At the last Council meeting, our City Attorney, Johanna N. Canlas, addressed social media as it relates to the Brown Act. Specifically, Ms. Canlas examined the subject of Facebook groups where Councilmembers are participants, and called it “problematic under the Brown Act for several reasons.” Ms. Canlas highlighted how an “online group cannot comply with the Brown Act’s noticing and agenda requirements” because they are “not a public forum recognized by the law.”
Whether a Facebook group will ever be ruled a forum recognized by the law, I would like to take a moment to provide formal notice of a Facebook group I created called “Coronado Electorate” (CE). CE is not a council meeting, but instead is a meeting for Coronado residents – catered to the City’s electorate. The meeting began when CE was created on Jan 2, 2017, and the meeting continues in perpetuity. The stated purpose of CE is to provide a voice for the electorate, educate residents on important issues in the City, and function as an “interface” between the citizens and their elected officials. In speaking with locals, I saw a need for a “residents only” group that is managed, administered and run by residents. Members can address Coronado issues, past, present or future 24/7. Facebook allows anyone to create a “group.” When a group is created, there are three options for the privacy settings: public, closed, and secret. CE is a “secret” Facebook group, as its goal is to be restricted to Coronado’s electorate. Privacy settings do not define what is being discussed within the group but do determine who within the 2 billion Facebook users can search and view the group itself and/or its content.
CE is a tool at the full disposal of Coronado residents and Councilmembers who are members of the City’s electorate. CE is a free service where members can learn, share or participate in local issues. City Council does not have to participate if they elect not to do so. CE is a resource that Councilmembers can utilize if they wish to see the issues residents are discussing. If Councilmembers would like to comment within the group they are free to do so, and their contributions are always appreciated. If Councilmembers are curious about public opinion on any given issue, they are free to use the group to pose a question at any time and receive immediate public feedback.
Surveys are now widely used. Some residents have expressed an interest in the citizens (vs. our local City gov’t) conducting surveys, and Facebook is a platform that allows it. Rather than having all citizen satisfaction surveys conducted by our local City gov’t., a Facebook group run by residents allows any survey to be conducted by residents at any time at a cost of $0. The feedback from these surveys and topics discussed in CE can be useful for the community and its elected officials.
If you are on Facebook and eligible to register to vote in Coronado, please contact me to join CE. If you are a Coronado registered voter not on Facebook, please send me an email and I will be happy to send you periodic updates on our active CE agenda.