Have you noticed a change in the weather? No, I'm not referring to climate change, or record cold-temperatures "gripping" the area. Have you noticed a change in how Howard County Government social media accounts handle weather events? I have.
Take a look:
Between Friday at 3:51 pm and Sunday at 12:28 pm there was absolutely no outreach. Holiday weekend, right? Slow news days in local government? Not exactly. From late Saturday afternoon into Sunday we had a pretty significant weather event: snow, high winds, dropping temperatures. Citizen reports painted pictures of extremely poor visibility, numerous car accidents, slippery roads.
And it's a good thing we had those citizen reports because from HoCoGov we had crickets. Nothing.
Now, of course Notify Me Howard has become the butt of jokes for over-notifying citizens to the point of annoyance. And I do have some friends whose overall view of the past administration leans towards a disdain for something they might call "the nanny state". So maybe the Kittleman administration is just getting the job done and they don't feel it's a part of their responsibility to check in with us on the weekends?
I don't agree. I have very much appreciated how hard county employees worked in the past to keep citizens updated during adverse weather events. The use of social media by the Ulman administration during these times said to me:
- We're all in this together.
- We're doing everything we can to help.
- An educated citizen can be a safer citizen.
I don't know what the philosophy is now. Perhaps:
- We're doing our job.
- You can take care of yourself.
- If you need us, call us.
It's a no-nonsense approach, to be sure, with a small government feel. But it really misses the mark for me. Social media gives a wonderful opportunity to keep residents informed and connected. Throwing that opportunity away speaks volumes about constituent service, to my mind.
You know who's doing a great job? Formally: The Maryland State Highway administration, and, informally: members of the Clarksvilke Happenings group on Facebook. As to HoCoGov--if this is what the future looks like, it's looking mighty backward.
Post Script: Both Jon Weinstein and Courtney Watson have been reaching out through social media during recent weather events. I realized my omission as soon as I hit "post".