Northeast Times

How Tweet it is for Jim Kenney to waste 29 grand

Start­Frag­ment

Jim Ken­ney ad­mits it. The city coun­cil­man will tell you he wouldn’t know a “tweet” from a “poke,” an OMG! from an LMAO!, an app from an in­stant mes­sage. He’s a fossil who doesn’t have a clue about all this high-tech stuff.

“I, at fifty-three years old, do not have that fa­cil­ity,” he told the Daily News last week. “So I need con­sult­ant ad­vice to com­mu­nic­ate with a group of folks who are not ne­ces­sar­ily in my age group.”

Give Ken­ney props for re­cog­niz­ing this. It is in­deed im­port­ant for him to es­tab­lish a com­mu­nic­a­tions pipeline to that “group of folks” — those tech-savvy hip­sters who have shunned the Eng­lish lan­guage in fa­vor of short-burst sen­tences like “U R right,” check their e-mail just 15 seconds after check­ing their e-mail, and have a habit of nearly be­ing run over at in­ter­sec­tions while im­mersed in scrolling from screen to screen on their little smart­phones as they cross the street, ob­li­vi­ous to everything around them.

Ken­ney’s only prob­lem is he’s do­ing it all wrong. And, rightly so, he’s tak­ing some heat thanks to a Daily News story that noted how he’s spend­ing al­most $29,000 a year — in tax­pay­er money — to have a Cen­ter City tech com­pany called Chat­ter­Blast handle his so­cial-me­dia pro­gram and help type and post mes­sages from his Twit­ter ac­count.

I have em­pathy for Ken­ney and his in­sec­ur­ity in this brave new world. I know this feel­ing, of­ten mut­ter­ing to my­self, “Where’s Steve Jobs when I need him?” But pay­ing all that dough to Chat­ter­Blast … it’s sort of like Ken­ney’s a fron­ti­er guy who spent years send­ing smoke sig­nals and sud­denly he’s be­fuddled by Al­ex­an­der Gra­ham Bell’s new-fangled tele­phone, so he hires a com­pany to make calls for him.

Jim … you can do this!!

Even if the 16 oth­er City Coun­cil mem­bers handle so­cial me­dia on their own or with the help of staffers, I’m not ready to scoff that Ken­ney’s “just a typ­ic­al politi­cian” for squan­der­ing your hard-earned tax dol­lars on this Chat­ter­Blast con­tract. A typ­ic­al politi­cian would have hired a 15-year-old kid from Swen­son Arts & Tech­no­logy to over­see this so­cial-me­dia stuff and spent the 29 grand on a va­ca­tion to Ire­land, os­tens­ibly as a fact-find­ing busi­ness trip to de­term­ine how Philly’s com­munity garden­ers could grow more ro­bust pota­toes.

It’s fine that Chat­ter­Blast — as the com­pany puts it — over­sees an “ever-evolving di­git­al strategy” for Ken­ney that in­cludes Face­book and Twit­ter man­age­ment, audi­ence iden­ti­fic­a­tion and ana­lys­is, mon­it­or­ing key is­sues — even video pro­duc­tion and edit­ing for his “di­git­al on­line foot­print.”

Does Jim Ken­ney need all that glitz? Not really. His job is to fret over city budgets and un­happy neigh­bor­hoods; he’s not mount­ing a cam­paign to win a spot on Amer­ic­an Idol.

So it’s too bad that Ken­ney feels the need to spend a lot of money to have Chat­ter­Blast give him ad­vice on his Twit­ter tweets. That’s how a Chat­ter­Blast honcho put it: “We dis­cuss what we should talk about.”

Well, good luck get­ting a politi­cian to stay with­in the 140-char­ac­ter max­im­um of a Twit­ter mes­sage, but if Ken­ney feels the need for a con­sult­ant to coach him on the side­lines, this could get messy as he’s cruis­ing the city in his Coun­cilmobile, head­ing to ap­point­ments and stuff.

Coun­cil­man K: Maybe I should let con­stitu­ents know we lost our le­gis­la­tion. So I guess I’d tweet something like, “Not a good Coun­cil ses­sion for us today, LOL!!” Is that right?

Chat­ter­Blast coach: Ummm … not really, coun­cil­man. LOL means “laugh out loud.” There didn’t seem to be a lot of laughs when your le­gis­la­tion got shot down.

Coun­cil­man K: This tweet­ing is trick­i­er than I thought. Well how about rub­ber side­walks? … it has been a few years since I pushed for rub­ber side­walks. They have many en­vir­on­ment­al be­ne­fits, you know, plus they last longer than con­crete.

Chat­ter­Blast coach: With all due re­spect, coun­cil­man, your con­stitu­ents are fa­cing the pro­spect of  tax in­creases right now. I don’t think any­one gives a rat’s butt about rub­ber side­walks at the mo­ment.

Jim Ken­ney can fig­ure this out on his own, I know he can. There’s no need to spend nearly $29,000 to un­lock the secret of mes­saging on Twit­ter or Face­book. There is no secret. The coun­cil­man just needs to show he’s as bor­ing as the rest of us.

Aw, #$&* … head­ing to give a big speech and I just dripped taco sauce on my pants. Won­der how to clean. Any sug­ges­tions out there? Any­one?

Per­fect, coun­cil­man. Just per­fect. ••

End­Frag­ment

You can reach at jscanlon@bsmphilly.com.

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