Monday, March 16, 2015

Oakland's city clerk pushes for government transparency while her unexpected popularily rises

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | The chambers of the Oakland City Council can be a very rough place. Public bickering between council members and full-throated soliloquies by angry residents are commonplace. At times, the difference between debating an ordinance and lobbing ordnance is difficult to discern. But, amid the swirling hurricane, seating in a sea of tranquility is City Clerk LaTonda Simmons, perhaps the most popular person at City Hall.

There were no obvious indications of Simmons’ growing fan appreciation club, but Simmons said she began to notice hints that she had a small but loyal following in Oakland after a blog posting by Oakland resident Tonya Love. The posting aimed to detail what a city clerk actually does, but it also conveyed great appreciation.

Love, who often live-tweets Oakland City Council meetings using the popular #oakmtg hashtag, encouraged Simmons to start her own Twitter account. It was on the social media platform that Simmons saw for herself the effusive praise coming from the Twitterverse. “I appreciate it, but I really don’t get it, because it’s not like it’s The LaTonda Show; I’m just the city clerk at the city council meeting.”

“She got on Twitter, and she became really responsive,” said Love, who also credits Simmons with helping her organize last year’s successful #oakmtg mayoral candidate forum. “Her ability to communicate and willingness to respond are really why she’s admired. A lot of the time you don’t get that from people in government.”

It’s also Simmons’ passion for the job and sense of humor that caught Love’s attention. “I think I’m down-to-earth. I joke a lot. My family thinks it’s hilarious how serious I am at work. They’re like, ‘Do they know who they have up there?’”...



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