Saturday, December 5, 2009

State Sen. Steve Martin(R- 11th)Facebook & New Media

We all know that New Media has become all the rage and in recent years has been leveraged by the political community to organize, fundraise and simply to spread the word regarding issues. That said, what many local leaders are learning is that new media platforms like Twitter and Facebook provide a level of access to voters that in the past was virtually unheard of.

So whats the problem?

Well, access means accountability and such accountability is something all to often our leaders shy away from. We are seeing this in Washington, Richmond and now apparently Chesterfield where leaders must come up to speed on the true nature of New Media taking into consideration the good and the bad.

To voters transparency and access is never abad thing. To Party insiders and various politicians such access can create opportunities for gaffes and embarrassing events that can come back and haunt them come election time. A fine line always must be walked.

For example, in recent days the Army Col. Van T. Barfoot (Ret)story has hit national news wires regarding the Colonel's battle with his Homeowners Association over the placement of a 21 foot flagpole in his yard, which violates certain restrictions within the HOA .

Local State Senator Steve Martin(R-Chesterfield, Colonial Heights), in an effort to bring support to Colonel Barfoot's plight decided to bring the matter up by posting on his Facebook page alerting his some 3,600 friends and followers of his support for the Colonel. But in doing so, the State Senator enters that gray area of having to engage those who follow him on Facebook whom may have a different take on the issue. Afterall, while many people would support the Colonel in his efforts given his service, I doubt those same people would want their next door neighbor to erect a 21 foot flagpole in their front yard.

Afterall, as pointed out in the Martin thread regarding the Colonel's challenge Martin represents a large portion of growing Chesterfield County. This growth has been spurned by many large developments like Charter Colony, Magnolia Green, Roseland, Hallseley, Harpers Mill, Hampton Park, Woodlake, Brandermill and the list goes on that for the most part all of some Homeowner's Association rules or restrictions upon property owners within the developments. Usually, these restrictions or covenants are approved before closing on a property otherwise if a potential buyer does not agree with such rules they can forget ever closing. In addition each month these HOA fees paid by property owners each month further reinforce the contract they have to to abide by such restrictions.

Sen. Martin apparently believes that in the case of Col. Barefoot that the contract he entered into with his HOA is meaningless given the background of the party concerned and the fcat that Col. Barefoot is a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. Martin even blasts followers on his page for mistakingly using the term "winner" instead of recipient in a harsh manner, but only apparently to single out those that appear to challenge his view on the matter. The use of "winner" is fairly common with those not familar with the honor or the military. Instead of merely taking a second to educate, Martin took the opportunity to throw a jab.

I say "appear" because Martin apparently singles out those that ask for a simple clarification on his position. Instead of clarifying Senator Martin engages in claims of rudeness and disrespect towards his position and merely appears to stand off posting his positon other than to say look at his record.

Martin has been the Senator for the 1tth since 1994 and before that was in the House of Delegates.

So last I checked Sen. Martin was indeed an elected official. Not only is he answerable to the people but it is our duty as citizens to seek from our leaders exactly what their postions are and why they see them the manner in which they do. Apparently, Senator Martin does not subscribe to this view. Martin was simply asked to clarify position of matters regarding the flagpole controversy.

If you read Sen. Martin Facebook post he fails to adequately describe the full matter regarding the issue. He states that the Colonle is a personal friend so one has to weigh that with any judgement, but the matter at hand has nothing to do with banning the flag. Martin seesm to subscribe to the herd mentality of such a controversy in that as patriotic Americans we all think that recipients of the CMOH probaly should be able to do whatever they want to do in terms of the flag.

But in reality, as a comment alluded to on the Martin Facebook page we are all or at least are all supposed to be equal under the law. A contractual obligation or commitment is legally binding regardless of who the party involved is or whether they are a CMOH recipient or not.

Many of you who comment here are veterans and we all share a big place in our hearts for all our vets and all those in the armed services, but even Sen. Martin knows this issue has nothing to do with the CMOH nor does it have anything to do with the flying of our Stars and Stripes, but has to do with the construction of a 21 foot flagpole by which to fly that flag.

I dam sure know that Col. Barefoot has earned my respect, but that does not change the fact that if he were leaving in many other developments throughout Chesterfield he would be violating the HOA rules as well with the construction of the pole in the front yard.

The issue is not who Col. Barefoot is but rather does his pole violate the HOA restrictions. It should not matter as posted on Martin's Facebook page who the person is with regard to the manner in which this issue is resolved and as much respect and compassion we have for Col. Barefoot's fight we all know if it were one of us we would not be able to keep the pole without avoiding a lawsauit costing us thousands of dollars.

What I find rather interesting is a local leader engaging the debate through Facebook with followers, but than when the discussion ventures into analysis of the issue seeks to ridicule and even ask for commentors to cease commenting on his page. In essence, if you do not agree with me and my views stay off the page.

Gee, does Senator Martin represent all the citizens in the 11th or just those that agree with him?

After evaluating the comments, I fail to see anyone acting out of line at all let alone being "disrespectful" or rude. In fact, people appear to be going out of theri way not to offend people by qualifying statements and even a few stating that they are sorry but they see it differently.

Frankly, these leaders must grasp both the pros and cons of New Media. Its a good thing Senator Martin is not a blogger because he very well may be too sensitive for that media genre. The blogosphere is brutal, but if you are going to put yourself out there on Facebook for constituents you had better be a bit more thick skinned than this issue has demonstrated.

Afterall, if you have the opportunity to check it out and if you live in the 11th it may be of interest for you to see just how your State Senator engages voters. I assume the majority of his friends are indeed voters or at the very least Republicans from the area.

I took a gander at some other local leaders and it appears to Sen. Martin's credit he Facebooks much more than most in the area.

In the end, I hope that Col. Barefoot is successful in having that flagpole restriction removed not just himself but for all residents in his community if of course that is the concensus of those living in that community.