aaawww…did us bloggers upset the little ole city of Salisbury?

It’s said that “nature abhors a vacuum.” In the case of Salisbury, since the local paper or TV stations aren’t always the best source for news, something fills in the slack.

There’s always been a “rumor mill” wherever you go, but in this era of widely available Internet and the opportunity to sign up for (or buy like I did) a domain name and join the “pajamas media”, it’s very possible for a blogger to have a larger circulation and disseminate information to a larger audience than the so-called “mainstream media” outlets.

Three of my fellow Delmarva bloggers became accepted members of the media this week as all three local media outlets featured them on their news. The gist of the stories was a focus on local resident Joe Albero, a man who’s had repeated run-ins with several government entities. To those who aren’t a fan of his efforts, I suppose the term for him would be “local gadfly.” The really funny thing is that Albero doesn’t have his own blog, generally he works with and comments to the Justice for All? blog (although he has commented here on monoblogue as well.)

I’m sure all three of these blogs have rapidly increased their readership over the course of this year (let alone the last few days), as has mine (I had a record number of hits yesterday.) Monoblogue is a little different than the other three, but I do cover a lot of the same ground. It would be interesting to know what the hit rate is for the “mainstream” outlets compared to the bloggers. While it’s probably on a order of magnitude higher, I bet the gap is decreasing.

What struck me as funniest about the coverage was the Daily Times article, and particularly Mayor Tilghman’s reaction to the bloggers, “If they care for a higher level of community discussion, then I recommend they become involved in the city of Salisbury.”

Honestly, how does one become more involved with the city of Salisbury? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that at least one of the above mentioned bloggers or correspondents attends each public meeting, and looks over all the agendas and such that is public information. To me, the next step would have to be either working for the city or running for office. There’s only so many city positions that open up where an impact can be made, and you have to actually live in Salisbury to run for office (not to mention win an election.)

Once upon a time some wag said, “you can’t fight City Hall.” It becomes easy to ignore the wishes of the public when you know you have enough support from the voters to remain in the job term after term. But you can’t ignore bloggers quite as easily when they present a compelling version of events that may not be what the mayor and others in city government like to hear. So far the efforts of the bloggers have brought to light the animal deaths at the zoo (as well as their polluting the Wicomico River), the permitless dumping at the wastewater treatment plant, irregularities in annexation and zoning approvals – that’s just in Salisbury. Multiply that by 1,000 other large communities.

Maybe the best way to sum this up is if there weren’t bloggers and commenters to the sites who really cared about the place they live, it would be that much more difficult to muster up the resources for necessary change. This is the second place I’ve moved to by choice, and the first one was paid for by someone else (college.) So I’m interested in doing my part to make it a better place to live; after all, I have a stake in the community now since my job depends a lot on the well-being of the Delmarva area.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.

2 thoughts on “aaawww…did us bloggers upset the little ole city of Salisbury?”

  1. Becoming involved in city government in Salisbury is a difficult task. Attending the meetings, including the regular city council meetings and regular and impromptu work sessions can give a ringside seat to the decisions of that body, but leaves attendees wondering what information the members of the council had as basis for their decisions. Specific questions from the public to the council are prohibited in work sessions. A form is provided for comments, but the council members don’t look at them during work sessions. They’re collected by the mayor’s secretary and, where they go from there, I don’t know. At regularly scheduled council meetings, the public has the opportunity to sign up to take the podium to make comments, but are highly discouraged from asking questions, and when they do, may be refused an answer, both at the meeting and afterwards.
    Comments by those at the podium, of late, have been summarily dismissed at times by the council president and select members of the council. It is often the case that while a member of the public is speaking, select members of the council engage in side conversations, some of them obviously humorous, judging from smiles, nudges and chuckles by those members. During these comments it is common to see the mayor rise from her guest-of-the-council seat and either chat with a member of council, the city attorney or an attendee of the meeting, or actually perform hostess duties, such as getting the council president some snacks and a drink. It is uncommon for the mayor to respond to a speaker, and does so with the permission of the president. When she does respond, it is often that she will touch upon the question and then make comments which generally do not provide answers. Once the mayor or council president has presented his or her answer, requests for clarification or continuation of dialogue by the speaker are generally not well received within the council chambers.
    The mayor’s roundtable is another supposed avenue of idea exchange. Giving all due credit, it is a mechanism by which a city resident can get a few minutes of face time with the mayor without a peace officer present, and residents can present the details of their problem or concern directly to the mayor. The mayor’s roundtable, on the surface, is a good idea, but in its present state generally does no more than a letter to the mayor would. It is often a good opportunity to hear the mayor speak about a variety of topics, but don’t expect any depth to a conversation, especially one which deals with a current hot button. There’s also the problem with follow-through with ideas presented to the mayor, as it seems to be the case that she writes down what interests her but doesn’t let the submitter know whether or not the idea is useable or fruitful down the road. Feedback is a problem here. There’re coffee and baked goods at these meetings, but no decaf.

