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Lathrop: To tweet or not to tweet?
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LATHROP – Councilman Robert Oliver provided the comic relief during an otherwise serious discussion Monday night.

“Excuse me, but did you just say a bad word?” was the polite question from Oliver, a retired minister of the Church of Christ in Lathrop, while City Manager Cary Keaten was giving a nutshell explanation of  what Twitter and Facebook are and their potential benefits to the city.

It was the word “tweet” that raised the vocabulary red flag for Oliver.

Earlier in the discussion, he said he was “impressed with the size of the effort to get the community” informed with the goings-on in town and to raise public participation in these events. That laundry list included the city’s web site, the city’s monthly newsletter that gets mailed to residents with their utility bills, the Activity Guide published quarterly by the Parks and Recreation Department, the Senior Center newsletter, and the monthly Lathrop Rush which the city pays $1,200 for each publication of city events.

But he stopped at the option of exploring Twitter and Facebook.

“I don’t Twitter, I don’t Facebook. I’m not everybody’s friend. But you say it’s free,” and that’s why he was all for having the city join the Twitter and Facebook net-world.

Keaten explained to Oliver and the rest of the council present – Vice Mayor Martha Salcedo was absent – that staff time investment would be minimal in setting up the city for Twitter and Facebook. “It could take up to a minute or a lot of staff time,” depending on the level or extent of information the city wants to incorporate in either net-setting.

“At the very least, Twitter has a lot of potential,” Keaten said, adding Twitter is “an easy way to get a lot of information to the community” and also would be most valuable to the news media.

City Clerk Mitzi Ortiz said that if the city wants to be in Facebook, the networking organization will be the one to set up the web service and not Lathrop staff. Friends of Lathrop, or anybody who wants to visit the city Facebook web site, would simply visit the city’s site “if they chose to be a friend of Lathrop,” Ortiz said.

While there is “not a whole lot of subscribers” in town to both web services, “usage is increasing,” she said.

Staff time involved would be needed only when city information on the city web sites needs periodic updating, she added.

“If it’s free, it’s good,” Oliver said.

Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal agreed with Oliver saying he’s also for it “if it does not cost us too much money.”

Mayor Kristy Sayles noted that the Manteca Police is already using Twitter.

“I think Facebook as well will be very good,” she said.

The mayor said she would like to have Twitter, a microblogging service with messages limited to a maximum of 140 characters, and Facebook, a social networking site on the Internet, included on the city’s web site.