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SPRINGFIELD - The City Council took a leap into social media this week, creating its own official Facebook page as a means to expand outreach and provide information to city residents.
Councilors have been advised by City Clerk Anthony Wilson to avoid commenting and getting into debates on the page due to the risk of violating the Open Meeting Law or campaign finance laws.
The council recently approved the page by a unanimous resolution, saying Facebook "has become a way in which many people get their news and stay connected to current events and happenings locally and globally."
The council office staff, under Wilson's direction, will post information such as meeting schedules, resolutions, proclamations, new legislation, live video, videos of previous meetings and other information relevant to the council, the resolution stated. It will not promote individual councilors, Wilson said.
City councilors said they encourage the public to go to the page and add a "like" or comment if they wish. The site can be found here.
"Public participation is an essential component to local government," Council President Orlando Ramos said. "Facebook is just one more tool that the Springfield City Council intends to utilize for the purpose of keeping the public informed."
Justin Hurst, who introduced the original resolution calling for the creation of a Facebook page four years ago, and Jesse Lederman, who re-introduced the matter, said content will be added on a regular basis.
"We recognize the role that social media can play in getting information to our constituents," Lederman said. "This is about broadening the reach and accessibility of the work we do on the City Council, and is part of a broader, concerted effort at community engagement that I believe is vital to ensuring a pro-active and accountable local government."
Hurst said the idea for the Facebook page came from the council's former Young Professionals Committee, which he chaired, and he is grateful that Lederman resubmitted it for council consideration.
"This is yet another example of the City Council making government more accessible to our constituents," Hurst said.
Wilson said that if councilors commented on issues under their jurisdiction on the page, it could be deemed "deliberation" outside a public meeting, a potential violation of the Open Meeting Law. The page also cannot be used to give political advantage to individual councilors, he said.
Hurst said he is not concerned.
"All of the city councilors' contact information is on the Facebook page in the event someone from the public would like to contact us directly regarding a particular issue of concern," he said.