October 29, 2006
E-mail city hall, get spammed for life
On Friday I received this spam e-mail from "Bridging the Gap", the campaign for Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' never-ending tax for street repair (and tree-planting) (and renovation of a train station). The most surprising thing about this particular email is that it was sent to a personal address that I never advertise or give out to campaigns or anybody with a mailing list. So how did Bridging the Gap obtain it? They got it from City Hall.
The Bridging the Gap campaign (spampaign) manager, Andrew Glass Hastings, told me the spampaign made a public records request of the DOT for its general distribution e-mail list. Hmm. I sent an email to the City Council in April 2004 requesting a traffic signal for a crosswalk in my neighborhood and had a follow-up exchange with someone from the city Department of Transportation. I suppose that every correspondence with the City is public record. But I can't recall ever asking to be on a DOT announcement list. And I certainly didn't expect my appeal to City Hall in 2004 to cause me to get spammed by a political campaign two and a half years later.
It might be legal for the Bridging the Gap spampaign to obtain email addresses from City Hall, but it's downright offensive to spam people.
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at October 29, 2006
05:11 PM | Email This
There is little difference these days between the communications of local municipal governments and corporate public relations; the decisions having been made, I would image that Mayor Bridging-the-Gap found in e-mailing yet another orifice to promote his agenda.
Most of the questionnaires and other solicitations for comment are more efforts to push some agenda rather than seek input for the citizenry. Indeed, many of the materials I receive from from my municipality would make Pravda proud. Like old Soviet newspapers however, most of them simply end up in the trash, yet so much more waste.
2. I agree that this is annoying and I wish it were illegal. On the other hand, it's fitting that a guy who pries into personal records like Ron Dotzauer's divorce file should fall victim to a public records request.
When I do public records requests, I have to certify that the purpose of the information is "not for commercial purposes".
I suppose you could say that any government sales job is not a commercial enterprise, but I don't.
swatter raises an interesting point - when the local municipality retains a public relations firm in furtherance of some large project - a major transportation project for example - when is the line crossed between the legitimate informing of the public and outright advocacy for a project or political point-of-view?
I've received many slick pieces of advertising from the city, county, and other governmental entities telling me of the "great things" they have planned like transit improvements and water pipelines. None of this has even the pretense of objectivity, more the championing of decisions already made.
When the state (a municipality) starts taking on the features of a political campaign, what effect do you suppose that has on civic deliberation and the consideration of views of the public?