Archive for the ‘Weblogs’ Category

Getting Back on Track

April 19, 2008

It has been more than a month since my last post to the blog.  That’s a long enough gap that the site is certainly stale bordering on irrelevant.  It is a good reminder to me that, like exercise, when you try to fit something into your schedule it’s easy to let it fall through the cracks.  Things get done more easily when they are habits.  I have scheduled set times in my schedule to keep the blog current.  We’ll see how I do.

About My Blog

January 6, 2008

Craig Colgan writes a blog that covers public officials who blog.  It’s called the Municipalist and can be found here:  http://municipalist.typepad.com/.

Mr. Colgan provided me with some questions and request to cover my blog.  In looking at his blog, I notice that many officials answer the questions in Q & A style.  I used the questions as a guide to write an essay.

Here’s what I submitted to Mr. Colgan.  The questions he sent to me are posted further down.

I began my blog when I announced that I would be a candidate for St. Vrain Valley School Board.  My intention is to continue to blog as long as I am in office.

My goals for the blog are to foster conversation about education issues, specifically in our school district; to build connections with constituents; to add transparency to the school board process, and to hold myself accountable by being “on the record.”

I have had some interest in writing a blog for some time, long before I decided to run for school board.  However, I am not a big fan of vanity blogs.  I am more motivated to write when it serves a purpose.  A blog about my experiences as a member of the school board seemed relevant.

The most difficult aspect of writing the blog is the time commitment.  I don’t always meet the test of openness that I had hoped because there are occasional stretches of time when I post nothing.  So, I am less transparent than I might be because I have “silent” stretches.

Our school board is a volunteer position.  As such, the work I do to pay our mortgage must occasional – and sometimes often – take priority.  When my work is busy, the blog is often the first thing that slides down the priority list.  My first priorities on school board are to make sure I am prepared for my duties and to listen and learn from constituents.  Keep the blog current falls down the priority list.

I do find that having a blog has a positive impact on my personal behavior as a public official.  I feel compelled to think through issues thoroughly.  I know that when I post my ideas and opinions on the blog a diverse group of readers will see what I have posted.  The diversity of people who I know read my blog helps to hold me accountable.  I can’t say what’s convenient or what I guess various people might like to hear.  An example of that is when I posted responses to campaign questionnaires from various interest groups.  I purposefully put them on my blog so that those with different interests could monitor if I am being consistent.

I appreciate the feedback I receive on and off line.  I know thought people are reading which makes writing worthwhile.  There are a few aspects of blogging that I don’t find completely satisfying.

First, I would like to see more people comment on the blog.  I would also like to see more people comment on one another’s comments.  I know that more people read than comment, which I am sure is normal.  I am hopeful, over time, that more a conversation will develop.

Second, I have not come to terms with the “thinking out loud” approach to blogging that many people encourage.  I would like it if people in public positions could think out loud more.  I believe that would be healthy.  There is a price to be paid for thinking out loud.  We live in a culture in which people expect public officials to think through issues before speaking.  There are pros and cons to this culture.  As I noted before, because I know my blog is read, I am challenged to be thoughtful.  That’s good.  But, because public officials often get chastised when they do think out loud (readers assume thinking out loud is a conclusion) it leads officials to be evasive.  That’s not good.

I am not always willing to pay the price that goes with thinking out loud,

I encourage public officials to blog.  On balance, the benefits far outweigh the costs.  The time commitment is worth it – even if what the official is able to do ebbs and flows.  In addition, we are only beginning to discover how online technologies can enhance public institutions, public service and democracy.  The only way that we will accelerate what we’re able to do is if public officials are active participants in the online world.

The blogs I read tend to be of two types.  I try to keep up with blogs written by people in the communities I serve and who write about topics relevant to the work I’m doing on school board (as well as professionally).  I do not tend to read blogs written by public officials from other regions.  Given the amount of material I must read on a regular basis, this is about all I can keep up with.

I would like to be more of a student of blogging so that what I do can improve over time.  For instance, I am far from proficient taking advantage of blogging tools such as trackbacks.

If people check back on my blog in a year, I hope that I am much improved.  I also hope that I am meeting my initial goals of fostering conversation, adding to transparency and holding myself accountable.

QUESTIONS that served as a guide:

* What is the history of your blog? What got you started? What are your goals for your blog?

* How has the experience of blogging changed you or your work, if at all?

* What are you some of your favorite moments or results or examples of impact of your blogging? What some of your worst moments (if any)?

* What advice would you give other school board members about whether they should blog?

* Did having a blog help you at election time, hurt you, or neither, and why?

* Should all elected officials blog?

* Also: I am starting to ask more people this: What other blogs by elected or appointed officials out there in your state or region or nationally do you read and/or admire (if any)?

Getting Started

August 10, 2007

I have thrown my hat in the ring for the St. Vrain Valley School Board.  As a first time candidate for public office, this is the time for me to keep a public journal.  I’m new to the weblog world.  My experience writing this blog could come to an abrupt end on Election Day – November 6.  Or, I could be signing on for a minimum of four years.  In either case, I will keep this blog going during the time I’m a candidate and (should voters choose me) board member.

The intent of this blog is to share what I’m doing, learning and thinking.  I hope to share questions I’m wrestling with, especially ones that don’t have clear cut answers.  The topics will be specific to the St. Vrain Valley and education in general.  I hope to hear comments and foster a conversation about how we can best serve our children and our community through public education.  I invite you to suggest topics or pose questions for me to write about in this space.  I will do my best to keep up with people’s comments and queries.

One thing I won’t do is engage in or respond to personal attacks.  I intend for this blog to be a civil space.  I would like my children to view this blog – and the comments from readers – as an example of civil discourse on issues about which people feel passionate.  I believe that one of the essential skills we must teach our children is how to engage in a democracy.  Civil discourse is one of these skills.  I hope that you will help me demonstrate on this site that it is possible to be both passionate and civil.

A blog, used to its full potential, is not necessarily a good medium for someone seeking public office.  The power and potential of the blog medium is that it is a place where a person can think out loud and engage in back-and-forth dialogue.  Thinking out loud is a risky endeavor in the public realm.  I have been an active student of politics and public life for 20 years.  I have observed that many people do not have the patience for public officials to be thoughtful, let alone think out loud.  There is an expectation that officials should have a clear cut opinion on everything – even if the issue is new.  Should a candidate or official back track from initial thoughts, political opponents use the “change” as a blunt instrument calling the candidate or official a sell-out, hypocrite or flip-flopper.  Seldom do we celebrate that the candidate or official has taken the time to be thoughtful and developed a more reasoned point of view.

I’ve witnessed the negative result of these expectations on public officials.  When officials feel the pressure to have positions on every issue, they learn to be guarded and cagey.  They develop the skills to answer questions without saying anything.  It’s a reasonable defense against absurd expectations but, unfortunately, further fuels public cynicism toward politics.

Another contribution I hope to make with this blog is to debunk the idea that people who seek public office should avoid thinking in public.  I would like to demonstrate, in a small way, that people seeking public positions can take part in authentic back-and-forth conversations.  That public dialogue is possible and valuable.  If this blog helps to foster these ideas, even if in a small way, it will be worth the effort.

I hope that you will join me in the conversation on this blog.   Meantime, if you would like to learn more about my campaign you can visit www.creighton4stvrain.com.