After two years of editing the Blue Louisa blog, I will be turning it over to the Louisa Democratic Committee next year. And barring any further contributions from other writers before the end of the year, this will likely be the last of the old version of Blue Louisa.
While I plan on contributing articles to Blue Louisa from time to time, its day to day operations and content decisions will be handled by the committee. In parting, I would like to address several trends affecting blogs in general and with Blue Louisa in particular.
Starting with the story of one of today’s most successful progressive blogs; the Daily KOS which has seen their traffic go up five-fold since 2010.
While the analytics for Blue Louisa are measured somewhat differently, what is happening with the Daily KOS, parallels what is happening with Blue Louisa. Where traffic has gone up from 3-4 thousand hits a month during its few months to nearly 45 thousand hits a month in 2015.
In the months leading up to this years elections, Blue Louisa passed 70 thousand hits during the months of September and October, the highest sustained level of viewers that this blog has ever had.
Meanwhile, over at the Daily KOS, their daily reader “comments” have been steadily shifting from their internal comments section where they average some 13,000 comments a day to their Facebook links, where they are now averaging more than 30,000 comments a day.
According to their founder, Markos Moulitsas this wholesale shift in viewer commentary to social media giants like Facebook, and Twitter has hit many other progressive blogs even harder, with many struggling to stay afloat.
During this same time period, the number of unique Daily KOS posters and diaries has dropped tremendously, and is on an unmistakable downward trajectory.
One of the markedly different things about Blue Louisa when compared to other progressive blogs is the level of viewer interaction, particularly in their comments section.
And unlike the larger national blogs which have seen reader comments grow tremendously on Facebook and Twitter, reader comments on either the Blue Louisa comments section or the Louisa Democratic Committee Facebook Page where they are cross posted are virtually nonexistent.
While the data clearly shows that Blue Louisa has greatly increased the number of visitors; it doesn’t do a very good job of describing how well it engages them, along with persuading them into becoming active and participating members of the local Democratic Party.
One of the primary reasons for starting this blog in 2014 was to get Democratic and progressive messages out to larger audiences. Starting with a giving local writers a forum free of word limits imposed by local papers.
Allowing them to discuss local, state and national issues in greater detail along with subjects not usually covered by the Central Virginian Louisa County’s paper of record.
By those measures, writers contributing to Blue Louisa over the past 2 years have remained fairly constant, even as the number of unique contributions have dropped from 47 to 24.
What few know is that up until this year, most of the Committee’s communication costs (Including; Blue Louisa, iContacts, banners, fliers/and pamplets etc) were largely covered by individual members, and were not always included in past budgets.
Blue Louisa accounts for $200 to $250 of the Louisa Democratic Committee communications budget this coming year. A budget which starts at $500 a year, and is likely to increase well beyond that during next year’s presidential election.
Unlike many larger blogs, Blue Louisa isn’t considered “big” enough by advertisers like Google AdSense and Blogads to justify their posting ads, which would have helped reduce the costs of maintaining Blue Louisa.
Costs which bring up the following questions; is the Louisa Democratic Committee prepared to sustain a communications budget of this magnitude, especially when they are having problems finding enough members to effectively carry out their existing goals?
While declining participation is a problem plaguing all civic groups these days, the simple fact is that too few people have been doing too much work for too long. And that needs to change if the Louisa Democratic Committee and Blue Louisa blog are going to continue to be effective in getting their messages out.
Especially since one of the Committee’s goals next year is to increase their coverage and discussion of local issues.
If this effort is to be successful, more committee members need to step up and start attending our Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, and School Board meetings, and write about them in this blog and possibly the Central Virginian.
That being said, committee members should be aware that over the past year the local Tea Party has been making a concerted effort to attend these meetings and they are discussing them in their own meetings.
Whatever else you may think about their politics and even personalities; as a group they are far more knowledgeable about local issues than most members of the Democratic Committee.
Like their many recent letters about bio-solids in the CV, and the fact that this topic dominated the public comments period in the recent December 7th Board of Supervisors meeting,
And while their point about unregulated and unmonitored human waste being applied to county lands presenting a clear public health hazard is well taken. But, don’t be fooled for moment because they happen to be on the “right” side of this issue.
