Coun. Debbie Hanlon says if people want to get in touch with councillors and have their voice heard, the best way isn’t through social media.
The issue arose at Monday night’s St. John’s city council meeting when Hanlon, along with Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary, pointed out that flooding councillors’ Twitter notifications may not be the best way to have ideas and complaints heard by elected officials.
“Social media is an excellent way to get the message out. I use it in campaigns, I use it in my business life and I certainly use it to get the word out to residents,” Hanlon said.
“It’s also a good way to air grievances. However, if you want your grievances acted upon, you really need to reach your councillor directly.”
Hanlon says it can be overwhelming to be inundated with messages from residents on social media, some of which can be nasty.
“Sometimes people can be really rude. There’s profanity used. There’s no need of that, right?” she said.
Hanlon said using more traditional means of engagement allows councillors to pass along ideas to staff to effect real change in the city.
“Take the parking ban: I’m getting all kinds of great email with suggestions, legitimately really good suggestions. I don’t want to miss any of those. It’s been challenging because they’ve been coming in fast and furious,” said Hanlon.
“I try to reply to everyone at least within 48 hours, sooner if I can. The best way to reach someone is through the city email.”
Coun. Maggie Burton, whose use of social media in the 2017 election campaign was widely commended, says she understands why some councillors may not want social media to be their primary point of contact with constituents.
“It’s really important to recognize that, given the broad range of experience on council, that everyone will have a different preferred vehicle to receive and disseminate information,” Burton said.
“Councillors are all available by phone. Honestly, calling us is a really good idea if you really want to get your ideas heard. I’m happy to talk to people on Twitter and Facebook, but I do support my colleagues who want to receive emails or calls only.”