City council is working on a code of conduct for themselves.
One area of concern is how much leeway an individual council member should have when using social media or interacting with the public and/or press.
It goes without saying that no council member should act as a spokesperson unless authorized to do so. It should be okay for council members to express their own opinions in public as long as they make it clear they are speaking for themselves, but the time and place for discussing council affairs is at public council meetings.
Issues should be debated, it’s better than rubber stamping, and debates can be great entertainment as well as educational for the public, but there is no place for disrespect between councillors.
Disagreeing doesn’t mean being disagreeable. All council members have the equal right to express their opinions just as they have equal responsibility to serve city residents. That’s their job.
Not too many members of the public watch council meetings on TV or their computers, even fewer attend them. If a councillor has strong ideas on an issue, it might be tempting to explain oneself on social media.
That could be tricky, any interaction with the public can be, however, I don’t see why council members can’t have their own Facebook pages.
Using social media to blatantly advance a personal agenda would be a bit much, but what if a councillor comes across a newsy event and wants to share it — like the recent story of a camper in the parks.
Councillors are out and about and are likely to hear interesting stuff. Complaints go to staff, and news should go to the media, but some things could be posted.
The code of conduct would ensure councillors were cautious about what they aired.