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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Hillsborough County taps social networking to talk budgeting



TAMPA -- Hillsborough County government wants to be your BFF.

County officials already have established a Facebook fan page for people who want to get updates on things the government is doing. You can also follow county government on Twitter.

On Wednesday, they launched a new blog, where they will pose questions relating to their budget process this year and invite comments from the public. County staff will attempt to answer questions posed by the public in a timely, conversational manner.

The effort could ultimately be expanded to deal with other issues relating to county government.

"I'd like to push the envelope as much as possible," said Commissioner Mark Sharpe, himself an active user of Facebook and Twitter, after hearing about the county's new social networking outreach efforts.

The county will continue to maintain a phone message line, as it did during last year's budget talks, to field voicemail or text messages from residents. Only now, it will utilize a Google service to automatically transcribe the messages so they can easily be assembled and shared with commissioners. That number is (813) 704-0181.

Each of the county's social networking tools can be accessed through a Web page dedicated to the county's budget.

Commissioner Rose Ferlita cautioned the county's communications department to proceed carefully and perhaps narrowly in promising to research and answer all public questions. That could end up eating up significant county employee time, she warned.

-- Bill Varian, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:26pm]


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