PO Mayor: Is Facebook the Place to Conduct City Business?

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola met today with officials from the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau to talk about a renewal of cooperation between the two entities.

The meeting was the result of a testy exchange Feb. 3 between Coppola and Jean Boyle, the bureau’s tourism development director, on Coppola’s Facebook page.

Coppola said he and city council members are trying to upgrade Port Orchard’s reputation from being the “junk drawer of Kitsap County.” The “junk drawer” label, Coppola said, came out of a Kitsap Economic Development Alliance meeting on the KEDA’s “Kitsap 20/20” plan. Apparently made by someone in jest, it stung city officials and representatives of the PO Chamber of Commerce. The chamber is working on a “branding” campaign to help PO overcome its inferiority complex, and city officials are trying to move the city into up-and-coming mode, hoping to shed what City Councilman Jerry Childs has called a “poverty of spirit.”

Coppola remains the personification of Port Orchard’s mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore attitude. Referencing Port Orchard’s decision not to allocate any of its 2009 hotel-motel tax funds to the VCB, he told Boyle, “The KPVCB has a LOT to prove to Port Orchard if it ever expects to receive our future support.”

Coppola established his Facebook page “a couple of months ago” primarily to connect with people he has worked with writing car reviews for the automotive industry. He has 103 “friends” on the social networking site, including representatives of local businesses and organizations, and he has made some postings related to the city of Port Orchard.

“I probably shouldn’t have said anything to Jean up there (on Facebook),” Coppola said. “On the other hand, it led to this meeting.”

What do you think? Is Facebook a good way for public officials to promote informal discourse about local affairs? What are the risks? The potential benefits?

11 thoughts on “PO Mayor: Is Facebook the Place to Conduct City Business?

  1. “PO overcome its inferiority complex, and city officials are trying to move the city into up-and-coming mode, hoping to shed what City Councilman Jerry Childs has called a “poverty of spirit.” ”

    If the present ‘gimme’ administration is the example of ‘up-and-coming mode’..the south end is in more trouble than I thought.

    The only ‘poverty of spirit’ is in the government … not the citizens.
    In my opinion,
    Sharon O’Hara

  2. “Referencing Port Orchard’s decision not to allocate any of its 2009 hotel-motel tax funds to the VCB, he told Boyle…”

    The money was used to support the mayor… PO citizens didn’t make the decision… the mayor’s toadies did and spent the money earmarked for the board and they gave the mayor what he wanted – more money!
    In my opinion… Sharon O’Hara

  3. I’m not a Facebook member and don’t anticipate becoming one at the personal level. I won’t rule out civic or business, but haven’t been compelled in that direction just yet.

    One school of thought is social networking as a given for The Net Generation. They’ve grown up with it, it’s second nature, and if you want to reach them you’ll have to incorporate these tools into your personal or business model to some degree. From that perspective, a Facebook venue is no different than a blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other avenues for staying connected and communicating with others. The risk is that feedback can be swift and negative, but the reality is transparency rate’s highly in today’s world along with being open to criticism. The benefit, aside from a much wider reach, is the ability to speak one’s piece and create or acquire a steady stream of information or news.

    While I think Port Orchard’s business should be conducted in the open, I don’t believe the exchange should have taken place on Facebook in the manner it did, particularly since this was a personal page. The consolation prize is it led to exposure on an issue, a meeting, and hopefully its possible resolution.

  4. “What do you think? Is Facebook a good way for public officials to promote informal discourse about local affairs? What are the risks? The potential benefits?”

    I can’t see benefits…only discord and manipulation… and always blaming someone else for misfortune.

    PO/SK used to be honorable and have pride. This man seems to be dragging the south end through the muck of dissension for his own purposes.
    In my opinion… Sharon O’Hara

  5. The problem with using Facebook to deal with public issues is that no one but the mayor’s “friends” can comment, or even read others’ comments. Not everyone wants to have a Facebook and even those of who do might not want to be the mayor’s “friend.”

    http://www.facebook.com/

    So far, MY mayor seems not to have a Facebook to conduct business. Thank you, Mayor Quade!

  6. So, if the Mayor has a conversation with someone that no one hears because it wasn’t in a public meeting or in a public venue, does that mean the Mayor is being secretive? I don’t think so. That is how things get rolling in any business or government activity. It starts with someone initiating a conversation. Facebook is a venue for conversation. I applaud Lary for being willing to engage new methods of communication.

    Would the public be upset with the Mayor if he had made a phone call without informing the public first? Of course not. We elect people to engage discussion on behalf of the people’s business. Sometimes that is done outside of our view, sometimes it is very public. Sometimes it is within earshot of many people in a quasi-public or quasi-private venue, sometimes it is a matter of coincidentally being in the same place, other times it is a matter of specific intention.

    What technology does is expand the ability to network beyond what have been our previous comfort zones.

    I know of dozens of other elected officials who have facebook accounts and mix ‘business’ and pleasure using the medium, just as many of us mix business and pleasure when we attend conferences, meetings, or social gatherings in person.

    By the way, I just ‘discovered’ the fun of facebook last month and really enjoy the opportunity to keep up with friends and the ‘banter’ of a social life, even though most folks think I have no ‘social life’. ;=)

    All that being said, all elected officials should be very intentional to comply with open public meeting and records laws. Having a facebook account with only fellow elected officials as ‘friends’ would not be a good idea. duh! (smile)

    Regards,
    Kathryn Simpson

  7. Sharon,

    The Mayor has no “toadies” on the Port Orchard City Council. Many of them actively supported his opponent in the election cycle. But they respect the vote of the people and the City Council seems to be functioning well with a diverse group of elected council members.

    Your disdain for Lary is obvious. You wouldn’t say anything nice about him if he stopped in a rainstorm to help you change a flat tire on your recumbent. Sad that you can’t get beyond it.

    Regards,
    Kathryn Simpson

  8. I think that Mayor Coppola is doing the right thing. He’s redirecting Port Orchard’s position into a cohesive and cooperative direction, which has been lacking for years. If he uses an internet site, that hundreds of thousands of other citizens use, so be it. I think it’s an excellent use of internet resources. God knows, the county isn’t using it.

  9. Would the public be upset with the Mayor if he had made a phone call without informing the public first?

    Depends on the call and its nature of course. But realistically, unpopular electeds or entities will garner different reactions than favoured ones for similar acts.

  10. “PO/SK used to be honorable and have pride. This man seems to be dragging the south end through the muck of dissension for his own purposes.”

    Sharon, PO/SK has a great deal of pride and a wonderful caring spirit. Ask those at Helpline or at Bucks A&W how the community responded when it saw others in trouble.

    Our Mayor is doing what we need him to do, at this time. He is making sure that Port Orchard gets the money and respect it has long deserved. It was always frustrating to attend budget hearings and see earmarks for every community surrounding us, from Bremerton to Gig Harbor to Bainbridge Island for everything from the arts to bike trails, etc. etc. and see that PO/SK was forgotten.

    We can blame some of that on our past leadership within the school district, the county commissioner spots and the city. We can blame some of that on ourselves as individuals for not being organized enough (for being too divisive and polarized) and for not asking.

    So, we’re asking now. We’re letting our mayor lead our small city and we’re trusting our port commissioners to move SKIA and SEED forward. It’s all good.

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