By TERRY A. SIMONSON
WEB MEDIUM: Tulsa County has embraced social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to increase citizen interaction with the County government through its Web site at www.tulsacounty.org.
Tulsa County sees the future and is embracing it for what it hopes is for the public good and rebirth of new public involvement. Consider the status quo. Fewer people are reading newspapers. Television news lacks the resources to cover local political and government issues in depth. Hectic personal schedules often don’t leave time for public meetings.
If the public doesn’t know what elected leaders are doing, or why they make the decision they do, how can they hold government accountable?
Another disturbing national trend is the failure of local government to engage young people. Despite strong efforts locally by some grassroots and political organizations, young people often take a skeptical view of government decision making processes and don’t feel included.
And often times media outlets are less than interested in any good or positive news coming from local government which can shape the public’s attitude on the benefit, value and services being provided. If it doesn’t smell of impropriety or malfeasance then, they reason, why spend airtime or print space informing the public. Yet many good hard working county employees are making life better in Tulsa County and making county government work better than most would ever know if they relied solely on the mainstream media. Hence, the natural inclination by County leaders is to find other means to reach a wider audience with a broader perspective and message.
Enter Tulsa County’s elected official’s decision to launch Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the Tulsa County Spotlight Videos, all of which can be found on the homepage of the Tulsa County Web site, www.tulsacounty.org. Facebook, founded in a college dorm in 2004, now boasts over 200 million members. Twitter, just over two years old, now boasts over 20 million members. Government leaders, like those in Tulsa County, realize the need to reach out to people where they are. And increasingly, they are in the social network communities.
Tulsa County elected officials recognize that while these social networking approaches can not necessarily shape the future of the County, they are viewed as another tool in the box of communication. These new technologies are not equally available or desirable to all in Tulsa County and not a replacement for traditional outreach and community engagement efforts. Access must remain a top value for government.
For Tulsa County’s elected officials, the future is here and they have embraced it. We welcome you to join our social network community at Tulsa County brought to you by Commissioners John Smaligo, Fred Perry and Karen Keith and County Assessor Ken Yazel, County Clerk Earlene Wilson, Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith, County Treasurer Dennis Semler and County Sheriff Stanley Glanz.
Terry A. Simonson is Director of Development and Governmental Affairs for Tulsa County.