With 277,540 dwellers, getting to know all of one’s neighbors in Newark, New Jersey, is nearly impossible. However, this has not stopped Newark’s mayor Cory Booker from trying. Channeling Mister Rodgers’ famous ethos of “Won’t you be my neighbor?”, Booker has set out to be a mayor who lives next door to everybody, even if he isn’t sporting Mister Rodgers’ famous cardigan. In fact, in the spirit of today’s movement to Government 2.0, Booker utilizes Twitter to interact with Newarkers and foster community.
Booker’s Twitter in action
Just last week Booker acted the neighbor on Twitter by looking out for Newark’s pets. Responding to a reporter’s tweet about two dogs suffering in the below-freezing temperatures, Booker arrived to the scene to rescue one of the dogs that hadn’t been taken by its owner. Booker also personally alerted the remaining dog’s owners to its condition. Just as you would hope that your next-door neighbor would take care of your dog if you had left it outside by accident, Booker demonstrated that he could fulfill that role with the help of Twitter. In fact, Twitter effectively has helped Booker shrink the largest city in New Jersey to a suburban street by ensuring that Booker is merely a Tweet away.
A broader perspective
Importantly, Twitter’s vital role in the mayor’s office speaks to Booker’s broader agenda for the mayor’s office. Citing technology as “a way for creating greater transparency in government and giving people more ways to access government,” Booker’s emphasis on open government wholly aligns with his desire to be a good neighbor. Expectations about government are changing (or reverting to the town-hall days), and citizens now expect public officials to be candid, accessible, and genuinely involved in their communities. In tackling this challenge, public officials like Booker have rightly taken advantage of social media to demonstrate a commitment to a transparent government. So, whether you like it or not, public officials like Booker are moving in on every street. Won’t you be their neighbor?