CityWatch, June 19, 2012
Vol 10 Issue 49
RETHINKING LA - The great thing about participating in a Neighborhood
Council is the fact that it provides a crash course in the Brown Act and
in the Public Records Act. Unfortunately it's typically a literal
crash, one that brings meetings to a screeching halt as members share
anecdotal experiences, second hand information, and collective fears of
Neighborhood Councils are currently debating the use of Facebook in the
public arena, urged on by those who embrace the social media revolution
and held back by those who fear Brown Act violations and Public Record
The irony of this Facebook debate is that it takes
place in a city that is led by Social Media fans, including Mayor
@Trutanich, City Attorney @Trutanich and LA's Facebook pioneer, former
City Council President @Garcetti who was one of the first to max out his
Facebook page with friends.
LA's City Leadership is so fond of
social media that LA's Ethics Commission recently addressed the
antiquated application of analog legal restrictions in a digital world.
Politicians with active Facebook and Twitter accounts may soon be
required to set up separate accounts for their political candidacy
campaigns, a requirement that acknowledges the legitimacy of social
media activity within City Hall and the need to address appropriate use.
with social media accounts have an obligation to keep their political
work separate from their government work, a standard that applies to all
they do, not just social media.
Groups with social media
accounts, such as Neighborhood Councils, have an obligation to conduct
themselves in accordance with Open Meeting Laws, a standard that applies
to all public arenas and digital communications, not just social media.
idea of a Neighborhood Council using Facebook to tell their story,
engage their community, and invite stakeholders to events should result
in a hearty round of yawns, after all, Facebook accounts are so common,
they're almost passé.
But in some cases, simply suggesting that a
Neighborhood Council operate a Facebook account as part of their
outreach strategy results in shrill cries of "What about the Brown Act?"
Francke, the Executive Director of CalAware and the lawyer who
succeeded in his Brown Act case against the LA County Supervisors,
reports that there is nothing unique about social media when it comes to
the Brown Act.
Neighborhood Councils have much to contend with
and threats of Brown Act and Public Records Act abuse simply has a
chilling effect on the spirit of volunteerism.
LA's Mayor, City
Attorney, and former City Council President have all utilized social
media in their governmental work and have all demonstrated an ability to
differentiate between appropriate governmental use and distinctly
separate personal or political use.
Neighborhood Councils are definitely ready to follow City Hall down the same digital road.
Ethics Commission stands prepared to grapple with need to address
digital technologies and analog laws, removing the mystery from the
Again, Neighborhood Councils are definitely ready to follow City Ethics down that digital legal road.
tools for communication will continue to evolve and if Neighborhood
Councils are firmly grounded on their commitment to open and transparent
governance, then they are ready for Facebook.