Mayor uses social networking to talk to Chicagoans

September 1, 2011 3:17:17 PM PDT
In the 16 weeks Rahm Emanuel has been mayor, there is one indisputable change in how Chicago city government hears what's on the minds of taxpayers. The city now uses social networking sites to communicate with residents.

As director of social media, Kevin Hauswirth, 27, monitors Chicago's virtual city and then writes incessantly on facebook and twitter, and on specially designed platforms such as

"There are conversations that have always been happening all over the city about how to make Chicago better whether it's in grocery stores or on the sidelines at soccer games. Those conversations are now happening online," Hauswirth said.

The use of technology for direct communication with city residents is perhaps the biggest difference so far between the Emanuel and predecessor Daley administrations. The new mayor also has appointed a chief technology officer to design new programs to reach the public and a chief data officer who puts what had been hard-to-get public information on-line. Hauswirth estimates that since May, hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans have had some direct contact with city government on the internet.

"People are excited to see us there. They're not used to being able to engage with their government in such an open and direct way online," Hauswirth said.

The online activity might partially explain the interest in two town hall budget meetings this week. Hundreds showed up at each event -- both of which were publicized heavily on facebook and twitter.

"If you think pushin' off change and just doin' the same old is gonna get us where we need to go as a city it's not gonna work," Mayor Emanuel said.

Hundreds of people at last night's hearing submitted questions and comments on cards. They're being logged into a computer to be answered individually by city officials during the next few days.

Hauswirth--who reckons a job like his would not have existed five years ago--says that so much direct communication between people and their government puts new pressure on city hall to respond. "The added pressure is going to lead to added efficiency and that's where we're really trying to get to," Hauswirth said.

The mayor also has appointed a chief technology officer to design new programs to reach the public and a chief data officer to put on-line what used to be hard-to-get public information.

big question is how will this affect the alderman, who are supposed to represent in their wards at city. Now the mayor communicates directly with the people bypassing the other politicians.

Load Comments