Don’t call it a “blog.”
Donnie Smith, the Augusta Commission member for District 7, said that word reminds him of gossip and negativity, which won’t be the focus of Smith’s new Web page, “Donnie’s Corner.”
The commissioner, who is a lieutenant in the Georgia State Patrol, said he wants to give constituents who prefer to communicate online a way to find out what he’s up to and to respond with their comments.
“We are a technology-driven environment now, so people should be able to access their elected officials and our government employees and give them feedback on the way I’m providing them representation,” said Smith, who sought help creating “Donnie’s Corner” from the city information technology department.
His first post, which went live Wednesday, urges civility of discourse, provides his contact information and details his positions on District 7 flooding and the Augusta Municipal Golf Course.
The idea has caught on, and several other commissioners have requested similar pages of their own, according to interim city Web project leader Jeff Lewis.
Smith said the page, found under his name on augustaga.gov, would draw attention to a city department that succeeds.
“We get beat up in the city all the time about our departments that don’t function, but IT is one of the ones that does,” he said.
Increasing engagement between residents and the government is one of the “watchwords” in government IT, and Augusta IT is ready to facilitate the process, according to Michael Blanchard, the assistant director for IT.
“This is a much more open communications method,” Blanchard said. “They can take five minutes while they’re at their job, at the grocery store, type something on their phone.”
Smith is hardly the first Augusta politician to use social media. Long a heavy Facebook user, Mayor Deke Copenhaver switched to Twitter a few months ago and has tweeted more than 2,800 times. His new assistant, Al Dallas, runs two Twitter accounts, and Lewis has served as the mayor’s videographer for his weekly YouTube video.
A few hours after it was posted, Smith’s blog had one comment.
The site is accessible on mobile devices but soon will be more so as the city completes an overhaul of its site, including a new color scheme and more “modules” in which residents can find out what, and how, their local government is doing.
“Citizen engagement is a big part of that,” Blanchard said.
Smith said he hoped his district’s 22 neighborhood associations will use a link to or feed from his page to get news out about District 7.
He said he might not respond to comments immediately but hopes to within a day or so at the most. Negative comments won’t be deleted, but the site requires users to log in to prevent spammers, Blanchard said.