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A Policy Debate Grows on Twitter

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, May 11 2011

New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson argued publicly over education funding for the city in sharp-tongued, 140-character chunks today.

That's right — the pair went back-and-forth over the span of several hours on Twitter:

Update: Just to be clear, this is a reconstructed chronology. Some of these tweets might be out of order.

The outcome, reports the New York Daily News politics blogger Celeste Katz, will be a lunch tomorrow to discuss the finer points of city policy.

This is particularly interesting to me, because at the Personal Democracy Forum 2010 unconference, a group of attendees basically held him hostage until he started using Twitter. We've been following his slow transformation into someone who communicates with constituents and uses Twitter for a political message since that day.

De Blasio used Twitter to do what the public advocate should be doing. As an elected counterpoint to the mayor on policy in the way the city comptroller is on finance, the public advocate is a critical analyst of the administration whose single most valuable tool is the attention and the bully pulpit that comes with elected office. He launched a website to connect public school parents with action to fight city budget cuts, which seems to have ticked off a deputy mayor, and he convinced the deputy mayor to publicly engage. Media — City Hall News, Streetsblog's Aaron Naparstek, Politico's Ben Smith, Katz et al — fanned the flames. Wolfson engaged de Blasio to defend the mayor's policy and they agreed to continue the conversation offline.