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By Sarah Kneller
City Council Vice President 

Councilmembers to launch monthly 'Coffee with the Council' | Council Corner


Last updated 7/22/2020 at 12:19pm

In the last edition of the Beacon, I began an effort to increase communication, and decrease misunderstandings and spread of misinformation for our residents. As a city, and largely as a culture, we need to employ the four pillars from “Computer Mediated Communication”: Demolition of simplistic either/or; critique of received ideas; freedom with respect; and respect for the complexity of problems. This will be the next four articles I move ahead on, examining how each of these pillars affects our online literacy, and ultimately how we engage with our community to build a productive path forward.

Life is not binary, and neither are the decisions of city government. Some of the major decisions that have recently been discussed by the council include the Regional Fire Authority partnership with the City of Everett, which the council ultimately decided not to move forward with at this time. As well as the continued conversation around the Housing Action Plan, which has had more confusion than anything I’ve experienced in the going on three years I’ve served our community.

Communication is multimodal. Each mode of communication – verbal, nonverbal, written, body language clearly overlap and then lead us to an overall understanding of what we have experienced, how much we trust the person or persons we’ve had the interaction with, how willing we are to engage in another interaction, and ultimately how we engage with the individual/s in the future.

This social contract is important to observe from both sides. As elected officials, it is our job to meet the community where they are, listen to your concerns, and then apply the information we accumulate to make what we hope is the best solution to address the wide variety of perspectives we’ve heard from. We have an incredibly diverse community, and the perspectives and feedback very much reflect this.

The Internet has certainly afforded some dramatic new opportunities to connect groups, organize, and impact change. We need to be cautious that this same opportunity can also allow us to fall into echo chambers that feed confirmation bias. Clearly computer mediated communication is both political and politicizing because it may be used to confront governments, resist social, cultural and political structures and ideologies.

Increasingly online distribution of misinformation causes confusion and in everything from national COVID response and data management, to our own local government agenda items and we’ve seen first hand the sweeping damages that occur. Importantly, computer mediated communication allows us to view current events from more than one perspective. How we choose to engage is up to us as a community.

In an effort to improve our communications Councilmember Harris and myself have joined efforts to launch a “Coffee with Council” event on the 22nd of each month beginning in August, times variable so folks can attend sessions with different schedules. It will be a 1-hour drop-in session for all residents to talk with us in a casual setting to share what’s on your mind. A zoom link will be shared by the City, and we will stream live on Facebook and take questions live as well. Your government is accessible, and we want to reaffirm to all the residents that we are here to listen to your concerns, provide clarification for your questions, and work on building a community we can all be proud of.


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