Friday, August 10, 2007

The blogging of politics

No, I'm not referring to the YouTube/CNN debate or the politics of blogging, also known as the complimentary ass kissing that goes on between bloggers on the A-list. I'm talking about political figures on a non-national level, aka those without a press secretary or PR manager, and how they are learning to listen to, appreciate and engage in blogs. This is getting local, y'all.

As I've mentioned before, I grew up in Warren, Michigan - a town famous for housing the GM Technical center, Big Boy restaurants and yes, Eminem went high school here too.

Warren is also known for having extremely dirty politics. As the son of a former Warren politician, I remember growing up being told that Warren politics made Chicago's politics look clean by comparison. Case in point, fresh on the doorstep of my parents house are two pieces of "literature" from fake "citizens groups", both anonymously slamming candidates for mayor, treasurer, clerk and city council.

As a younger man I also remember watching the local cable channel's coverage of the Warren City Council meetings, something that resembled more of a three ring circus than a civic body's organized meeting. Side note: As part of a Boy Scout merit badge for something related to a "Community" merit badge, I spent the 3+ hour long Council meeting drawing characatures of the Council, including my Dad) .

The city also has the dubious distinction of being number one in old people. Yes, Warren boasts the largest elderly population outside of Florida and Hawaii for cities with 100,000 people or more...that's some ornery, old folks with web access.

Add in the internet and you have a lot of vocal retirees and watchdogs policing the budgets and city's doings. The Mlive message boards are filled with local Warrenites voicing their displeasure with the Mayor, direction of the city, spending, taxes, and just about everything else you can imagine. Enter blogs.

An article in the News shows how local politicians can use blogs to get their point across. In fact, the same article even references the Mayor's recent take as part of the article.

Anonymous folks are taking their turn teeing up on the local politicians, so the Mayor of Warren and other politicians have taken to starting their own blogs to get their point across. One Grosse Pointe councilman feels it's the only way he's going to get his view across:


In Grosse Pointe Woods, Councilman Pete Waldmeir started his own blog to counter the "lies, distortions, character assassination and slander from garbage-blog losers." On his site, called Grosse Pointe Woods' Truth, he dares the "gutless trash" to leave their real names.

"I call them the garbage blogs because nobody ever signs them," said Waldmeir, a former Detroit News columnist. "I wouldn't mind as long as people had guts enough to sign their names. There are laws against libel and slander, and this gives them a free ride ticket."

Waldmeir posted this week that he believes he's "unmasked" the blogger who's attacked him and other Grosse Pointe Woods city officials. And, now, that site is down.


It's rather sad that it had to become that confrontational. Rather than question the anonymity of blogging, I'd question why a resident would feel compelled to start a blog anonymously? Is it the lack of transparency in government or was is started by someone with a hidden agenda? Either way transparency is the way to go and it's a sad but realistic fact that people can't trust or engage their local politicians without the fear of backlash.

Speaking of transparency, if Warren Mayor Steenbergh really wanted to engage residents his site would include comments.


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