All posts by Griff Wigley

Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law and social media: A step in the right direction

On August 1, 2014, Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law was amended to guide the use of social media by elected officials:

[13D.065] USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

The use of social media by members of a public body does not violate this chapter so long as the social media use is limited to exchanges with all members of the general public. For purposes of this section, e-mail is not considered a type of social media.

As a consultant who specializes in online citizen engagement, I was excited to see this change. It has seemed to me that elected public officials in Minnesota have been generally reluctant to participate in online public policy-oriented discussions out of fear that a violation of the open meeting could occur.

But a closer reading of the new statute raised some questions in my mind.  A July 21 article about the new law in the Faribault Daily News titled Elected officials and the use of social media included this:

Reporter Brad Phenow: “Come Aug. 1, elected officials can use social media without the fear of violating the law, so long as the use is viewable by members of the general public.”

The reporter’s use of the word ‘viewable’ seemed wrong to me, that the statute’s emphasis on “exchanges with all members of the general public” indicated that interaction was a required component.

But I still was left wondering how those ‘exchanges’ would have to be structured.  For example, could I host a week-long blog/Facebook discussion in which the first couple of days were devoted to interaction among city council members, followed by several more days of interaction between council members and the public? Could I moderate a live one-hour web conference, Google Hangout, or Twitter exchange that featured 15 minutes of discussion among the members of a school board, followed by 45 minutes of Q&A with the public?

On September 24, I attended an Open Meeting Law workshop hosted by the Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD) of the Minnesota Department of Administration.

IPAD Open Meeting Law workshop Sept 24 IPAD Open Meeting Law workshop

The IPAD staff indicated that they believed the statute’s use of the phrase “limited to” was key, that the intent is to not allow exchanges among a local unit of government’s elected officials but only between the elected officials and the public.  They indicated that this was a result of negotiations between the Minnesota Association of Townships Association and the Minnesota Newspaper Association.

A May 2 article in the Rochester Post Bulletin titled Quam’s social media bill faces stiff opposition describes the disagreement prior to the bill’s passage:

This session, the Minnesota Township Association and the Minnesota Newspaper Association worked to craft compromise language that would have only allowed public officials to interact with the general public on social media and not each other. But that proposal ran into stiff opposition in the Minnesota House last week. Members on both sides of the aisle said they fear this bill will hurt the public’s ability to know what their elected officials are doing.

… He [Mark Anfinson, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Newspaper Association] said the big problem with the earlier bill’s language is it does not specifically limit public officials to interacting with the general public, leading to the possibility that they could be interacting with each other online.

At a basic level, this indicates to me that a local elected official can now engage in discussions with their constituents on their public Facebook page timeline, the comment threads on their blog, or their Twitter feed. If one or more elected officials from that same elected body joined these discussions, they would have to be careful to address their comments only to the public.

Likewise, it indicates to me that special online events involving a local unit of government’s elected officials must be structured in a way that prevents (discourages? minimizes?) those members from interacting with each other. For example, a live web conference could use a Q&A format where a moderator and citizens submit questions to elected officials who then respond back directly to them.  A moderator’s task would be to intervene if the elected officials tried to interact with each other.

I can imagine a scenario in which the elected officials talk about one another. For example, Councilor Jones might say/write, “I think Councilor Smith is sadly mistaken on that point because…” followed by Councilor Smith responding with “What Councilor Jones doesn’t seem to realize is that…”   It could also be done in support of one another, eg, “Councilor Smith’s rationale makes perfect sense to me.”

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Would that type of exchange be a violation of the statute? I don’t know but my inclination as a moderator would be to intervene and ask the elected officials to refrain from using each other’s names.

So I’m glad to see this change to the statute and I’m eager to work with local units of government to put it to use for the benefit of citizens and their elected officials.

 

Online citizen engagement projects for the City of Northfield, MN

Northfield Citizen Engagement

I’ve launched a citizen engagement site for the City of Northfield, as I’ve started working on two more online engagement projects for them this fall, both with Northfield’s Engineering Division, led by Director of Public Works/City Engineer Joe Stapf and his team:

Northfield Citizen Engagement- Bridge Square Northfield Citizen Engagement- Sixth St Reconstruction

Like I did for the City of Edina’s Citizen Engagement projects in 2011-12 (that’s a link to all my blog posts about it),  I’ve created the site with WordPress Multisite so that it’s easy to launch new projects as the need arises.

Both projects involve a significant amount of blogging about all the face-to-face meetings, both committees and the public open houses. And we’ll use a variety of online tools to engage the citizens throughout the process, including blog comment threads, online straw polls, and web conferences.

Citizen engagement clients–project updates

July 8 Northfield School Board work session July 31 Northfield downtown parking planning committee

A good chunk of my time this spring and summer has been devoted to two citizen engagement projects here in my hometown of Northfield that are now winding down: the Northfield School District’s calendar conversation and the City of Northfield’s parking management plan for downtown.

Both projects involved a significant amount of blogging about all the face-to-face meetings, both committees and large public gathering.  I’m more convinced than ever about the importance of this complementarity… the subject of a longer blog post that I’m working on.

Northfield Calendar Conversation - Google Hangout

I also used Google Hangouts On Air for the first time, a one-hour video conference with a School District panel. I added a live chat element to it for the audience to ask questions. And I hosted a blog discussion thread attached to the blog post with the archived video.  I was pleased with the technology and plan to use it again.

A new blog reflects a shift in my business: Engage Citizens

Engage Citizens - Vertical - 185wI’ve created a new blog called Engage Citizens as I’m shifting more of my consulting work to helping local units of government (state, cities, counties, townships, school districts) use online tools and services to—you guessed it—engage citizens. Which is why we build certified translation to suit your needs – with specialist account managers in your area and more than 5,000 industry-specific translators, coupled with experienced project managers and customer service representatives.

