Aiming to improve community engagement, the Lynnwood City Council Monday discussed creating a council-centric Facebook account for elected officials to interact with the public.
Recently, the council has been considering the idea of having a Facebook page separate from the city’s established account that would focus on the city’s elected officials. At the council’s April 12 business meeting, city staff weighed the pros and cons for creating such an account.
The city currently has an active Facebook page that highlights key happenings in Lynnwood, a calendar of events and other resources. The page is monitored and maintained by city staff daily. The Lynnwood Police Department also has its own account.
Since the city Facebook page already has 4,000 followers and the council has a presence on it, it would be easy for staff to start populating a new page, said executive assistant Lisa Harrison. Additionally, a stand-alone page would provide a forum for council activities — like meetings, events and announcements — and could provide a place for the council to receive input on various issues.
“We could build a following that could end up being a nice advisory panel for us if we got enough people who are really into city council,” she said.
Conversely, a stand-alone page would require someone to provide daily content. It could also risk decreased levels of community engagement overall, Harrison added.
“The biggest con of just doing a city council page is the posts might get lost among other (city page) postings, but there are ways around it,” she said.
While considering a council-centric page, staff reviewed similar pages from 16 surrounding cities, including Edmonds, Seattle and Bellingham. In Edmonds, staff found that their page is primarily used for highlighting local businesses and postings for election bids and Bellingham had not updated theirs since August 2020. Harrison noted that Seattle is the exception, having a robust and active account but also said that’s to be expected since the city has a larger population and the account is updated regularly.
During the discussion, Councilmember Christine Frizzell agreed it made more sense to use what the city has and voiced concerns that a council-centric page could easily become a way for councilmembers to campaign during election cycles.
“I think it could easily become campaign related to some degree, and I would hate for it to go there,” she said.
Councilmember Julieta Altamirano-Crosby pointed out that having councilmembers posting on a council-sponsored page would allow her to reach Spanish-speaking communities.
Ultimately, staff suggested the best way for Lynnwood to create an online presence would be to have one centralized account for residents and community members to visit.
“If you’re thinking about it from a community member standpoint, we should be able to give them as much information as possible without them having to know or discern the difference of roles and responsibilities between what the council is supposed to do and what the city is supposed to do, so if they come through one spot, they can get all of the information that they need and want,” said Communications Manager Julie Moore.
Following the briefing, Harrison agreed to create a schedule for councilmembers to rotate posting on the city’s Facebook page with information about themselves and their experiences serving the community. Staff will also post council-related things like meeting reminders, events and actions. The council will revisit the conversation in three to six months for a progress report.
In other business, the council voted to elect Councilmember Altamirano-Crosby as council liaison to the Alliance for Housing Affordability Board. Altamirano-Crosby is replacing former Councilmember Ian Cotton, who recently vacated his seat eight months before his term ended.
Speaking to her interest in the position, Altamirano-Crosby said as a Spanish-speaking person she would be able to provide outreach to the Latino community, which she said is disproportionately impacted in many areas including housing.
Running against Altamirano-Crosby, Frizzell said she believed she would do well in the position because she had been attending recent board meetings and has an extensive history of working on housing and homelessness issues.
Ultimately, Altamirano-Crosby was elected by a 3-2 vote, with supported by Jim Smith and George Hurst, with Frizzell and Councilmember Shannon Sessions voting against. Councilmembers Ruth Ross and Ian Cotton were absent.
Also during the meeting, the council addressed the recent passing of Lynnwood Police Officer Mike Brinkman who died unexpectedly after collapsing in his home on the evening of April 11.
“This is a very hard time obviously for everybody,” Sessions said. “Besides (being) an outstanding high-integrity police officer, (Brinkman) was nationally and regionally recognized for his work in DUI and task force. He was also a devoted husband, beloved father.”
The council also issued proclamations regarding Stand Against Racism, Arbor Day and Earth Day.