Job concerns dominate Schakowsky’s Twitter town hall

Marshall Cohen

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In short, 140-character spurts, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) discussed jobs during her first ever Twitter town hall Thursday night.

Schakowsky promoted her own job creation plan, which she claimed would hire 2.2 million people to do “needed work.” She also said her legislation was used to help craft President Barack Obama’s jobs plan, which failed in a procedural vote in the Senate on Tuesday.

“President told me my jobs bill influenced the American Jobs Act,” Schakowsky tweeted.

In response to a question from The Daily, Schakowsky added her jobs plan would create jobs in Illinois by putting more teachers, police and firefighters back to work and creating new jobs in park improvement positions.

She defended the Recovery Act of 2009 while responding to a question that called Obama’s jobs plan a “second stimulus.”

“The Recovery Act did not fail – it prevented a Great Depression and saved or created up to 3.3 million jobs,” she tweeted.

The congresswoman also talked about efforts to lower college costs, which she called a “huge priority.”

“We need bigger grants, more work study programs and to reduce loan costs,” Schakowsky tweeted. “The U.S. can’t compete without educated citizens.”

She also touched on the Occupy Wall Street movement, campaign finance laws, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and childhood obesity during the hourlong event.

The Twitter town hall had a few unexpected issues.

In some tweets, Schakowsky posted hyperlinks containing additional information. But in two of the six instances, those links did not appear to be working. Instead, participants were directed to pages that “could not be found by the server.”

Also, the online event was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. However, it started one hour late because Schakowsky was called for a vote on the House floor.

“Just got called for votes and rushing to the floor! Please hang tight,” she tweeted.

The vote was on the Protect Life Act – a bill introduced in January by House Republicans that would prohibit federal funding for health insurance plans that cover elective abortions, even if those abortions are paid for by private funds.

Schakowsky voted against the bill, but it still passed 251-172. Senate Democrats have indicated they will not hold a vote on the legislation any time soon, and Obama has promised to veto it regardless.

The congresswoman’s office announced the event in a press release Tuesday.

“I am always looking to use new ways to stay engaged with constituents while I represent the 9th district in Washington,” Schakowsky said in the press release. “I believe it is important to use any tool available to not only listen to people’s concerns but to also let them know what I’m doing as a member of Congress.”

Adjoa Adofo, Schakowsky’s press secretary, said she was excited to reach out to constituents through a new social media platform.

“We’ve seen the president hold his own Twitter town hall earlier this year, other members of Congress have also used the medium and that has been successful and it’s also cost effective and a new way to reach out to constituents that may be more convenient,” Adofo said.

Adofo added though Twitter is easy for constituents to use, it will be more difficult for the congresswoman to pinpoint which questions are coming from actual members of her district.

“That is the challenge of doing the town hall on Twitter,” she said.

Still, the benefits greatly outweigh the challenges, said Jaime Dominguez, a Northwestern political science professor.

“Twitter is a main conduit for transmitting and filtering information,” Dominguez said. “This allows people to be mobile ­- they don’t physically need to be in front of a computer or television to participate.”

Dominguez also said politicians are turning to the Internet in an attempt to reach younger voters.

“Schakowsky and many other elected officials are trying to use social media as a way of reinvigorating or reawakening the younger sector of the electorate,” Dominguez said.

Participants were asked to submit questions with the hashtag #AskJan between 9 a.m. and noon Thursday. Throughout the day, more than 100 tweets appeared with that hashtag on Twitter.

People whose questions were not addressed on Twitter should contact Schakowsky through her website or post on her Facebook, according to the press release.

marshallcohen2014@u.northwestern.edu

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