Should All Mississauga Councillors Get Online in 2017?
These days, politicians from every level of government have some kind of online presence in the public sphere. Federal MPs, provincial legislators and city councillors constantly post pictures of themselves at various functions and events on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
They also use these various platforms to promote events, public meetings, town hall forums and other announcements on a constant basis. With this kind of overwhelming trend going on in 2017, you would be hard pressed to find any politician acting like a Luddite and not using any online medium at all, relying solely on just emails, telephone and newsletters.
However, there is a current member of Mississauga City Council who seemingly has not yet caught up with the times. Ward 7 Councillor Nando Iannicca has the lone distinction amongst his council colleagues of having virtually no online presence whatsoever. Photos of Iannicca are either found on other politicians' social media accounts, or like this picture which I took myself at the opening of the Lakeview Revitalization project.
Mississauga Ward 7 Councillor Nando Iannicca (second from right).
Let me say this in the interest of full disclosure: I was actively campaigning on behalf of one of Councillor Iannicca's opponents in the last municipal election, a gentleman named Louroz Mercader. However, I have had no collaboration with Mercader about his plans for another campaign, nor am I a participant in any political campaign in the upcoming municipal election.
Don't get me wrong, I agree with what most of what Councillor Iannicca has been saying the past few years in principle, namely the Hurontario LRT and Mississauga transitioning from a small city to a big city. But it seems passing strange that in the Mississauga of 2017, he has not figured out that almost everything is online or in some digital format, which would make communication his ideals to constituents much easier.
During a recent council meeting Iannicca was asking city staff if his office budget could be allocated through a more equitable formula; he was basically asking if he could get more money because the growing population in his ward requires additional resources. In the meeting, the councillor said he had spent $1,800 to host a recent public meeting, and it cost an additional $5,600 for his office to send out newsletters to some 41,000 households across Ward 7.
"I thought there was a solution that would have come out by now," Iannicca said during council, saying it was unfair (and even harmful) to his constituents that his office was being allocated the same amount of money as another neighbouring ward with half the population. His proposal fell on deaf ears, in the subsequent General Committee meeting, Iannicca's proposal to review office budgets was voted down in a vote by 6-5, after Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish moved a motion asking city staff to cease looking into the matter.
In my dealings with Councillor Iannicca over the last few years, while he has been detailed about projects and proposed condo developments in his ward, the process to get that information always involves calling or emailing him first. In recent insauga articles such as this and this, we got information about public meetings from other city staff members and constituents. With all these letters and notices going out all the time, no wonder Nando is asking for more money.
He should really consider spreading information on Facebook and Twitter and a personal website.
However, it's not as though this archaic method of communication doesn't have some support amongst Iannicca’s constituents. When I was door knocking in 2014, I came across a supporter of his named Adrian. As I expressed my concern that the councillor doesn't seem very transparent because he doesn’t have a website or anything about his policies or promises online, Adrian replied, "yeah, that Nando: he's old school," before proceeding to tell me my candidate (Louroz Mercader) has no chance in hell of defeating Nando.
There was also another exchange Iannicca had during that campaign at an all candidates debate at Huron Park Community Centre. When an audience member asked him why he didn't have a website or anything online about him, Iannicca answered, "I have email." With all due respect, that's like saying "I have a landline," in today's world. Sensible people would think you're nuts if you run for public office and people can't find anything about you online.
Back to Adrian’s point, I can understand an appreciation for classic cars, vintage wines or so-called “old school” music, but in terms of reliable communications from an elected official, I would prefer something a bit more modern and cost effective than just printing out thousands of newsletter and spending money for postage and delivery.
Before you think I'm dishing out sour grapes and am singling out Councillor Iannicca, other councillors also expense money to print newsletters and to mail them out. But none of them so far have complained about not having enough money, because they also have some online presence where they can send out e-newsletters, post on social media about a public meeting, to get their message to the people in away that is much more cost effective.
Not all of them have all three of the most common examples of Facebook, Twitter and a website, but at least they have some presence online to provide information about their work:
Ward 1 Councillor Jim Tovey
Here is Councillor Tovey's regular website.
Here is Tovey's Facebook page for his 2014 reelection campaign. Tovey himself is on Facebook, but you'd have to be his friend to see all of the content.
And here's Jim Tovey's Twitter page
Ward 2 Councillor Karen Ras
Here is Councillor Ras' website
Here is Councillor Ras' Twitter page.
And yes, she has a publicly open profile on Facebook.
Ward 3 Councillor Chris Fonseca
Councillor Fonseca's Twitter account.
Councillor Fonseca's website.
Ward 4 Councillor John Kovac
Councillor Kovac's Twitter page.
Councillor Kovac's Facebook page is a personal account, so you'd have to be Facebook friends in order to see most of the content.
Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish
This is Councillor Parrish's website.
This is Councillor Parrish's Twitter account. She will hate this comparison, but it's similar to the way US President Trump tweets; whatever thoughts comes her way gets put out there (unfiltered, which is actually quite entertaining). Ironically, besides council stuff or the next new park in Malton, Donald Trump is a regular topic of scorn in Parrish's more recent tweets.
And in a unique bonus, Parrish has a Flickr album.
Ward 6 Councillor Ron Starr
Councillor Starr's Facebook page.
Councillor Starr's Twitter page.
Ward 8 Councillor Matt Mahoney
Councillor Mahoney's Facebook is a personal profile.
Councillor Mahoney's Twitter page.
Ward 9 Councillor Pat Saito
Councillor Saito's Twitter page.
Councillor Saito's website.
Councillor Saito's Facebook page.
Ward 10 Councillor Sue McFadden
Councillor McFadden's website
Councillor McFadden's Facebook page.
Ward 11 Councillor George Carlson
Councillor Carlson's Facebook page.
Councillor Carlson's Twitter page.
Councillor Carlson's website.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to find all this information; I just went on Google and looked up all the other councillors. This is what I get when I put "Nando Iannicca" in the Google search bar. You get his profiles set up by the City of Mississauga and the Region of Peel, and then some other articles about trips he took overseas and how people are upset over his "Cooksville Central Park" proposal.
There's no personal councillor website, no Facebook page, no Twitter…nothing. As for the newsletter that Iannicca likes to send out, if you check his city hall profile, the last available electronic copy is from two years ago.
Councillor Nando Iannicca was first elected in 1988, almost 30 years ago. Mississauga, as well as the rest of the world, has transitioned from the telephone and fax machine to a digital playground. Somehow, Councillor Iannicca has eluded time's arrow and continues to operate as if it's 1997. Ironically, a man who understands the change his city has gone through seemingly has not changed himself.
I wonder…would it not cost less money simply to operate a website than to spend all that money mailing out newsletters to people? Should’nt all publicly elected officials be online in some capacity?
Follow me on Twitter @thekantastic