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Council at Its Best when It Focuses on What's Best for the Whole Community - September 3, 2017

When it comes to crafting public policy, input from the public is vital. Social media is one of the most powerful ways we have to connect with each other, and Normanites utilize this connectivity via multiple ward Facebook pages to discuss, vent and promote ideas, events and policies with each other.

While the ward Facebook pages can be excellent places to generate community discussion, it’s no secret that there are only, at most, around 1,500 people who are members of each page, and far fewer who actually comment on a regular basis (often the same people across multiple pages). Facebook pages don’t provide our council members with any holistic insight into what the community is thinking, nor should council members rely on what’s posted on Facebook to craft public policy.

Public policy decisions have to take into account a variety of factors: there are always going to be people at meetings or on Facebook who generate the most conversation. And their perspectives are important: after all, the saying “decisions are made by those who show up” has merit. The people that truly care are always going to have a disproportionate amount of influence.

But there are 120,000 people who live in Norman. Collectively, our council is responsible for making decisions that benefit all of them. That sometimes means making decisions that are publicly unpopular because they benefit the greater good. It’s a tough, thankless job, but our representatives are at their strongest when they are influenced by a wide variety of opinions, perspectives, and, of course, facts.

That also means spending our money wisely. There are plenty of vocal groups in Norman that want stuff. Some of what they want will benefit the community. Other things are merely vanity projects that will have a net-negative impact on Normanites. And still others are worthy projects that, when compared to the entire list of items we as a city have to pay for, simply shouldn’t make the cut. We need council members who will fight for what we need and say no to things we don’t.

We also have high expectations when it comes to the professionalism of our council members. There’s a time and a place for our council members to criticize each other’s decisions and policies: social media is definitely not the place.