Friday, May 9, 2008

what's not to like about a blog?

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.


Silver Springer said...

Please, then you know you're doing something right.

Dan Reed said...

I'm being just a little tongue-in-cheek.

Sligo said...

The Internet is a series of tubes.

Anonymous said...

Robin Ficker's comment spam has worn out everyone's patience.

Anonymous said...

A closed mind is a terreible thing to waste, whether it be young Dale Tibbits or old Doln Praisner.

Anonymous said...

What's all this hoopla about Burtonsville revitalization? its just a commerical crossroads off 29, not some major business district. there's not a vacancy or crime issue either. if the county wants bigger and better things for Burtonsville they should repeal laws banning big boxes like Walmart and Wegmans from coming to town. Such trip generators could allow for larger scale mixed use development. But it is just Burtonsville after all.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous" is right, at least in so far as big boxes are concerned. Why should the county prevent Wegmans from competing with Safeway and Giant? That doesn't benefit the bulk of Montgomery County residents who ought to be able to get better service or lower prices if they can. That law ought to be repealed or made an election issue.

Anonymous said...

Vote for Mark Fennel & Property Tax Relief on May 13!

Adam Pagnucco said...

Most of MoCo's politicians read blogs whether they admit it or not. I am not naming names, but I know who you are!

retgroclk said...

A number of "box stores" have tried to move into the area- only to be met with protest from the local retail Unions.Giant, Safeway and Shoppers among others.

It appears that the Unions have long reaches in our local politics.

Thomas Hardman said...

I have seen what Dan observes, over and over. I see County officials asked if they've seen this or that online resource, and the reaction is almost always either ignorance couched as dismissiveness, or confusion between one online resource and another.

For example, I created as MySpace page for Aspen Hill. Let's just say that it has not worked out as intended. Yet I caught a lot of flak, second hand, filtered through intermediaries from higher-ups.

Somehow someone got the idea that I was responsible for a FaceBook group full of idiots representing themselves as "gangsta from MoCo, representin' for Aspen Hill, yo". Yikes.

It's a toss up as to what's better classified as "stupid stuff", MySpace, those FaceBook twits, or the elected officials who can't tell the difference between foamingly furious fools from Aryan Nations and legitimate citizens all ticked off because you can't (past tense now, thank goodness) park your truck in the local Home Depot without the day-laborers liberating the contents to serve their pawn and alcohol needs.

Yet all is not lost: I do know of certain public officials who actually "get" them thar intarwebs and can even passibly message in txtspk. As time goes on, the political culture of backroom handshaking as the deals go down will transform into the globally-viewable traffic in the marketplace of ideas, where everything is on record and accountability and transparency are only a URL away.

Anonymous said...

The Washington Post didn't endorse Praisner--a first because they almost always endorse the Democratic nominee. They didn't like his failure to show up anywhere and the corrupt taxpayer funded mailing sent to voters by the Democratic Board of Elections to turn out the vote.

Thomas Hardman said...

I feel it incumbent upon me to mention that the problem that Burtonsville has is that most people who drive through the place mostly see it as that bottleneck in the road where you both take your life in your hands trying to make a left turn across 198, and the place where you really annoy everyone behind you when you try to make that left turn and back up the traffic for half a mile. Or maybe it's that place where you got stuck for 20 minutes behind someone trying to make a left turn.

But seriously, the place could use a large circle, on about the same scale as Chevy Chase Circle or any of the other large circle parks downtown. That, and parking, and Burtonsville is as well-situated in terms of accessibility as is Silver Spring; all that would be missing would be light rail.

I just got some mail from the State Highway Administration, announcing a "Md-28/MD-198 Corridor Improvement Study". This has potential, and sometime starting around Fall 2008, there will be a series of public meetings. I sure intend to involve myself, and hopefully so will a lot of the other folks in District 4.