May 12th, 2009 5:33 pm | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Multnomah County

Twittering for Ted? Not So Fast. Wheeler Pulls a Reversal on New Media Job


Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler has pulled the plug on his plans to hire a new staff member to use Facebook, Twitter and other new media to help the county communicate with citizens.

After KPTV (channel 12) broke the story on May 8th about the $70,000-a-year job and national blogs followed up, Wheeler said he was deluged with hundreds of responses both for and against the hire.

Many of those responses, of course, came through his own Facebook and Twitter pages.

Some of the strongest words came from county staffers who face layoffs in the current budget crunch. Wheeler says some felt they were forced from their jobs so he could hire someone to Twitter, which was not the case.

But over the weekend, Wheeler says, he and his staff decided they'd lost control of public perception on the issue. When he was confronted by angry county staffers at a brown-bag lunch he attended on Monday, Wheeler told them he no longer intended to fill the position, which still is advertised on the county's website.

"I agree there is an issue of sensitivity and timing," Wheeler says. "We knew over the weekend that because of the way this had been presented to the community, it would overshadow our budget process."

Wheeler may have lost the battle, but he says he hasn't abandoned his larger strategy.

He says after the news of the job offer broke, he received support from around the world for the idea of using new media to make county government more accessible. He says he'll continue to pursue that goal, but without a new hire.

"Frankly, I'm proud that Multnomah County is leading the way. It's going to make us more responsible to our citizens," he says. "They're going to have a direct opportunity to communicate with us."

See tomorrow's WW for more on this story.
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