Yesterday provided yet another dangerous statement from our elected officials.
On Wednesday, Mayor Ginger Nelson hosted a Facebook Live event, in which she said she would answer the public’s questions about City policies. This sounded like an event that was a decent decision, as elected officials should be as open as possible with the constituents they are paid to serve.
However, Nelson’s opening statement raised my eyebrows at least, and while it may have been overlooked by some watching the video, I think it is worth addressing.
“I’m really excited we are using this opportunity on Facebook to reach out to people so they can get information accurately,” Nelson said. “I think being a citizen in Amarillo involves having good facts.”
Now, I will tell you that I do agree with the basic sentiment Nelson expressed at the end of this statement. In order to be an engaged citizen, you have to be informed. For example, if I walked into a small town in South Texas, they would have their own political issues, but I would not be familiar with those issues, meaning I would not have any basis from which to be engaged. Without information, activism is meaningless.
What I find frightening about Nelson’s statement is what she said at the beginning. It concerns me that an elected official appears to feel the only way to “accurately” get information is to hear it from a campaign-sponsored Facebook video. This video was simply a campaign advertisement and does not, in the eyes of this writer, paint a completely impartial picture of the functions of the municipal government in Amarillo. For proof, note Nelson’s campaign logo appearing in advertisements for the video.
This video allowed Nelson to express her thoughts about municipal government and spin these feelings into a campaign message. This is not getting information “accurately,” as the Mayor would have you believe. This was simply watching a campaign commercial.
Following her initial statement, Nelson followed it up by saying having “good facts” is accomplished by not relying on what a person thinks or what they have heard. She also said by answering questions, she believes her answers would lead to citizens being “more informed and engaged.”
At the Amarillo Pioneer, I think we do a decent job of covering local government. There are many reporters in Amarillo who do a decent job of covering local government. Nelson’s comments concern me because she is appearing to discount the contributions of all local reporters and instead focus on herself and her campaign as the chief source of information about local government. This is inherently dangerous. I am not saying Nelson is trying to mislead citizens, but I find it a very dangerous situation when an elected official attempts to paint themselves as the keeper of “accurate” information.
It has always been my belief that elected officials should hold town halls to work with their constituents and to answer questions on how they feel on issues that matter to citizens. I give kudos to Nelson for holding this video, but I still find her initial comments disturbing. I hope in the future, Nelson uses the videos as a way to express her opinions on issues, and avoids using the videos to disseminate “accurate” information to citizens. If Nelson plans to factually answer questions, then I would encourage her to use the City of Amarillo’s official Facebook website to hold these videos, much in the way other mayors across the nation have done. If Nelson plans to use the videos to boost her name recognition, increase traffic on her page, explain her positions, and improve public perception, I hope she readjusts her rhetoric to represent the videos for what they actually are - campaign commercials.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief