Morehead reaches out online

Ward 22 Alderman Greg Morehead said he wants to keep his new Web site basic. But its development reflects a larger trend — a rise in aldermanic involvement on the Internet.

Several New Haven aldermen have increased their presence online in recent months through the use of Web sites, blogs and e-mail lists, which legislators use to communicate better with their constituents, New Haven Deputy Chief of Staff Paul Nunez said. But Morehead is the only alderman to date to create his own Web site with a link on the Board of Aldermen site.

Printing and distributing a ward-wide newsletter could easily cost a New Haven alderman $300 for each issue, depending on the size of the ward, Nunez said. By dropping mailings and phone calls in favor of the Internet, aldermen can save money and communicate with a greater number of people in “almost real time,” he said.

Morehead created the ward’s Web site, www.ward22newhaven.com, in June. The site features a calendar of events, a news archive, a photo collection, a contact form and a biography of Morehead.

“I started the Web site to give my constituents a way to stay in contact with me and stay abreast on things that are happening in the ward,” Morehead said.

Morehead said he receives e-mails every day from community members responding to postings on his site.

The site will soon include a feature that allows constituents to call him without using their cell phone minutes, Morehead said. The user will enter his cell phone number into a field on the Web site and will then immediately receive a call on his cell phone. Once the user picks up, he will immediately be transferred to Morehead’s telephone.

Yale College Democrats President Eric Kafka ’08 said he thinks Morehead’s Web site is a “useful resource for members of the community.”

Although Morehead’s Web site is the only aldermanic site that Kafka has visited, he said he thinks other aldermen will follow in Morehead’s footsteps in “the next year or so.”

Ward 28 Alderman Moti Sandman also said he is using the Internet to increase communication with his constituents. He created a blog, motisandman.blogspot.com, where he posts news updates, alerts and policy statements every couple days.

Sandman said the creation of his blog was prompted by the city’s re-evaluation of housing assessments in Beaver Hills, Ward 28’s main neighborhood. Sandman said he wanted a medium he could use to explain the changes affected by the evaluation, as well as a forum in which his constituents could discuss them.

“I wanted to reach out to people and let them know what I’m doing as their alderman,” Sandman said. “A mailing once a year is not nearly enough.”

Discussion topics on Sandman’s site range from sidewalk repairs to the Elm City ID Card. Although the Web site has more than 1,776 hits, only seven viewer comments had been left on the Web site between March 11 and Nov. 13.

Sandman said there is such a low volume of comments because he does not allow anonymous posts on the site. People usually respond to the Web site through personal e-mail, he said.

Nunez said he thinks most aldermen are interested in increasing their presence on the Internet, although the effectiveness of Internet campaigns often depends on the demographics of the ward.

“Some wards have older constituencies, and they’re not computer-savvy,” Nunez said.

Morehead was re-elected as Ward 22 alderman in last week’s election.

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