SEO Melbourne been doing online citizen engagement as a citizen since the early 90’s in my work with Northfield.org and continuing with Locally Grown Northfield since 2006 where I’m still active.

Grandview-Development-Framework-finalGriff Wigley, Scott NealBut it was my consulting contract with City Manager Scott Neal and the City of Edina back in April of 2011 when we created the Edina Citizen Engagement project that helped me see how other local units of government could benefit from something similar.

The Grandview District Development Framework project in particular was enlightening because of how the online tools complemented the face-to-face work of the steering committee, consultants, and city staff over the course of 9 months.

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Griff Wigley at  League of MN Cities annual conference, 2012Tim Madigan at  League of MN Cities annual conference, 2012Last summer, I presented and facilitated a session for the League of MN Cities annual conference about my work with the City of Edina titled Government 2.0: New Strategies for Engaging the Public.

One of the people in the audience that day was Northfield City Administrator Tim Madigan who, a few months later, hired me to manage the online engagement for a Developing a parking management plan for downtown.

Chris Richardson, Griff Wigley, Matt HillmanShortly thereafter, when I heard that the Northfield Public Schools District had a big project in the works, I approached Superintendent Chris Richardson and HR/Technology Director Matt Hillman about adding an online citizen engagement component. I just finished up the Transformational Technology project for them and this week am starting another online engagement project with them titled A school calendar conversation with the Northfield community.

I’ll continue to post client updates here on my Wigley and Associates blog but most of my blogging energy will be devoted to the Engage Citizens blog. I’ve also changed my Twitter name to @EngageCitizens. I’ll tweet all my new blog posts but you can also subscribe to Engage Citizens via email or RSS.

More online citizen engagement for the Northfield Public School District: A school calendar conversation with the community

Northfield Schools Calendar ConversationI’ve been hired by Northfield Public Schools Superintendent Chris Richardson to manage the online portion of a community discussion about school calendars.

Like their Transformational Technology project, it’s happening on a blog that’s part of the District’s WordPress Multiuser platform.

I’ve put up a project blogsite: A school calendar conversation with the Northfield community.  The first community meeting is tonight.

An online citizen engagement project for the Northfield Public Schools

I’m working with Superintendent Chris Richardson and Matt Hillmann, Director of Human Resources and Technology at the Northfield Public Schools District. They’re using my online citizen engagement services to get additional public feedback on the Transformational Technology proposal that’s now being considered by the School Board.

It’s happening on a blog that’s part of the District’s WordPress Multiuser platform:

Transformational Technology for Northfield Public Schools, ISD #659

Transformational Technology - Northfield Public Schools

Matt has been blogging about the project for nearly a year on Blogger and so we’ve imported all those posts into this new blog.  He presented the final draft of the proposal to the School Board earlier this week and the Board will likely vote on it at one of their February meetings.

Presentation on Blogging and Social Media for Local Government Leaders at the League of MN Cities Leadership Conference in Brooklyn Center

Griff Wigley, LMC conference, Brooklyn Center League-of-Minnesota-Cities LMC conference, Brooklyn Center

I did a half-day version of my Blogging and Social Media for Leaders presentation at the League of Minnesota Cities’ Leadership Conference for Experienced Officials at Brooklyn Center yesterday.

Here’s my Powerpoint, slightly revised from the previous one in Mankato and the one in Nisswa.

I also created a ‘cheat sheet’ for this session: Miscellaneous tips for Leadership Blogging and Social Media

Miscellaneous tips for Leadership Blogging and Social Media

Presentation on Blogging and Social Media for Local Government Leaders at the League of MN Cities Leadership Conference in Mankato

20130125_184336 Griff Wigley, LMC presentation, Mankato Mankato discussion - sm

I did a half-day version of my Blogging and Social Media for Leaders presentation at the League of Minnesota Cities’ Leadership Conference for Experienced Officials at Mankato. Photo above left is LMC Executive Director Jim Miller at last night’s banquet.  Here’s my Powerpoint, slightly revised from the one I did two weeks ago in Nisswa.

Presentation on Blogging and Social Media for Local Government Leaders at the League of MN Cities Leadership Conference in Nisswa

Leadership Conference for Experienced Officials, Nisswa, MN 2013 League of Minnesota Cities Leadership Conference for Experienced Officials, Nisswa, MN 2013

I did a half-day version of my Blogging and Social Media for Leaders presentation at the League of Minnesota Cities’ Leadership Conference for Experienced Officials at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, MN this weekend.

Ted Davis at Leadership Conference for Experienced Officials, Nisswa, MN 2013 Griff Wigley at Leadership Conference for Experienced Officials, Nisswa, MN 2013

My colleague, Ted Davis (Davis Communications) did his presentation titled,  Avoiding the Crisis Management Circus Through Communications Planning presentation on Friday afternoon. I did mine, titled Taming the New Media Beast: Networking and Communicating with Social Media on Saturday morning.

Ted Davis and Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht tough crowd?

It appeared to be a tough crowd.  Left photo: Was Ted Davis (@TedDavis) really sending Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht (@BemidjiRita) to the corner for misbehavior?  Right photo: Were these guys really that unhappy with my tweeting this photo of them?

Ted and I will doing our presentations again at the upcoming LMC leadership conferences in Mankato and Brooklyn Center.

For those who attended my session, here’s my Powerpoint:

Blogging and Social Media for Leaders: an online course

Blogging and Social Media for Leaders

Later this winter (Feb/March) I’ll be offering an online course, Blogging and Social Media for Leaders: Leveraging Your Influence in a Hyper-Connected World.

If you’d like to be alerted when course registration opens, subscribe to my free Social Media for Leaders email list.