A number of Peterborough residents have recently been blocked on Twitter by Otonabee Ward Councillor Lesley Parnell, leading them to accuse the councillor of trying to silence debate. They say the councillor blocked them after they expressed disagreements with her on the social media site.
“Dialogue is not encouraged,” said Deb Reynolds, who was blocked by the councillor in April, “and anyone who disagrees is basically told to go away.”
Kathryn Bahun says she was “dismayed” when she realized she’d been blocked by her councillor. Bahun says it suggests that Parnell “only wants to communicate with people who won’t criticize her.”
Bahun acknowledges that in the case of online harassment and bullying, everyone, including politicians, has the right to block others on Twitter. But she says politicians should be able to take criticisms, as long as they are made respectfully.
Lesley Parnell declined to comment on why she has blocked some of her constituents, but she wrote in an email that she remains accessible by phone, by email, and in person.
“This Council doesn’t listen”
People blocked by councillors on Twitter aren’t the only ones saying Peterborough’s City Council isn’t listening to the people that elected them. Earlier this year, Bill Templeman wrote in Electric City that civic engagement is in a dismal state in Peterborough, and that “right now, citizens and councillors talk past each other, not questioning, not listening, and not understanding the other side.”
Peterborough Currents spoke with Town Ward Councillor Dean Pappas about this issue.
Pappas said that he has “always tried” to listen to his constituents in order to “deliver the will of the people,” but he says that there are issues with other councillors, and in other wards. “This Council doesn’t listen to the will of the people,” he said.
“There’s a lot of smart people out in the community,” Pappas said, “and I think we don’t do our city any services by not listening to them.”