MAN ABOUT TOWN: ‘Friending’ the Mayor on Facebook

man-about-townBy GEORGE SOUTHERN
Falls Church Times Staff

November 25, 2009

I’m learning about Facebook, to my peril. My children all have Facebook pages, and once or twice I showed interest in them. If my daughters had been kind, and paraphrased the Trix commercial, they could have just replied, “Silly man – Facebook is for kids.” Instead, they expressed in graphic terms that the mere idea of a man over 30 reading Facebook was about the ickiest, creepiest thing imaginable.

But at the City Council meeting Monday night, I learned that Facebook now reflects the heartbeat of the City. Specifically, it’s a key policy formulation resource for our Mayor, who, during the debate over moving City elections from May to November, read to Council the comments from 10 of her Facebook Friends.

So as a journalist, I feel impelled to join Facebook, no matter what the cost to my daughters’ parental esteem. And I have asked our Mayor to be my Friend.

I don’t think that’s asking too much. She has 391 other Facebook Friends, so what’s one more Friend among friends? And besides – that list of 391 includes the editor/publisher/owner of the Falls Church News-Press. Doesn’t the Falls Church Times deserve equal access? (Or can I be sued for asking that?)

While waiting to be accepted as the Mayor’s Friend, I went ahead and wrote my first posting for the Mayor’s Wall, which I’m happy to share with all my other “Friends.”

Dear Robin,

[Note to readers: if you think calling the Mayor by her first name is disrespectful, obviously you know nothing about Facebook. NOT using first names is an insult.]

I agree with your other Facebook Friends that moving City elections from May to November is a great idea. We all lead busy lives, and voting once a year is enough – especially on a workday.

But I also agree with Ellen Salsbury, the president of the League of Women Voters, who points out that such a big change shouldn’t be rushed. Give it time to be studied and thought out – don’t rush to enact it on December 14.

And I agree wholeheartedly with John Lawrence, the chairman of the Planning Commission, who says we don’t want to resemble a country with a tin-pot dictator extending his own term. Such a change needs to be made by the voters in the form of a referendum.

And I agree with School Board member Kieran Sharpe, who notes that moving to even-year Novembers could cause our little local elections to be lost in the shuffle. Instead, align the elections with the State offices, on odd years. That’s when our Sheriff, Treasurer, and Commissioner of Revenue are elected, and it seems to work just fine.

And while we’re fixing the elections, what about School Board Chairman Ron Peppe’s point that both the City Council and the School Board are too large for a city of 11,000. They would be more efficient with five members instead of seven, and meetings would end sooner. On Monday night you had to vote to extend the Council session past 11 p.m. That’s just wrong – as Councilman Dan Sze has pointed out, he and others need to get to work in the morning.

In keeping with the concern that City residents are “disenfranchised” by having to vote in May, let’s go a step further: voters are also disenfranchised by not being able, if they so wish, to turn out the City Council and the School Board every four years. Right now that requires eight years, and we’re told that half the City’s population turns over every five years. So let’s have the entire Council and Board stand for re-election every four years.

While some may compare our local offices with the staggered terms of our silver-haired Senators, I think that’s going a little too far. We don’t need to worry about continuity in office, because we have a City Manager and School Superintendent who provide plenty of continuity. Especially given the fact that the Mayor is not elected directly by the voters, we need the ability to clean house every four years – just like with the White House.

A final point: On Monday night you asked if we could make this election change to November be an experiment, and if it didn’t work, move it back to May. I thought the City Attorney would respond to your question, but maybe he thought he had already been clear on that point. At the Nov. 16 Council work session he said that if Council moves the election from May to November, “there’s no provision in the Virginia Code to move it back.” So if this is irrevocable, shouldn’t we avoid a rush to judgment?

Thanks, Robin, for giving me space on your Wall. I’ll be excited to find out at the next Council meeting if you read my Facebook comment into the record.

Your Friend,


November 25, 2009 


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