I wonder how many Delta residents know that their local government has hired a social media consultant to put the municipality on Facebook and Twitter. The contract was for six months and pays $20,000. I'm no expert on the subject but it raised questions in my mind as to the veracity of this hiring, so I consulted with those who are. I have learned a lot and while I talked to many about this subject I'm going to quote a local resident, Barbara Coates, who has great expertise in this new medium and was a member of the Tsawwassen Area Plan Committee. She experienced firsthand the lack of good communications with residents and the resulting cancellation of two public hearings after overwhelming anger from residents who felt that had not been heard.
Unfortunately for all residents of Delta, the TAP process was an exercise in frustration and in the end succeeded in alienating not just residents from our mayor and council but also played Ladner, North Delta and Tsawwassen against each other. I have never experienced such a sense of distrust and a feeling that ordinary residents have been shutout of the decisions making at Delta hall.
It was suggested many times over the years that Delta set up webcasting of all public meetings and workshops so that residents could watch online what is taking place. This has become even more important as more residents change from Delta Cable to other TV providers, who are not mandated to broadcast municipal meetings. This was never a priority for council who expressed the opinion that it would be too expensive. Since this same mayor and council had no trouble spending $500,000 on an unnecessary square in front of Delta Hall and giving themselves outrageous wage increases over the last three years, it shows their priorities never bent towards opening the doors to the hall to ordinary citizens.
Now, Delta, just months before an election, has hired a social media director to communicate better with its residents. Great, but communication is a two way street and Delta certainly seems to be a one way street. The Delta website may give out lots of information (except when it fails to properly announce civic meetings) but where is there a place for feedback from the public? The only forum people have are the traditional means of letters to the editor or a paltry five minutes before council meetings. That needs changing and Twittering won't do it.
Ms. Coates observed that for Delta now "to jump on the social bandwagon is, in my opinion, premature. An entire overhaul of the fundamental culture of the organization needs to be done...."
She also noted "I don't think the Corporation of Delta has a clear vision of why they want to catch up ... no mention was made of opening the doors on the Corporation website. Where is the feedback form or the discussion forum? If they really wanted feedback from the general public they could have done this years ago on their website."