Vero Beach City Council not ready to start tweeting but wants public input

VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach City Council didn’t quite embrace Mayor Kevin Sawnick’s idea of using social networking sites, such as Twitter, to get the word out about city information.

However, the council did support setting up a form on the city’s website to collect public input on the city’s budget.

“I think it’s just a way to inform the public about what’s going on in the city,” Mayor Sawnick said about Twitter during a recent council meeting. “I think it would be a great thing for the city.”

The mayor told the council that City Clerk Tammy Vock would be the primary “tweeter” – sending out the notices of city meetings and other information the city deems appropriate.

Vock told the council during the discussion that she is working to get up to speed with the concept and usage. She has been in contact with other city clerks about using Twitter.

“I’m getting some information back,” she said.

Councilman Tom White expressed concern about adding Twitter to Vock’s responsibilities and duties, explaining that the city has cut another position from the clerk’s office.

“They’re up to their ears in alligators,” White said, “and someone forgot to drain the swamp.”

Along with finding staff to handle tweeting, a concern was raised about potential violations of Florida Sunshine Law and matters of public record.

Mayor Sawnick said he would bring the matter of tweeting back before the council at a later meeting when the council has had more time to consider it.

Though the council did not appear receptive to tweeting, it did support putting a comment form on the city’s website, www.covb.org, to elicit citizen suggestions on the city’s budget.

“I think it would be good just to get us more input,” Mayor Sawnick said. “I know some people don’t like coming to a meeting and this could up it to more discussion.”

The form asks that submitters post their name and address, just as they would if they were to address the council personally at council meetings.

“I’d like to know where they’re from,” City Councilman Ken Daige said of the commenters, especially if they are commenting on the city’s budget and they don’t live in the area. “I think we can set the ground rules.

The council voted 4-1 in favor of placing the form on the city’s website. Councilman Brian Heady, who expressed concerns that people can post comments anonymously under screen names, voted against the form.

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