The City of Seattle’s Ethics and Elections Commission has drafted new guidelines regarding Twitter and other social media to ensure City Council members don’t misuse the new media to get reelected, hold eclectic cyber meetings, or trample on the ethical boundaries of good government.
With tongue firmly planted in cheek: It’s reassuring to realize our city government looks favorably on the latest technology to solve our more perplexing problems. City Hall has incorporated into its communications options the use of Twitter, Facebook, and potentially other social media. We must assume that doing so enhances the city’s ability to gather critical informed analysis from the public on what they want with regard to transportation, environmental sustainability, energy conservation, demographics, or finance issues.
Using the new media serves as a means of gathering reliable counts over what lifestyle choices the citizenry might want, and could reduce the need for city departments to prepare long boring reports or analyses of demographics, financing options, revenue sources, geology, or any other information used in decision-making. It’s also no surprise that our political election industry has figured out that the information available through Tweets and Facebook is very useful in reelection campaigns.
Skeptics wonder if Twittered commentary could, for example, allow the City Council to reduce or eliminate public hearings where they are required to stay awake while endless numbers of citizens deliver their emotional two-minute speeches. All that will be necessary is to count yea/nay Twittered comments and the decision will be clear.
All that time and money wasted on environmental impact statements and feasibility studies will become part of our quaint history. The “Seattle Way” of lengthy studies about complex projects will end with a click of mouse.
Roads, tunnels, and public-transportation projects can be ratified in minutes just by counting the Tweets and Facebook comments. The $400 million spent by the State Department of Transportation for consultants will no longer be necessary. Clever promoters can avoid the much-maligned “Seattle process” by hiring tech nerds to develop automated Tweeters that send thousands of computer-generated Tweets to city and state websites to be counted as supporters for their proposals.
Why struggle with facts, details, and complex data when thoughtless spontaneous responses will save time. It’s well understood that a quick bad decision trumps a studied thoughtful decision any time. It’s been said we could have created the mirror image of any eastern seaboard city if it hadn’t been for that Seattle-process mentality that asks far too many questions about the resulting quality of life and where the money to pay for it will come from.
The advantages to democracy will be profound. At last the age discrimination toward the young can be overcome because preteen kids, high school and college students can avoid the boring necessity of going to public meetings to learn about decision-making and the responsibility of governance. The new media will allow them to express their youthful opinions the moment the idea passes through their minds and iPhones. More important is that the new technology will, in all probability, get rid of all the old troglodytes who don’t understand or use the new media and delay or sidetrack progress by asking all those unnecessary questions like, Do we need it?
The old, out-of-the-loop class of age-handicapped, progress-slowing examiners of public policy won’t understand that the future could easily move toward ORCA-style funding for city projects. Maybe in the future citizens will carry RFID funding cards in their wallets or purses. As we move about, GPS locaters will bill us as we use tolled streets and bridges. The process would automatically bill credit cards for the funding of any civic project approved by Tweeting.
Just think: Linked through Tweets, we could register our instant opinions and pay for the results on credit with the click of a button. We could just blurt out an opinion or walk around and be automatically taxed. It’s a surefire way to solve our budget problems without cutting down on city employees.
The most outstanding advantage derived from using this new social media is to make complex decisions more efficient. One might, for example, vote for a new east-west crosstown tunnel, pay for it, then still have time to read a Tweet from someone wondering whether to wear a blue blouse today, or to buy that gold Rolex on eBay or watch a little pro football.
To keep all this fantastical new technology on the up and up, the city’s Ethics and Elections Commission has drafted new Twitter and other social media guidelines that will hopefully dampen any City Council members' thoughts about misuse.
Ever wonder what our country would have been like if Thomas Jefferson had been able to Tweet his ideas to the other members of the Continental Congress? The formation of our nation could have been accomplished in days rather than years. Who knows what the U.S. might have become? The entire U.S. Constitution could have been printed on the back of an RFID card or microchipped into babies at birth. It could track our location and auto-pay our taxes. We wouldn’t have to think at all.