At tonight’s city council meeting, gadfly Steve Quist will ask the council to consider ordering all city-issued “PDA’s, Blackberry’s, and cell phones” turned off during public meetings.
As we said last week, this almost certainly won’t pass tonight. Nor should it.
Texting and emailing during meetings isn’t necessarily a problem, although it may be when those devices are being used to coordinate behind the scenes discussions. The real problem-like at your dinner table-is councilors who use it obnoxiously. And that’s the mayor’s job to regulate, which she does on occasion, when talking gets out of hand.
Just because you’re a city councilor or official doesn’t mean you are locked in a technology-free box, oblivious to everything else around you for the two or three hours you sit in the chamber. Distracting? Sure, it’s amusing watching councilors check their messages (or check this blog), but it’s hardly a distraction, any more than it is to listen to a rambling speech about the importance of whatever the policy or project du jour is.
It’s the wrong direction to go to say councilors shouldn’t be allowed to use technology during meetings. Shouldn’t we be aiming for more tech-savvy pols? We’d argue they should be using technology on the floor more and in better ways. City Manager Michael O’Brien does a nice job using his phone to get updates from or to staffers during meetings…but many problems and ignorant statements on the floor could be avoided with a good Google search once in a while.