Smile Politely

Gerard is too “social”, you say? This is 2015, people

In a recent article by Tom Kacich of the News-Gazette, Kacich calls out Mayor Don Gerard for his social media activity — claiming the Mayor is “too social” for his own good, thus damaging his position as Mayor of the City of Champaign. Kacich points towards N-G commenters to bolster some of his argument — which is kind of shooting yourself in the foot to begin — stating that this is what “people” think of Gerard’s activity.

The Internet is filled with trolls on trolls on trolls when it comes to commenting, and by no means is Smile Politely immune to such a thing. It’s simply the nature of the beast when publishing opinionated material into the World Wide Web. However, Kacich sets things back quite a bit here by taking notes from commenters to back up your thoughts on the Mayor of the city to which you live in. Why even go there? What do you have to gain from sourcing information from anonymous commenters? Not much. You’re likely doing yourself a disservice, honestly.

We follow Mayor Gerard across a few forms of social media, and to say he’s being “too social” when he’s interacting with the people within the city that he helps govern is, well, an old school mentality. Sure, over sharing is one thing — everyone knows those people within their own realm of their social media existence — but let’s provide some defense for Mayor Gerard here. I honestly can’t believe I’m defending his “selfies” and endless check-ins at the ARC “#stopgovernmentwaist”, but who cares? Seriously — who cares?

You know what we DO see from Gerard on social media, even from the last week or so? Updates about raising money and awareness for One Winter Night, promoting new openings at the University of Illinois Research Park, participation in high school sporting events, on top of plenty of other city- and county-related events and happenings. If anything, Gerard is a sounding board and the ultimate steward for the community — even if we get a (kind of funny) update about switching the type of underwear he’s been using.

Comparing his social media presence to the previous Champaign Mayor, Jerry Schweigart — someone who stated about President Obama, “I don’t think he’s an American, personally” — is simply asinine. As annoying or obnoxious Gerard’s social media presence can seem at times, it is a strong personality that is otherwise lost in the political abyss. As long as he’s doing his job as the Mayor of the city, I couldn’t care less what he posts on social media (as long as it’s in-bounds, of course).

Sure, he’s an elected official, and there’s a responsibility to be had there to represent the community from which you govern. I get that. But Kacich attempts to support his argument in regards to this exact point with the use of a social media expert, Kelli S. Burns. But with all due respect to Professor Burns, having a mayor that 100% posts about how terrific the city they govern (“Tampa Tampa Tampa”) is just another political puppet. Sure, it might be out of the realm of what is “normal” or “average” for a Mayor, but what’s wrong with functioning outside of that norm?

Gerard is a human being — believe it or not (!) — and his activity humanizes him. Sure, it is a bit much sometimes, but this is 2015, and the Internet is a place to connect with other human beings. It’s just the way the world works now. Get with it.

Champaign is a unique community, so why not have a unique voice — a person who has lived, worked, raised kids, and yes, gotten into trouble here — like Gerard’s as a representation of our community? Everyone is flawed, even political representatives, but saying Mayor Gerard is “too social” is simply an outdated definition of what a Mayor should be. I’d rather have the ridiculousness and character than I would a boring, stale Mayor behind a desk in the City Building.

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