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May 14, 2009


KATU, Portland OR - Multnomah County has a new job opening for a 'social media expert' but is creating this position the best use of your tax dollars during a budget crunch?

Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler, who sees social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter as the future of communicating with his constituents, believes the job is essential. And he's willing to pay someone $60,000 to $70,000 a year to manage it.

He said an online video an intern in his office produced about the Sellwood Bridge is a good example of the power of social media.

"We had thousands of people see that video," he said. "It went out on one Twitter. We cannot buy that kind of exposure. That's the way people communicate. It's viral."

"These technologies are not just fringe technologies," he added. "People are signing up for social networking by the millions. That's where our constituents are. That's were the people are who we serve."

But not everyone is a fan of the idea, especially since the position would be paid for with taxpayer dollars.

KXL Radio's Lars Larson took Wheeler to task for offering the position, especially in the middle of major budget problems.

"How is it that county government got by all this time without one but now it's going to cost, is it $70,000 plus benefits?" he said on his show.

. . . It's a connection that for Wheeler means more government accountability - and more Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

Wheeler believes the position is so essential that he took a 12 percent pay cut, along with the rest of of his staff, to pay for it.

Update. . .

KATU - Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler has pulled the plug on a controversial plan to hire someone as a Social Media Coordinator. . .

Willamette Week reports that some county workers, faced with layoffs, confronted Wheeler at a brown bag lunch, asking him why he planned to hire a new county worker as dozens of others are about to lose their jobs to budget cuts.

Wheeler said he wanted to pay for the position by cutting his salary and the salaries of others who work in the county's Public Affairs office. But he now admits there is no way to justify the position, given budget cuts and layoffs. . .

Instead of opening up a new position, Wheeler said the county will use its current communications staff to look at more creative ways to use social media. He said he wants to continue embracing new social networking technology because it's another way for taxpayers to know what government is doing, and it can help hold public employees accountable.


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