WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Gazette and Maryland Politics Watch speculate on Fennel's ability to win special election; Burtonsville demands funds, attention for revitalization; Planning gives 814 Thayer condo project the go-ahead.
Ever since the 2006 elections, Montgomery County's politicos have been all over the burgeoning community of bloggers that's developed over the past couple of years. From County Executive Ike Leggett holding a special "blogger briefing" on the Fillmore to Council President Mike Knapp writing about the most mundane details of his daily life online, it's clear that Your Elected Officials have taken to blogs as a way to speak out but also listen to what their constituents have to say.
Which brings me back to Don Praisner's ice cream fundraiser at Seibel's last Saturday, where I found myself talking to Dale Tibbitts, Councilmember Marc Elrich's chief of staff, and former Planning Board Chairman Derick Berlage, both of whom had come out to support his bid for County Council. Berlage could not understand what Just Up The Pike was, and he fiddled with the business card I'd given him with a puzzled look on his face. "Columbia Pike?" Berlage says, frowning. "What is this? Is it supposed to be online?"
"It's a blog. A lot of people read blogs now," I say, attempting not to sound boastful. I turn to Tibbitts, who I first met trying to nail down an interview with his boss last spring. "You read blogs, right?" I ask.
Tibbitts is a large man with a commanding presence, and when he sighs, the whole room feels it. "No, actually, I don't," he replies. "There are a lot of things on Just Up The Pike I don't really agree with, so I don't read it. I don't read any blogs, not Maryland Politics Watch, nothing. Their beliefs are not in line with what I believe."
Now, I'm not going to complain that Marc Elrich's chief of staff doesn't read my blog, as he can choose to read or not read whatever he wants and, besides, I'm just a kid with an Internet connection. But I'm nervous that someone, particularly someone who works in government, would be so unwilling to hear opinions that differ from their own. (Note that when I interviewed him last year, Elrich went out of his way to say he does "read blogs" and back in 2006 he even kept one for a little while.) After all, aren't our elected officials - and the people they hire as aides - obligated to serve all of their constituents, not just the ones who voted them in?
Maybe you can pull that on the national level. President Bush's approval rating may be the lowest in recorded history but he's still satisfying a hundred million people. But here in Montgomery County - activist-driven, blogger-boosted, paralysis-by-analysis Montgomery County - you can't turn a deaf ear to anyone without them screaming even louder until you pay attention.
I'm especially curious about what Tibbitts finds so objectionable here at JUTP or Maryland Politics Watch. We strive for at least an impression of objectivity here, and God help me, if I've ever expressed an opinion here, I'll try never to do so again.