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Examiner
  • City officials turn to social media to get info out

  • While the power went out at Independence City Council member Eileen Weir’s house early Tuesday morning, her efforts to communicate with constituents didn’t end there.

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  • While the power went out at Independence City Council member Eileen Weir’s house early Tuesday morning, her efforts to communicate with constituents didn’t end there.
    Using her cellphone, Weir, whose District 4 area includes southwestern Independence, posted on her Facebook account “Eileen Weir for Independence City Council” regarding the outage. She also posted updates from conference calls with city staff regarding the snowstorm and telephone numbers where citizens could get help.
    Within 90 minutes of it going out, the power had returned at Weir’s home, and she posted updates on that, too.
    Facebook and Twitter, Weir said, are social media tools that she used during her campaign in early 2012 and that she continues to use in communicating with constituents. She also said she aims to use the accounts to direct people to resources they need and that she is conscientious that the information she posts is accurate.
    Posts like the ones Weir made Monday afternoon and evening took place after she visited with city staff members for updates in storm recovery efforts.
    “I always tell people, if they need to talk to a live person, they can call me,” Weir said. “There are a lot of people for whom (Facebook) is their preferred method of communication, so I try to keep it as current as I can, especially in a situation like this.”
    While Weir posts several times a week on her City Council Facebook page, Independence Mayor Don Reimal often limits his city-related posts on his personal Facebook account. That changed Monday and Tuesday, however, especially since Reimal decided mid-Monday to cancel that evening’s City Council study session, which was to include an update on last week’s snowstorm from city staff.
    “I figured we had a lot more important things to take care of,” he said of canceling the study session, “making sure we were prepared and getting our roads taken care of and taking care of our citizens.”
    Even though Monday’s study session was canceled, the city still put some information on City 7 television for citizens. There’s a problem with that, though. Fewer people are getting City 7 these days, Reimal said, because of advanced cable TV packages.
    So, Reimal posted updates on his Facebook account about his declaring a state of emergency for Independence, street clearing efforts and IndeBus services.
    Reimal’s posts received a handful of comments from constituents, praising the city’s work and asking follow-up questions, such as what to do when spotting a sagging power line.
    “That just verifies what I was thinking, that we’d get in touch with people more that way than any other opportunity that we had,” Reimal said.
    One of the concerns both Weir and Reimal heard from citizens is how to get their residential streets cleared quickly. As both of the city officials stated in their social media posts, citizens should call 816-325-7600 and leave a message about their street.
    Page 2 of 2 - The city is urging residents to call just once, adding that multiple calls won’t speed up Public Works crews’ service. The messages are recorded, but citizens won’t receive a call back from the city.
    “I thought it was important for me to be clear and to let people know that they won’t be getting a call back,” Weir said. “Our system is in place, and they need to have confidence that their call will be put in the queue and that someone getting to their area will be placed on priority.”
    Other city departments also relied on social media during both this week’s and last week’s storms. Just like last Thursday, the Independence Police Department made posts to its Twitter account throughout Tuesday to keep citizens informed.
    “Vehicle crashes remain low,” stated a post made late Tuesday morning. “Thanks again for heeding travel restriction advice. Stay safe!”
    Early Tuesday afternoon, another post indicated that police were testing a new model Ford Interceptor on the city streets.
    “Early reports are that it is getting around very well,” the post read.
    But at the same time, an Independence Police Department sergeant working in the field said some road areas had ice.
    “If (temperatures) drop more, this could be a concern tonight,” the Police Department tweeted.
    By mid-Tuesday afternoon, just as the winter storm warning had expired at 3 p.m., Weir added another update to her Facebook page: “All city departments are transitioning into storm recovery. … Expect to return to business as usual (Wednesday).”
    “It’s a way to communicate with taxpayers and the voters.  I think that it’s effective,” Weir said in an interview regarding her Facebook use. “Certainly, they may repost it on their own page, and it’ll reach even more people. That’s the definition of viral, right?”
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