Evanston aldermen decided this week to take a pass on having city staff help them build a bigger online presence to communicate with their constituents.
The aldermen now each have a one-page listing on the city’s website that provides contact information, including a link to a privately maintained website for those who have one, and in most cases, a brief biographical sketch.
Four aldermen, Fiske, Wynne, Tendam and Grover also have e-mail newsletters that are managed and distributed by the city.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said at this week’s Rules Committee meeting that questions had been raised about whether the city should go beyond that and host websites paid for by aldermen, have staff update websites created by aldermen, or further expand the current aldermanic pages on the city website.
“Not to be a grinch, but I think one page is all that would be appropriate to have on the city website,” Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said that some residents might see anything beyond the current practice as having taxpayers pay for political promotion of the aldermen.
“I think we’ve had troubles in the past with grey areas,” Wynne said. “Having the city send out anything beyond notices crosses into a grey area.”
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said she’d just sent out an e-mail newsletter, but it would be nice to also have a website, something she said she doesn’t have the resources to develop.
Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said different aldermen have different styles of communicating with residents and what’s available should reflect that.
But Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said, “Whatever we do, we should try to be consistent.”
“I support having links [on the city website] to individual websites, but not having city staff maintain them. There are lots of people out there who can create websites. My 1st Ward website has my picture and my point of view. It could easily be interpreted as being political.” she added.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, whose online message board was the subject of complaints from a handful of residents two years ago, said she went through “months and months of accusations and ridicule and attempts to intimidate” her over the web presence and she wouldn’t want to participate in anything that would require anyone else to have any control over what she wrote.