Revolution of Influence

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Memo to a Mayor: Make Chicago the most socially connected city government

A couple months ago, I heard Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Roper tell a story of how Mayor Richard J. Daley (that would be Chicago’s first Mayor Daley for history buffs) used to instruct staff members closest to him to always carry a pad of paper with them. That way, when they saw something in their daily lives such as a pothole in need of fixing, they would jot that down and give it to the Mayor. I’d like to think the pothole in question then got promptly fixed.

I can also remember Newark Mayor Cory Booker speaking on Piers Morgan’s program on CNN about how he successfully used Twitter this past Winter to quicken emergency response times toward those residents trapped by a snowstorm.


Some say these examples are from long ago or apply to a smaller city than our own. But really – is the notion that Chicago be the most socially connected city be a pipe dream? No. I don’t think so. In fact, I believe we have the tools and resources to make this possible. And I think a relatively new Mayor in Rahm Emanuel is the perfect opportunity for renewed advocacy and accessibility with governmental leaders.

Let’s start with the ground level.
If someone sees a pothole, we may complain about it and say, “somebody should fix that.” Or we could snap a picture of it and tweet it to an alderman or City Hall with the location of where it is. At the end of this post, I’ll give you their Twitter handle if they have one. Easy enough? You know it is. You have time to use your phone for good in between games of Angry Birds.

Getting City Council More Social
Every Chicago Alderman should set up with a Twitter handle so they can be sent questions in the form of tweets from their constituents and respond in kind. Or use it to listen to relevant conversations going on among Chicago’s most passionate citizens. Currently, only about 1/2 of the 50 Wards have Twitter accounts and several of those are poorly updated (but glad to see my neighborhood’s Alderman, Tom Tunney, doing a good job with the tweets –@AldTomTunney). For more in-depth postings that incorporate pictures and video, having a Facebook page is not the worst idea, particularly since most constituents are likely on Facebook if they are not on Twitter. All you need once you’re set up with an account is to be responsive to the people who most likely live in your designated area – which is, after all, what you were elected to do, right?

Town Hall meetings
What works for President Obama can work at the very localized level too – broadcast Town Hall meetings or other types of monthly discussion meetings on YouTube to bring together roundtables of citizens with their Alderman to discuss topics that need to be raised. Now, I understand that the content at times may be no more thrilling than C-Span, but I didn’t say this has to be recorded in its entirety either. Taking the most useful snippets that are then posted on the Alderman’s site can help convey quick answers to questions that are very top-of-mind for the neighborhood.

Civic Investment
As funding from the private sector is important to help grow our city, each of our Aldermen should also be set up with a page from the leading B2B website, LinkedIn. I’m not merely talking about creating a page, however. I’m talking about creating an outlet for connections between the politician and corresponding C-level executives as well as associations can occur. It takes no time to create this and establish connections. Besides, LinkedIn also has a Polls application and no matter how much they say they don’t look at them, politicians can gain some significant insight and goodwill from polling their constituents on a variety of local issues.

“How do I do this?”
For the politicians: It’s incredibly simple to be set up with the right tools to engage your electorate on a daily basis, including all the ones I’ve outlined above and then some. It’s smart for your visibility, accessibility and yes, your election or re-election efforts. The main point is that what I’m suggesting is a small but important opportunity to improve communication between City Hall and its citizens just a little bit better. The upside is worth the investment of time.

For the people: Courtesy of the people at Progress Illinois, here’s a Chicago Aldermanic Twitter Directory. If your Alderman is on this list, connect to him or her and make the link to government in Chicago just a little bit closer. Don’t forget to follow our Mayor while you’re at it – @RahmEmanuel.

For those who may question the effectiveness of being the most socially connected city…do you really find the traditional way of getting things done in politics marvelously efficient?

That’s what I thought. Let’s give this way a try now.
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