Since their current arguments against bio solids revolve around a core of science and logic, it does beg this question; How long will it be before such a common sense approach winds up on the wrong side of some previously undisclosed ideological conflict?
In their galaxy of beliefs, conservatives support for bio solids lie somewhere on the outermost rim of their convictions about the sanctity of personal property. Given that degree of separation from their core beliefs, it was surprising to see how quickly any attempts to discuss possible connections between their opposition to bio solids and other quaint notions of ”public good” were quashed.
Where apparently, in their eyes any attempt to generalize specific ideas into larger contexts is … unforgiveable.
One indication of the depths of their newfound commitment to responsible local government will be how much they actually write or speak at these meetings about other issues; like high speed internet, funding for the James River Pipeline etc.
That being said, remember that the financial affairs of Louisa County is dominated by a loose network of players connected by mutual ideological and often financial interests.
An arrangement that has been decades in the making, finely tuned to the needs of a few connected and wealthy individuals who operate largely out of the public eye. Where sometimes their deals are routine, and actually contribute to the county coffers, and where other times they are in direct competition with the County’s interests, like the recently proposed Purcell/Dominion Solar Farm.
And since many of the counties “connected” are not government officials they have no legal obligation to respond to requests from the public. Nor are our public official’s much better, grudging complying with public FOIA requests.
Upton Sinclair once wrote that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” An observation which applies to the Board of Supervisors, who have often been strangely incurious about the issues before them.
And while money has never been an issue for the Board, their reflexive habit of deferring to outside “experts” and the “connected” comes with a price. They have become so habituated to depending on others to “assist” them in making their decisions, that they’ve apparently lost their capacity for independent judgement.
And this “get along to go along” mindset is about to run headfirst into a perfect storm of conflicting economic realities and ideological agenda’s next year. And which one they will respond to remains to be seen.
It is unlikely that any of conflicting agenda will be openly discussed at their meetings. What will be discussed, at least once they have reached consensus on their “done deals” is how much their decisions will cost the taxpayers.
Like how last years 4 cents per hundred property tax increase was hardly mentioned by the CV, at least until right before it came time to pay the piper.
Actions that enable the Board to act with relative impunity, because as long as there is an uninformed public that doesn’t participate in civic affairs they will.
And on the flip side of that argument, if enough pressure is applied to the Board of Supervisors they will respond, like they did with last year’s trash issue. Yet it becomes a different story when it comes to critical infrastructure projects, like; high speed internet, or even the James River pipeline.
And it remains to be seen if covering these stories in Blue Louisa will spur greater civic involvement, or shift local opinions.
If one were to take the Tea Party’s many bio solids letters in the CV and the huge turnout at the December 7th Board meeting at face value, you might have been under the impression that this was indeed an important local concern.
So far, nothing that happened at that meeting has warranted a single word from Louisa County’s paper of record, the Central Virginian over the course of 4 consecutive issues. While we may eventually hear something, the value of that information diminishes with each passing week.
This is how local issues get buried; they start with a flurry of concern, then the Board punts, and finally the story disappears.
A chain of circumstances which effectively grants the Board a lifetime “get out of jail card” for having to account for … well basically everything; like holding a bio-solids “hearing” after the permits were approved, and in all likelihood another “hearing” after they are applied, effectively sweeping away any public safety concerns until next year.
Call it their no representational, problem free philosophy. Like how they deferred on voting on funding the initial roll out of high speed internet at their December 21st meeting.
Whether it’s because they needed more time to “review” financial information they should have been aware of months ago, or were simply trying to avoid the bad optics of being caught stacking the deck for next years internet vote, remains to be seen.
And with our local paper apparently committed to minimalistic coverage, sweeping the public’s concerns about open and transparent local governance under the rug becomes a mater of
routine … I mean public record.
The fact that this insular culture of closed room deals has been so effective over the years, should give you give some sense of how much work needs to be done if you want a voice in how your local government operates.
So what are you prepared to do when it comes to helping shape the future of Louisa County?
Jon Taylor Past Editor of Blue Louisa & Past Vice Chair of Communications, Louisa Democratic Committee