By: Sharon Aron Baron
Tamarac residents are pretty tech savvy. When Tamarac Talk began in 2011, many Kings Point residents weren’t even on the internet. Now pretty much everyone is and many can’t live without their smartphones. Some even Skype with their grandchildren online. They could teach me a thing or two about computers.
The internet is where most of us got our information about Hurricane Irma. Not the newspapers. Sadly, many of our elected officials aren’t as tech-savvy as our constituents are. Before, during and after Hurricane Irma, there were very few that communicated with their residents. And people are still suffering as there are some Tamarac without power today.
The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board listed the best and worst in South Florida during Hurricane Irma and not one Tamarac elected official made their list.
Tamarac is divided into four districts and each commissioner is elected for that particular area. This was the time for them to shine and step up to show they truly worked for the people in those communities to let them know they were in this together.
Only one Tamarac commissioner personally contacted his constituents before and after Hurricane Irma: Marlon Bolton. Bolton, who represents the eastern portion of Tamarac not only sent frequent email bulletins to over 3,000 homeowners on his list, but he regularly posted on Facebook giving important information to his neighbors. If that wasn’t enough, Bolton was out helping neighbors install shutters and delivering flashlights and water. Prior to the hurricane, Bolton was on a conference call with Governor Rick Scott and mayors across Florida to learn last minute details for safety and recovery. Afterwards, residents went to him to answer their questions about electricity, garbage and other items.
Mayor Harry Dressler’s recorded voice was heard prominently on the Code Red messages that were put out by the city. Hearing his voice was a relief for residents who received them and they contained important information. Problem is, not everyone is on the Code Red system, so many residents didn’t get the alerts. Dressler doesn’t use social media, and the communication he sent out was prepared by city staff who did an amazing job before and after the hurricane.
No other communication went out to citizens in the various districts in Tamarac. Elected officials certainly have the resources to send out items and manage their own social media profiles. Take Julie Fishman who is a social media expert (her bio). According to residents from Kings Point, she never sent any information to them before the Hurricane. For someone in social media myself, this would have taken a few clicks. But where was Julie Fishman? No one knew. Pretty much everyone has a smartphone, but Fishman was nowhere to be found on her Twitter or Facebook page. How is this being a good public servant?
According to residents, Vice Mayor Placko visited a few homes in Woodmont, but did she stay in contact sharing resources during the storm? No, said several in her district that I contacted. Placko hadn’t Tweeted or posted on Facebook since the AFL/CIO Ball September 2. Surely if a Hurricane was coming your way, you’d have something – anything to say on your Facebook page.
Residents in the Woodlands Country Club said Commissioner Michelle Gomez was seen on her golf cart checking on neighbors after Hurricane Irma – neighbors she knew well. Gomez is another commissioner that doesn’t utilizes social media tools to connect with her district, never posting on Facebook or sharing information via Twitter.
During every city commission meeting, the mayor and commissioners spend upwards of 45 minutes speaking about what they’ve been doing in their districts and what events they’ve attended. Problem is, they think their residents are listening. Typically there are 25 people in the audience and 20 of those are city staff. If these elected officials continually believe they are reaching their voters with this obsolete method, their political future could be in jeopardy.
Other local politicians that hit the mark during the storm? Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine, who covers Tamarac, Coral Springs and Parkland, who was giving everyone up-to-date information with the county and the local level along with using photos on Facebook and Twitter – with thousands of views. Other notables: Coral Springs Vice Mayor Dan Daley who posted videos with answers to questions and was actively answering every one of his resident’s questions on Facebook and Twitter.