We're all bloggers now

Minneapolis city council members to join the blogosphere?

The Minneapolis City Council's Ways and Means/Budget Committee debated the merits of blogging yesterday. Specifically, the issue at hand was whether the city should provide software and allow council members to have blog sites on the city's web site.

The issue is being presented as the most up-to-date way for council members to engage with the great unwashed. The move was initiated by Second Ward rep Cam Gordon's office, and his assistant Robin Garwood stood before the committee for questioning. A good number of city staffers have been involved in putting together parameters for elected-official blogging, and five council members authored the resolution that, among other things, allows "Elected Officials to use City funds, supplies, equipment, and personnel to create and maintain a blog related to their official duties as Elected Officials ... [that] serves a public purpose."

(The cost, Garwood noted, was negligible.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, four of the five authors are first-term council members. Some of them, like the Eighth Ward's Elizabeth Glidden, expressed excitement about being able to communicate with constiuents in a manner more fluid and immediate than, say, electronic newsletters. And others, like Gordon's aide Garwood, pointed out that with a comments section, the blogs would be more of a forum for council members to hear from the people for a change.

This was what concerned some of the more luddite-leaning members of the ways and means committee. Diane Hofstede (Third Ward), for instance, worried about defamation of character lawsuits. And Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward) joined in with a chorus of concern. "My ears are still ringing," Colvin Roy said, "from the lawsuit we're still facing on the red-light cameras."

Still, most concerns were assuaged--comments sections can be patrolled and controlled, after all--and the committee approved the resolution and sent it on to the full council.