a teenagers blog on myspace.com might well be about what she did today but in the political world a blog can be a means of managing content — notices about upcoming meetings, links to legislation, open discussion on topics under consideration for legislation and of course community visioning. The RSS feed provided via content management software lets more savvy users know when new posts are available for viewing. This information comes to those who want it. The resident who can’t make that 6pm community meeting because they don’t get off work until 10pm can read the site at any time it suits them. The more content the more informed they will be.

I think Jennifer Florida will quickly realize how effective this tool can be, hopefully sharing her experience with her colleagues. One Alderman recently told me he was in Chicago and met someone at an event with the alderman saying he was from St. Louis and the guy asked, “Oh, do you know Steve Patterson’s blog?” Needless to say, this alderman couldn’t believe that he met some random person at a Chicago function and the guy mentions me. It was beyond his comprehension that people in Chicago would be reading about issues in St. Louis. I explained to him, as I have above, how blogs work. He has yet to take my advice. I think many still believe they need thousands of dollars, many computer wizards and hours upon hours of time to have a website. This view is as outdated as our zoning.

So, I’m going to make the members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen an offer in the interest of better communications. I’m willing to give them a presentation on how to set up and maintain a blog. All I ask is that they have at least 4 aldermen present, I can’t take the time one on one unless I’m getting paid. And I am willing to do that — if you want me to help get you started I can do that on the clock as they say. Only conditions here is that I will disclose that I have done so and that my helping in that regard does not constitute any form of endorsement. My goal is to get all 28 aldermen blogging about community meetings, issues, proposed development and such. I might even be able to talk my friend Antonio French of PubDef into co-presenting to them on blogging. And what about those elected aldermen and city council folks in the balance of the region? Sure, I want to see communications increase throughout the region so I can be persuaded to come talk to you as well.

Visit Alderwoman Jennifer Florida’s 15th Ward Blog and also take a look at a review of Florida’s blog by 15th Ward resident Steve Wilke-Shapiro.


Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. Devil's Lunchbox says:

    Florida’s blog? Now we know who is behind the Potato. http://thepotato.wordpress.com/

  2. Greg says:

    I’m surprised you haven’t commented on the most recent posting on Florida’s blog… the one which says the McDonalds move on South Grand is dead.

  3. skeptical reader says:

    Not sure who’s “writing” this Florida blog, but it isn’t Jennifer. Among the October 13 entries taken from her recent campaign flyer is one urging people to call 15th Ward NSO Brian Wilson who doesn’t work there anymore… Plus someone should tell Jennifer that “Tower Grove” isn’t written “Towergrove.” Embarrassing, I’d say.

    Oh, and the McDonald’s closed yesterday. Even the signs are gone.

  4. 15thWardSTL says:

    Carnahan and Slay don’t “write” most of the content on their blogs either, but they have dedicated staff members/consultants who post new content regularly. I am glad to see this baby step towards a fully featured and regularly updated blog. Let’s hope her “tech” consultant continues to improve the blog and Jennifer continues to post new content.

    As I said in my own review, there is enough going on that a weekly update should be possible. I would like to see anonymous commenting enabled as well – as of now, commenting is by registered use only and all comments are moderated.

  5. Juniata St. says:

    So nice she’s keeping us apprised of what’s going on in the neighborhood, considering residents’ concerns.

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