Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 24, 2021

She’s making a list

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

It would be out of character for me to not talk about the whole Councilmember Trish Spencer publishing a list of names on NextDoor of people who the City had categorized as being interested in serving on the Police Reform Subcommittees. For those that are not highly online specifically about Alameda issues let me recap. Sometime last week there was a post on NextDoor about an assault or some crime-y type alert. As with most NextDoor posts it devolved into homelessness blaming, misunderstanding how police staffing is done, and a lot of vigilante style “you need to be armed” sort of posturing. You know, every Wednesday on NextDoor somewhere. In response to someone asking about how they get on the (already mostly completed) police reform subcommittees somehow Trish Spencer decided to post the list of folks who the City had categorized as being interested in serving on these subcommittees. I hesitate to say “applied” because some folks on the list have indicated they did not apply so I’m chalking it up to misclassification on the part of the City.

Naturally people were upset when they heard that this list had been published and the outrage ran the gamut as to the reasons why.

So let me first say, I actually made the same public records request in early February. I had promptly forgotten that I made the request until I heard about the NextDoor publishing. I’m not going to say that I wouldn’t have published the list myself because my intent was to review the list to see if folks who are objecting to the work product had attempted to be a part of one of the subcommittees in the first place. I was initially concerned because I didn’t get the list that it might not have been public and that Councilmember Trish Spencer was publishing something that the City had deemed privileged. But the document itself and the names themselves are, ostensibly, public records. If anyone can request them, then the publishing of the names is no different than the average citizen making the request from the City and seeing the names themselves. It’s not the act of publication itself that is an issue here because, well, the information is in the public domain.

Here’s where what Councilmember Trish Spencer did was deeply problematic. First, the venue and forum she chose. NextDoor has long been a place that is defined by its deep conservatism. During the Measure Z aftermath I once tangled with a commenter on Facebook who, laughably, asked me to move the conversation to NextDoor. As you can imagine someone on the anti-Z side of the debate would find the audience on NextDoor much more supportive. NextDoor has long been a problematic social media platform which has been well-documented. So the fact that Councilmember Trish Spencer has selected NextDoor as her forum of choice for all communication with the public (eschewing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) is notable. The audience is one that she feels is more friendly to her own political positions which can only be summed up “conservative” or even “government-skeptical.”

Secondly, the context in which the list was published. Trish Spencer like to information bomb. She used to read whole passages on the dais and her campaign literature is always full of huge text quotes that could easily be distilled and summarized which she rarely seems to do. It appears this was a version of a Trish Spencer information bomb but on an already fraught subject matter. She may have felt as though publishing the list added to the dialogue about “zOMG crime!” but it didn’t. She didn’t even bother to explain why she thought that publishing this information in this context was newsworthy. Because she didn’t provide the context, it left the “why she did it” up to speculation by people who are (1) already uncomfortable with NextDoor in general, (2) deeply skeptical of Trish Spencer in general, and (3) both of the above.

Third, there is a certain level of authority that comes with holding the position of an elected official. There’s a difference between a blogger like me posting that sort of information than an elected official posting under the auspices of the City of Alameda. Because it’s, essentially, a political position the choice to publish in the forum selected, to the audience that is NextDoor, and the particular topic and resulting discussion is notable. And, as some people whose names were on the list have noted, can feel menacing given the targeted audience. For that reason alone, Councilmember Trish Spencer probably should have thought twice about publishing the list but, look, this is Trish Spencer we’re talking about here. Is this censurable as some folks are suggesting? Probably not. Does she, and the City Council as a whole, deserve to hear from folks who feel violated by the forum and format in which Trish Spencer decided to publish this list? Absolutely.

3 Comments »

  1. Trish has done a lot of terrible things but this has to be one of the worst – it is essentially doxxing members of the public interested in committees that she disagrees with. I checked out that NextDoor thread and, oh boy. It is very vitriolic with lots of angry gnashing, talks about being armed, and finger-pointing. And Trish Spencer, in her infinite wisdom, thought it was a great idea to drop in the names of 253 people amidst of all that anger and fury. This is potentially putting them in harm’s way of wanna-be vigilantes who might think these are the names of people who ostensibly want to make Alameda less safe. If any one of those individuals gets threatened or harmed in any way, Trish Spencer will need to be held accountable.

    The Public Records Act is really interesting. Transparency is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy. Very little in the government should be left to secrecy, but ensuring the information gets used in an ethical way is a responsibility that we all must bear, and this bar is set higher if you are an elected official with constituents you are supposed to look out for. Trish Spencer has certainly failed the test and should be held accountable by her government peers.

    Comment by Reality — February 24, 2021 @ 8:59 am

  2. She’s so petty, she should be singing Free Falling wherever she goes!

    Comment by Rod — February 24, 2021 @ 11:28 am

  3. This is an irresponsible act by a public official. As irresponsible as encouraging your rabid fan base to riot. But Trish, like the former president, doesn’t care about being responsible. They only care about being right. Trish is bad for Alameda.

    Comment by Eyeroll — February 24, 2021 @ 1:56 pm


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