Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo
The Internet has brought members of Congress, and the people who elected them, closer than ever before. Since it is important that elected officials know what the people they represent want, this closing of the communications gap between Congress and its constituents is a positive development. In recent years, social networking sites such as Facebook have proven to be wildly popular, as well as quite diverse. It seems everybody these days is logging on to these sites, creating profiles and connecting with people all across the country and the world. Count me among those who have joined: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Senator-Mike-Crapo/80335332266 . These innovations present opportunities to share what I am working on and to hear from Idahoans on the issues facing our nation. However, my efforts to increase interaction with the people of Idaho go far beyond just social networking.
In November of 2007, I started conducting iTownHall meetings about every three months. The technology behind the iTownHall meeting allows Idahoans to join in a townhall-style meeting via telephone from any location in Idaho. Listeners have an opportunity to ask about any number of topics regarding federal policies or legislation. Audio from the meeting, as well as the transcript, is placed on my website for those who want to listen afterwards. The iTownHall meetings have presented a wonderful opportunity to speak directly with Idahoans while working in Washington, D.C. Anyone can request to be included in the iTownHall meetings by going to my website at http://crapo.senate.gov , clicking on the iTownHall icon, and providing the needed information.
Online video, specifically on YouTube, has proven recently to be an effective medium to gain and share information. In January, YouTube launched two Congressional channels-the Senate Hub and the House Hub-giving members of Congress the opportunity to upload video for the public to view. I joined this effort and created a YouTube channel, where you can view my statements from committee hearings, floor speeches, and other videos such as my recent speech to the Pacific Northwest Energy Coalition regarding salmon recovery and collaboration. Idahoans can subscribe to the channel, post comments and even upload video questions and responses. You can view my channel at http://www.youtube.com/senatorcrapo .
As previously mentioned, I recently created a page on Facebook. It is user-friendly and provides the ability for you to give me feedback. I have been able to write notes that include information from news releases; attach links from my most recently-uploaded videos on YouTube; upload pictures; and post audio files and podcasts. Receiving the feedback, however, has been the most rewarding aspect of creating the page. Supporters of the page have posted comments, written their opinions on a particular subject and given me a sense of what they like on the page.
All of these steps, in conjunction with weekly podcasts and monthly e-newsletters, are part of a consolidated effort to expand the ongoing dialogue with the people of Idaho. In the ever-evolving Internet age that we are in, there's certain to be more opportunities to come. Don't hesitate to reach out to your elected officials, local leaders and the people in your circle of influence. Contact as many people as you can and get them activated and involved in political expression. I encourage everybody to take advantage of these new technological options and use them to express your ideas and opinions. Never doubt the impact you can have. Utilizing these additional avenues of media makes it easier than ever before to make your voice heard.
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