Time to think beyond the tweets


For more than a year now, I've been thoroughly enjoying practising Twitter journalism.

When covering a meeting of city council (also known as #BrockvilleCouncil), where bits of information and opinion come at a rapid clip, I do my best – despite the malicious antics of an un-cooperative Android – to get those bits out in the Twitterverse as quickly as possible.

It's a terrific way to deliver the news – as long as the actual journalism follows, the part where all that raw material is analyzed and explained.

That's the interesting part, of which our civic discourse must not lose sight in a faster-paced age.

Sometimes, stories come along that remind of just how important that second part is.

The funding gap outlined in the asset management plan to be adopted by council tonight is one such story.

Reporting a blow-by-blow debate on some particular big-ticket budget item is exciting, but figuring out how to bridge an infrastructure gap of $25 million takes the kind of time and reflection found in a news article, not a tweet.

It's a reflection civic-minded Brockvillians need to have, especially in an election year.

Councillor Jason Baker is right to suggest there will always be federal and provincial infrastructure programs to fund the big-ticket items, mainly because that's the way municipal financing is structured.

But in an age of provincial and federal deficits, it's also reasonable to assume those funding programs will be thinner, and less frequent.

By necessity, we will, at some point soon, have that hugely unpopular debate over how much to set aside each year for those large expenses looming on the horizon.

Democracy builds in an inherent disadvantage here. Four-year election cycles keep politicians focused on what pleases voters within that time frame.

To get voters to think beyond that cycle (or, for that matter, beyond the much faster interval between one tweeted bit and the next), those politicians resort to fun projects, things like a twin-pad arena or the railway tunnel.

It's a lot harder to make a sexy political issue out of saving up for the next water tower a few decades down the line, or a sewer pipe in the coming years.

If we don't start saving up, the tax increases these projects will cause will make for some snappy tweets, with much sharper hashtags than #cityreserves.