For a man who’s made much of his reputation via social media, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s announcement Tuesday that he’s interested in restricting use of mobile phones during public hearings was perhaps a bit mysterious. Why would Mayor Twitter turn his back on the very Web 2.0 that brought his ass to the masses?
Old media (ok, just the Chronicle) has of late been banging the “inappropriate use of texts” drum: a recent Willie Brown column accused Planning Commissioners of receiving during meetings undue influence from developers and lobbyists via the text, and a recenter Chronicle editorial suggested Supervisor David Campos was manipulating police commissioners during last week’s Taser debate via the puppet strings of Verizon Wireless, instructing seated commissioners on how to vote while the public was distracted with public comment.
The devil would appear to be in the details, and as of late Tuesday there was very little of the latter available: Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker said that a draft proposal wouldn’t be ready until next week at the earliest, and whether or not the restrictions would extend to, say, Facebook and e-mail as well as cell phone texts is yet to be determined (but if it does, perhaps such a ban could single-handedly save Friendster).
This has nothing to do with whatever Campos supposedly texted to Police Commissioner Jim Hammer: Newsom took the idea from the state Assembly, which is considering a similar restriction on elected officials receiving undue influence from lobbyists during hearings. Not on all texts, mind you: just the evil ones, the fleshing out of which could prove to be a challenge.
“It’s not to say that Board staffers don’t text their bosses, and that the Mayor doesn’t text commissioners, and it’s not to say that this communication is improper,” Winnicker explained. “It’s about the appearance of impropriety,” which “erodes public confidence” in their elected officials when said elected officials’ attention is directed at their gadgets and not their constituents.
It’s perhaps germane to mention that to a person, each and every member of the Board of Supervisors multitask, writing e-mails, answering texts and updating Facebook statuses during their weekly Tuesday meetings. One notorious social media type is Supervisor Chris Daly, whose Facebook use has made headlines. Daly told The Appeal via Facebook chat that a Twitter ban wouldn’t affect him much — “I’m not 20 and single, so I don’t use it,” he typed — and suggested that if texting is outlawed, “How about talking to people across the dais? Shouldn’t that also be banned?”
For his part, Campos called the whole debate “a little silly.” He admitted texting Jim Hammer during the Police Commission hearing, but only to tell Hammer “I wasn’t happy with the way the process was going.”
“I think they got a result they didn’t like,” i.e., the Police Commission’s refusal to allow Tasers, and now there’s interest in changing the rules. In a show of defiance, Campos himself sent a text to the Mayor on Tuesday, telling him “this would probably be the last time I could text him.” Newsom’s reaction? “He laughed,” said Campos — but in what is perhaps a public change of habit, Newsom didn’t Tweet about it, The Appeal notes.