#FakeANNtourage, #RealNews: virtually covering the people who virtually attend council meetings
It was not a propitious start to the evening. Almost as soon as I stepped out of my vehicle, I realized I’d left my phone on the recharger at home.
That’s no way to live-tweet an event, which was a meet-up of people at Workantile on Main Street, Ann Arbor. I’d learned about it from our friends at Damn Arbor.
By the time I got home to get the phone, I decided to give it up as a bad business. I’d check in on the people of #a2council the way I usually do: on Twitter.
I don’t know how long they’ve been at it, but there is a handful of citizens who share an unusual hobby. They watch Ann Arbor City Council meetings — usually on cable TV — and comment and/or take notes on the proceedings via Twitter, using the hashtag #a2council. The result is a little like sharing the load of reporting the meeting among several people, but with snarky comments.
It’s one way of connecting with civic life. And, let’s face it, it’s more than most of us do.
I can verify from my cub reporter days in the early ’90s, attending government meetings can be a drudge. Elected officials are often far too careful to say anything actually interesting, and all the real action seems to go on behind closed doors in “executive session.” Still, there’s a lot to be said for having our elected representatives on the record, and on notice that someone’s watching.
A news reporter is at least supposed to act neutral. That’s not necessarily so with the citizen tweeting brigade.
Monday’s City Council meeting was to be a fairly light one, but there was a fair amount of excitement around whether Ann Arbor should defy President Trump and declare itself a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants. Supporters of the notion
crammed into council chambers and council members all went on record to support, well, not that much of a resolution: to direct the city administrator and city attorney to report to the council on “issues raised” by Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities.
Peter Honeyman and Chris Dzombak, #a2council regulars, supply fairly sober, consistent notes on what is said.
• “Speaker feels that #A2Council should not be too concerned about losing federal dollars over sanctuary city.”
• “Kathy Griswold thanks #A2Council for moving forward on sidewalk safety.”
• “Someone addressed #A2Council about the deer cull. Accused them of being secretive, etc. This is not true.”
One of the downsides to #a2council as a reporting mechanism is that, when the audio isn’t good, there’s no way to go up to a council member after the meeting to get clarification.
• “Amendment saying I don’t know what passed 11-1.”
• “#A2Council went into closed session to discuss pending litigation and something else I missed.”
And then there’s the snark. It’s what makes #a2council fun, but can undoubtedly seem mean-spirited to the targets of the jokes.
• “#A2Council speaker says deer cull = stain on #AnnArbor just as Trump administration a stain on our country. You never disappoint, #AnnArbor.”
• “Overheard: ‘They are all just agreeing, why are they still talking?’”
• “We may be nearing a record for amount of posturing for a resolution that accomplishes so little and will pass unanimously.”
My favorite way to follow #a2council is without the live feed of the actual City Council. I’m more interested in the people who’re interested in governance than I am in the actual governance. I’m fairly sure that makes me a bad citizen and a worse journalist. But in the age of the Internet, you’re welcome to make up for my deficiencies. Tune in to #a2council on Monday evenings, see what’s going on in town and join in the fun. You may not agree with everything you read, but at least you’ll be a little more connected to what’s going on.