Do you know if your municipal government is online video-friendly, or video-hostile? I get extra ranty for this week’s podcast-and-article combo, exposing my former residence of Carpentersville, Illinois – 40 miles northwest of downtown Chicago – perhaps the only local government left in the entire state (and perhaps the entire United States) with an actual hostility for online video, and how that willful ignorance ruined its chances for business growth, increased unemployment, and making it a laughing stock nationwide.
Smart cities and towns with good elected officials and quality staff love to use internet technology for better transparency, communication, and efficiency. Doing so saves them time and money, and makes them much more likely to retain growth for their communities. They are smart to realize that internet technology, used by local government boards and elected officials for the good of their community, brings people together and brings business in. As for bad municipalities? Well, they don’t just avoid Internet technology and online video in their own town, they actually fight it.
In the municipality called The Village of Carpentersville, the government board (Village “Trustees” and a President), and management have been the most resistant to change of any kind. Technology to them is the worst kind of change, since it happens so much and so fast. And the biggest kind of change in technology itself right now is online video, which makes it looked on more hostile than any other kind of technology.
Now while video can’t make politicians honest, it can expose dishonesty. That’s what I’ve done for the past few years with my YouTube channel on Carpenetersville.
It didn’t start out this way. When was a resident of the place, I tried for years and years to volunteer my web design and online marketing services, since I thought the local government wanted people to volunteer their expertise. Boy, was I wrong! Despite what board members were saying in private about wanting people to volunteer, if it wasn’t something that was politically motivated, it really was just “shut up and we’re taking your money!”
Even before YouTube came around, I paid thousands of dollars out of my own pocket to video record board meetings and make them available on DVD to the local library. After getting several new candidates elected (and a new Village president), and successfully lobbying for their board meetings to be videotaped for local cable, the next logical step was to have meetings available for everyone to watch online.
However, the Village board refused. Even in late 2008, then Village President Bill Sarto (now out of office after only getting 13% of the vote in a late April 2009 election), announced in defiance on his blog last last year that “People in Carpentersville don’t watch web video.” Then just a couple of months later, Sarto put up a web video of a past board meeting on his own blog attacking his political opponents on the board.
Apparently web video wasn’t good enough for the community, unless it was something that board members could control and exploit for political gain. (Note, in a last-ditch attempt to salvage his unpopular poll ratings, Sarto made a public campaign promise just a few days before the election to make online videos available of board meetings. Unfortunately Sarto had already built a record of reneging on campaign promises, and the stunt failed.)
Again, this is a town so backwards, that they have a website that still has its domain name unchanged since when they were first issued it back in the mid 1990’s. Even the town’s own IT director – as bizarre as it may sound – has no actual professional work experience, skills, certifications in IT. And because of that, in the Village Managers’ and Village Boards’ ongoing cronyism, they engage in a level of corruption and incompetence that even has people in downtown Chicago – some of the most jaded people when it comes to government corruption – with their mouths wide open about.
So why bitch? Because if your own municipal government is hostile to online video and internet technology, then where you live will fall behind in terms of economic growth, and even social growth. That is exactly what has happened to Carpentersville, in spades.
Carpentersville is an incredibly polarized place – mostly of old white people who want things they way they were in their town back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and ghettoized hispanics (40% of the entire population of the Village) who don’t even bother to go out and vote. (A new slur has been given for the Village of old white racist people and self-ghettoized hispanices – ‘Crackers and Beans.’) The town did this to itself, and good people are punished for volunteering to make it a better place. That includes myself for volunteering to train other willing volunteers on making board meetings available in online video.
The Village has already paid a tremendous price. They have been exposed for their antics through online video to the rest of the state, and the nation. Videos on them receive many thousands of views, for sheer entertainment and shock value. (Think “Jerry Springer” with a gavel.)
Not wanting to deal at all with its image online, the Village board spent over $120,000 on a lobbyist firm to try and get pork projects for itself. But without me spending a dime and just a YouTube channel, my videos all showed up for most any Google search on Carpentersville (even for all the board member’s own names.) Carpentersville’s lobbyist firm came back completely empty handed. It was proof that when it comes to managing your reputations, sometimes a powerful traditional lobbyist firm with big pockets is no match for even a single guy who knows his way around YouTube. Ignore the online, and you’ll lose your PR investment big time.
So because of all its political in-fighting and double dealings, and government officials both avoid and attacking the internet community, the town is royally screwed. Businesses are pulling out, families are leaving, and community hostility is very high.
Former Village President Bill Sarto blamed the town’s problems on my unfavorable online videos. The new Village President also told me recently that will refuse to do online video, telling me its caused them nothing but trouble. What they fail to realize is that online video is not the cause of any of ttheir problems. It holds up a mirror, and if there was good government, it would make people want to fix those problems. The biggest problem is when the people a community who call the shots that are hostile to change, and even more so, when the residents allow it and perpetuate it.
Online video is the best tool for good government today, and good exposure for politicians willing to embrace it. All politicians on the White House level and Congress realize it. Local governments are in the best position to benefit from it, if they mean to do good. But if they have lots of bad stuff going on, then they won’t want to allow for video of their activities, because that’s the most objective form of transparency. Video can’t make government honest, but done right it can expose dishonesty in government (and far better than the local newspaper media, which in Carpentersville is totally clueless themselves with investigative journalism using online video.)
As I give a long-overdue sendoff to the town of Carpentersville, I remember the slogan that hangs in Village Hall – “Building a Better Tomorrow Today.” Carpentersville has shown that like any town, if you don’t welcome and embrace change and take advantage of online video, your town will be like Carpentersville – perpetually stuck in “yesterday.”
Now its time for me to move on. To Carpentersville – thanks for the laughs!
(For more on this story, visit The, where Village President Bill Sarto talks about how the YouTube videos exposing Carpentersville’s Village Board has led to its downfall.)
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