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(Hashtag) in the planning in Oak Creek

From tragedy comes technology.

On Aug. 5, Wade Michael Page opened fire at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek. He killed six people and wounded four others before turning the gun on himself.

Oak Creek officials used Twitter to get the word out to the community, and eventually the world, on events that day.

The way Oak Creek, a city south of Milwaukee with 34,451 residents, communicated helped Doug Seymour, the city’s director of community development, turn carnage into wisdom.

“Before that day we had always tried to communicate with our residents,” Seymour said. “It was an offshoot of Mayor (Steve) Scaffidi wanting to increase the quality and quantity of information going out to our constituents.

“After the Sikh Temple incident there was a greater need to get information out.”

The role social media in general, and Twitter specifically, played that day gave Seymour all the impetus he needed to begin working it into Oak Creek’s Plan Commission’s everyday life. So Seymour approached one of the few people he could in his own department: Jeff Fortin, the city’s self-appointed Twitter aficionado. Both of them set out to Twitterize everything Plan Commission-related in the city.

In mid-October, @OakCreekPC’s Twitter account was launched. Fifteen tweets and 30 followers later, the Plan Commission has a new, powerful tool in its efforts to reach residents.

“We always hear from people that they want to follow the Plan Commission,” said Fortin, who’s been in the Planning Department for eight years. “It’s a way to instantly get information out there.”

Fortin said he has tweeted the Plan Commission’s last two meetings. Immediately after a meeting, he’ll tweet a range of topics such as agendas to staff reports to approved projects. He also has started hashtagging projects so residents and city leaders interested in a certain undertakings can easily follow it from concept to completion.

“Now anybody involved in a project can see how it’s doing,” Fortin said. “The media likes it and it’s gotten a positive response overall. We’re big on embracing social media, and it’s a way to let people know what’s going on around our department.”

One of the commission’s latest tweets, “PC recommended council approval of a rezoning and conditional use for a new Veterinary Clinic at 8020 S. Howell. #OCPC-8020VetClinic” is an example of how useful Twitter can be for residents, officials, contractors and anyone else with a stake in Oak Creek.

“We want to get the info out to folks in the ways they’re used to getting info,” Seymour said. “If something significant is happening, we can get that to people quickly.”

Here’s hoping the most “significant” tweets coming from Oak Creek are a conditional use permit for a veterinary clinic.

Joe Yovino is the Web editor of The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at joe.yovino@dailyreporter.com or @dailyreporter.

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