DeKalb Declares War on Bloggers


From Citizens Community Enhancement Commission (CCEC) meeting minutes (PDF p. 42), September 21, 2009:

1. City Image Chairman Matya advised that at the suggestion of City Manager Biernacki, he and Mr. Barnes met with Mr. Biernacki, Mr. Espiritu and Mr. Herb Rubin regarding the City’s image on blogs, etc. It was suggested that the CCEC speak to the Daily Chronicle to see what can be done regarding untruths and personal attacks on the City and its employees. Also discussed was asking the CCEC and members of the community to write letters to the Chronicle to counteract this and look to the Chronicle for accountability.

Discussion ensued regarding how the bloggers may affect Council’s opinion on projects, i.e. the pedestrian pass through.

Mr. Barnes stated there are not enough people countering these bloggers; he added there needs to be more activity. Additionally, he suggested posting links to the City’s website which gives correct information on issues.

This came straight from the City’s website, Mr. Barnes, so I trust you have no objection to my blogging it? BTW, I’m all for additional information on the city’s website but would ask that y’all stop the habit of calling disagreement “misinformation.” The only “misinformation” is that people thought spending $325,000 on a ramp and glorified umbrella was a new dumb idea instead of an old dumb idea.*

Chairman Matya stated there is concern about misinformation [!] and how to address it; however, it isn’t appropriate for City employees to respond to blogs. Perhaps a fact sheet could be developed, he added. Also, there may be a need to develop an exchange of ideas with the Chronicle and create a better dialogue. They may have some suggestions on what other newspapers do, or what other cities do to protect themselves.

Um, maybe other cities put out the facts proactively, and “protect” themselves with responsiveness to the overall community and not just a tiny in-group? Just a thought.

Mr. Pietens stated it might not be a good idea to let the Chronicle know the bloggers are affecting the city.

Bless you, Mr. or Madame Secretary, whoever you are.

He said people need to step up and state what the City is doing right. Ms. Johnson doubted a meeting will be beneficial, but added there needs to be good news in the paper.

Mr. Rasmussen suggested talking to the radio stations and rebutting some of these issues. Mr. Espiritu advised Mayor Povlsen is on the radio weekly.

Chairman Matya stated comments do have an impact on the City’s image, and asked if there is consensus that some members of the Commission visit the Chronicle. Mr. Barnes said concerns could be raised at the meeting regarding activity in the blogs and how it affects morale of City staff and the community. Chairman Matya added questions could be asked if the Chronicle believes they are getting the communication from the City that they need. Also, Mr. Pietens said concerns could be raised that bloggers with three identities may disproportionately affect City policy.

Stop worrying. I have it straight from the mayor that he never reads the blogs.

Consensus of the CCEC was to approve a visit from Chairman Matya and Mr. Barnes to the Chronicle editorial staff. The item will be placed on the October agenda and Chairman Matya and Mr. Barnes will report back on the meeting.

Chairman Matya commented that it is a huge issue for the City because it doesn’t have anyone to perform media or public relations.

Competent and honest services is all the public relations you need. Trying to fix the image of something that’s broken is the ultimate lipstick-on-a-pig project.

Ms. Small announced there is an open house on Tuesday, September 22nd from 4-6 p.m. at the Chronicle. She added the Chronicle may be motivated to take action if they are pressured by their advertisers.

Chairman Matya asked if the CCEC believes it worthwhile to draft a memo to Council and the Mayor stating it supports the original pedestrian pass through plan presented to Council and ask them to go back to the citizens’ survey of 2005 where it was asked and overwhelmingly supported to approve funds to be spent to revitalize downtown.

I was one of the supporters. What they are not understanding is that economic times have changed to the point that basic services are now threatened by these expenditures. What we didn’t realize was that they took our support for something more than cosmetic changes to be a BLANK CHECK. We also know a who-o-le lot more about TIF than we did four years ago.

Ms. Johnson moved that Chairman Matya draft a letter to the Council and the Mayor indicating support of the original pedestrian pass through and reference community approval as indicated in the 2005 citizens’ survey; seconded by Mr. Barnes. Motion carried 7-0-2 on voice vote. Chairman Matya declared the motion passed.

City Council: I call upon you to denounce these activities. Is “community enhancement” supposed to be about coming up with strategies to stifle dissenting voices? I think not.

[*Update added 12:20 p.m. Emphases added 2:15 p.m.]