Councilwoman sets up online venue for public feedback

By Gus Bode

In an effort to generate more public feedback about city issues before she casts her votes during Carbondale City Council meetings, councilwoman Sheila Simon is utilizing one of the newest trends in Internet communication – the blog.

The term “blog,” short for web log, refers to a frequently updated online journal that contains thoughts or opinions from its author as well as links to his or her favorite Web sites. Blogs are usually presented in a journal format with dated entries and often give people who view the entries the option to comment on them.

While most people use blogs as an electronic diary, Simon has set one up for something different. Hers is set up to keep people informed about what is going on in the city and what issues will be brought up at the city council meetings in order to get more feedback from citizens before she votes.


“What I’m trying to get going is a little bit quicker response to things that will be coming up at council meetings,” Simon said. “Sometimes I’m not satisfied that I have had enough input from folks and I thought this might be a good way to let people know what issues are coming up and generate some feedback.”

Don Laur, a digital media systems specialist for the College of Mass Communications and Media Arts, said blogs have become an increasingly popular format for communication.

“It’s a good way for people to communicate their messages to a mass amount of people,” Laur said. “It’s pretty easy to administer and use.”

Simon’s blog allows for people to leave comments that only she can view. As the site’s administrator, she can then post people’s comments online if she finds they are appropriate. Simon said she would be willing to share some of the feedback with other council members if they are interested.

Laur worked along with Simon to set up her blog. He said he could have set up Simon with a different format such as an online forum or a personal Web site, but he said blog was the best choice because of how easy it is to use and maintain.

City councilman Lance Jack said he thinks the blog is a good idea and he would be interested in seeing some of the people’s remarks. He said he too thinks he isn’t always as informed as he would like to be of people’s opinions before meetings and he thinks the blog could be an asset.

“I think it would help,” Jack said. “Sometimes it is hard to get a good feel from people across the community until the last minute.”


Simon’s blog is set up on the server of the MCMA New Media Center, which is a research and teaching center in the basement of the Communications Building. MCMA Associate Dean Gary Kolb said one of the goals of the center was to get involved in the community, and they saw this project as a good opportunity to do so.

“Part of the New Media Center’s mission is to do community outreach work,” Kolb said. “We saw this as an opportunity to get involved in the community and do some outreach work.”

The web address for Simon’s blog is

Reporter William Ford can be reached at