Here’s How Jim Kenney Can Save Money on Tweeting

Taxpayer money, that is.

There are few things more satisfying to a journalist than watching events unfold that validate your work. After my blog post last week about the current city budget debate, where I called for more oversight of the City Council budget, fate presented me with that gift in the form of Twitter, Councilman Jim Kenney and Jane Roh.

Roh is the commications director for Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke. She was upset with my post and took to Twitter to let her 839 followers know about it.

Cute. I ignored the cheap shot and tweeted back.

Before answering me directly, @Jane_Roh asked her Twitter peeps what they thought she should do.

I never did get a direct answer to my question, but in her steady stream of tweets about eating placenta …

ordering elk …

and redecorating her City Hall office …

—all from what I assume is her city-issued Blackberry—I did find this:

Fair point. I had written that Darrell Clarke spends more than a million dollars, almost one-third of the total City Council budget on his 50 staff members. Consider this the clarification. It does not, however, explain or defend why there is no oversight of the City Council budget. Council can spend as it pleases, which brings us back to Twitter. This week, the Daily News exposed Councilman Jim Kenney’s $28,800 Twitter bill.

Taxpayer money goes to the company ChatterBlast to run Kenney’s Twitter and Facebook pages. The DN pointed out that Kenney has 10 staff members and another outside communications consultant. Why on earth does he also need to spend a small fortune on ChatterBlast? I have been approached by Internet-savvy, college-aged kids who charge two or three hundred dollars a month to handle social media accounts. The exposé screams for public hearings on the City Council budget.

When I checked @JimFKenney’s Twitter account this morning, he had 1,917 followers; that’s $15.02 a follower. He, or should I say ChatterBlast, has tweeted 700 times; that’s $41.14 a tweet. ChatterBlast’s co-founder Matthew Ray did more harm than good in his attempt at defending the bill. He told the Daily News, “I think everyone knows $28,000 isn’t a huge amount.” Really? The median household income in Philadelphia is $36,251. Ask the average household in Philadelphia if they can afford to spend 79 percent of their total income on social media. Also quoted in the article is Twitter aficionado Jane Roh: “As a longtime advocate for the city’s taxpayers, Council President Clarke intends to carefully review all vendor requests from members of City Council.” You mean that hasn’t been happening all along?

Again, this is a perfect example of why the City Council budget requires oversight and transparency. In the meantime, since Ms. Roh is such a Twitter expert, since her boss is a “longtime advocate for the city’s taxpayers,” and since the council president’s staff “supports ALL councilmanic activity,” why doesn’t she handle Councilman Kenney’s tweets on her city-issued Blackberry? Micro-problem solved.

Now the “longtime advocate for the city’s taxpayers” can solve the macro-problem by opening up the current city budget hearing to include council’s budget. It is a travesty that council grants itself autonomy from public scrutiny. Tweet me @LarryMendte if you disagree. By the way, I tweeted the following this morning:

I will update if and when I get an answer.