The City of Evanston will hold its first ever meeting Wednesday night, when residents will be able to ask Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tidahl questions through the social networking website.
Beginning at 6 p.m., the mayor will use 140-character "tweets" (Twitter messages) to discuss issues surrounding economic development and the , before fielding questions from fellow Twitter users.
But at least one Evanston resident has said that the online-only meeting excludes residents who don’t have access to technology or are unfamiliar with using Twitter.
Betty Esther, who lives at 2031 Church St., on the border between Evanston’s 5th and 2nd wards, said that many of her neighbors will not be able to join in the discussion.
“There are so many people in my neighborhood that do not have that capability,” Esther said at Monday night’s City Council meeting. “That is an oversight to have a town hall meeting to where too many of your citizens and your residents cannot participate… We pay our property tax just like everybody else. It’s time that we paid close attention to what we do, how we do it, because it does matter.”
Esther also said that she had tried to sign up for a Twitter account, but couldn’t quite figure out how to do so.
But Eric Palmer, community information coordinator for the City of Evanston, said that the meeting was never meant to be exclusionary, and instead was designed to include residents who might not be able to attend regular city gatherings.
“Using an online tool like Twitter allows us to reach out to those members of the community that cannot necessarily participate in these stationary meetings," Palmer said. "Especially for those with small children at home, those with disabilities and those working late shifts, who simply cannot make it to a meeting site, this is actually an inclusionary tool. This is just another option."
Palmer said that in recent years, the city has explored many new methods of engaging residents, and that Twitter has already proved useful in collecting information on residents' concerns, alerting citizens of blizzards and beach closings, and directing Evanstonians to the city website.
What do you think? Should every city meeting be accessible to all? Is the “Twitter Town Hall” meeting a fresh way to reach a new audience? Should this type of city communication continue?
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The "Twitter Town Hall" will begin at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. You can learn more about the meeting through the city’s website.