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Tweeting for transparency

Political junkie Jack Crompton uses Twitter to keep the public apprised on council decisions



Jack Crompton never had concrete plans to recount Whistler's council meetings through Twitter on a regular basis.

But a year and a half ago, in December 2009, the small business owner was sitting in the audience at MY Millennium Place during a public council session when he decided to pull out his phone and craft factual tweets about what was happening on the council stage.

The social media hobby stuck.

Today, political junkie Crompton continues to regularly tweet at almost every public council meeting in Whistler, producing between 50 to 100 tweets each time.

"I am a big fan of openness in local government, and so I just wanted to make sure people had access to what was happening and what continues to happen," said Crompton.

"I was going to the meetings and I was a part of Twitter, and I just though this would be a good way to get information out to people that might not know otherwise."

Crompton now has almost 500 followers on his "jacksoncompton" Twitter account. He says most people reading his tweets are under the age of 50.

With practice over the last year and a half it has gotten easier to condense complex council discussions into 140 character-long blurbs, says Crompton, and people tend to follow only the tweets that interest them.

"I get the sense that people follow this sort of like they follow anything else on Twitter," said Crompton. "It shows up, and if it is interesting they will keep checking up. If it isn't they will take a pass on it."

To further get people involved in their local government, Crompton also tweets a link to a live streaming video of the council meetings as well as a link to the council package.

Crompton's public interest in local politics dates back several years, and he ran for council in the last municipal election. A first-timer, he was only a few votes away from being elected.

At the time, one of his election promises was more openness in government.,

"I think local government can always be more open and transparent," said Crompton, who is considering running for council again during the 2011 election. "In some ways, we just need to get more people interested. If there are only six or seven people at council meetings it is tough to claim that we have open government. Hopefully more people start taking an interest."

Local business owner Duane Hepditch said he has become more engaged in each bi-monthly council meeting through Crompton's tweets.

"It is good to see a play by play," said Hepditch, who trusts Crompton's observations and opinions. "He is unbiased, and he doesn't take sides or poke jabs at anybody."

Hepditch said during the last council meeting on May 18 he had just put his kids to bed when he logged into Twitter from home.

He had followed Crompton's coverage of the asphalt plant discussion, and the tweets reminded him that the May 18 meeting was a key night on the issue. He immediately went to and started viewing the council discussion live.

"I guess you could say that he was the impetus for me to log in that night and view it," recounted Hepditch.

Hepditch added that while he was watching the council meeting at home, he started tweeting back and forth with Crompton and community member Mike Berard.

The type of valuable discussion they had about the council meeting could not have happened if they were sitting at the meeting in person, said Hepditch.

"The great thing about it is it is quite public," he added. "Coincidentally, Eckhard also logged in that night after the big blow up. He had seen what Jack, Mike and I were reporting back to each other, and he shot me a note about it."

Berard, who has never met Crompton in person but regularly communicates with him on Twitter, agreed the council tweets encourage transparent government.

"There is a small segment of people that are all on Twitter," said Berard. "Whenever these things come up - the council meetings and especially the Cheakamus Crossing stuff - there is a small community of people who are talking about it on Twitter and learning about it and sharing information."