Hands Off the Smartphones, During the Public Meeting

Looking for a Facebook status update or email during the next big vote by the Royal Oak City Commission or Sterling Heights City Council? Don’t.

A handful of communities in southeastern Michigan are asking local lawmakers to keep their hands off their smartphones or iPads at council meetings, banning them from communicating electronically with each other or the public while government business is being conducted. That means emailing, blogging, texting or any other form of electronic communication is off limits.

Supporters say the issue is about transparency and integrity, not to mention common courtesy. They argue email or even text conversations could violate the Michigan Open Meetings Act, which requires decisions and most deliberations to be public.

“It’s about maintaining the integrity of this council and future councils,” said Maria Schmidt, a city councilwoman in Sterling Heights, which amended its council governing rules earlier this year to ban electronic communication during meetings.

But critics of the bans say technology helps these officials do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. They call the bans “short-sighted.”

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110706/METRO/107060351/Councils-ban-text–email-by-lawmakers-at-meetings#ixzz1RLUEC4CJ

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