    There are a few root problems with the council meetings and with communication with the council and mayor. The first has to do with facts: If members of the community come armed with facts and figures in opposition to a proposal before the council, wouldn’t it be appropriate for the council to give them at least a compass direction to the source of the information which moved them to support the proposal, so that the public could consider those facts also? It’s almost unheard of that they do, but “becoming involved in the city of Salisbury” requires information, and not just that digested by the council and mayor. Many, many of the people who wish to become involved are really pretty smart folks, with a lot of experience, intelligence and desire to improve the city, but they need data, data which is difficult, if not impossible, to get from the council or mayor.
    The second problem has to do with transparency. Of late, it becomes more and more evident that what the mayor and council say and do have more than a tinge of covertness to them. We are in a period in which the city is experiencing unparalleled growth. It’s a given that growth is both necessary and unavoidable. Decisions are made by the council and mayor regarding growth which seem to be based on very little evidence. A case in point is the Old Mall project, in which the city looks to approve development which will place over 840 housing units on a space of about 50 acres. The information presented in public session by the proposed developer amounted to a fifteen minute PowerPoint slideshow with photos of a small number of rowhouse-type apartments on narrow streets in other locales, some of built on actual hills, which we all know to be non-existent at the Mall site. Traffic studies to determine the feasibility of putting 1500 cars on those fifty acres and on surrounding streets were not done. The provision of green space in the form of common grassy and landscaped areas was pooh-poohed by council members, citing that it was only a short walk to the city park. It might be a short walk for some, but a quarter mile to the edge of the park and three-quarters of a mile to any part of the park suitable for children under supervision, especially with a kid in tow and one more in a carriage, across and down several wide, busy streets is hardly a short walk for those who need green space the most. Then there’s the density issue itself, about which the mayor used as a successful template a development in a township in a state north of us, where density, at maximum, is 10 housing units per acre, while the proposal here is in excess of 16 units per acre. In regards to transparency, if this project seems not to be of an ideal and design on the surface, how is it that the mayor and council have come to the decision that it’s for us, and are locked in in their decision to approve it? What do they know that the public does not? Why isn’t the public being informed? The view of this from the public’s standpoint is very murky, with not enough information being promulgated and not enough appropriate response to public comment. Lack of transparency is evident with the current problem with the city’s wastewater treatment plant, where serious legal and procedural shortcomings have been discovered, and where the safety and health of the public are perceived as threatened. The city is less than forthcoming regarding this issue, attempting instead to cloud the issue with a major attack on, of all things, the submissions of a choice few local residents on a choice few blog sites. Rather than comment on the issue, fires have been lighted by the mayor to provide a smokescreen. Why not just tell the people what’s what? And this leads me to the third problem: Truth. If it’s covered with stripes, don’t try to tell the public that it’s polka-dotted. Some will be fooled, and some just don’t care, but the ones who do care and look closely to see the stripes for what they are, particularly in this age of blogs and photograph uploading, will expose the lie, and it will become widely known that there is a lie and there are liars. Once a few lies are exposed, especially those lies created to conceal lies, the public loses trust in its leaders, and every statement by those leaders becomes suspect.

    Oh, did I forget to mention humility?

    I do care for a higher level of community discussion, and I am involved in the City of Salisbury. However, it isn’t easy, when involvement here seems to mean shut up, sit down and support everything as presented by some folks that I am finding increasingly difficult to trust and respect. If it was a spouse that did and said such things to me, a spouse that was raising our kids, had access to our joint account, and refused to go to couples counseling, I would have no viable choices but to close the account, take the kids away and do the best I could to make sure that she didn’t get the house.

    Hats off to Salisbury’s bloggers. Some contributors to their blogs are on a rant. Some submit statements that are coarse and hurtful. They are in the minority. Their readers can skim past their comments, should they decide to, or read them in their entirety and sift out ideas and facts that they otherwise didn’t have or of which they were unaware, given the current state of much of the local mainstream media (MSM). Most bloggers and their blog posters have and post with a high degree of decency, and are truly interested in making Salisbury a place that they’d invite in to meet Mom and Dad, one that nurtures and protects the incredible natural gifts that are the area, and know that what we get are a very limited number of chances to do it right the first time around.

    As stated before, there lots of smart and able folks around here, folks who could be embraced by local government as contributors and stewards, folks who dream about being at least a small part of a government that stands tall and does the right thing, again and again. They look to leave behind legacy that will be one in which they can take pride. They, for the most part, don’t care if their names are carved in granite somewhere. Again, they know the stripes from the polka-dots, but they can know this only if they can be assured of a good look at a clear picture. If the picture’s fuzzy and out of focus when they know the photographer had a good camera good light, they’ll look for photos from another source.

    Thanks again, to you, bloggers, and to those who read and contribute. Let’s make Salisbury not just an okay place in which to live, let’s help make it a great one.

Comments are closed.