One night before hosting his first public forum as mayor-elect, Andy Berke is asking Chattanoogans with concerns about crime and public safety to tweet him their questions.
From 5 to 6 p.m. tonight, Berke will be answering questions on crime and safety via Twitter.
"Join me for a live Twitter forum 'Ask-Andy' on public safety today 5-6 p.m. using #RenewSAFETY," Berke tweeted Wednesday morning, encouraging citizens to participate.
Berke's use of the social media platform as a state senator and mayoral candidate is nothing new, but since winning the election on March 5, the city's next mayor has ramped up his use of the service, often seeking to generate discussion using hashtags. Berke has also used Twitter to share city crime statistics and occasionally send out traffic updates.
Berke said he saw answering questions via Twitter as an alternative way to interact with citizens, especially if they would not be able to attend the public forum Thursday.
"Tomorrow night, I'm having a public forum, but I also wanted to see if there were ways I could engage in advance," Berke said. "Hopefully, it will also be a way to interact for people to who can't be there."
Berke said that over the years as an elected official, engaging with people via Twitter has opened doors to more substantial conversations. The bulk of tweets come from Berke himself, but occasionally, a staffer will send out a message or retweet somebody else under his handle.
"Twitter is great for a number of interactions, but the more substantive ones I find easier to do over email," he said. "When you're not limited to 140 characters, you can talk about some of the more substantive issues of the day."
Following tonight's Twitter forum, Berke will move toward hosting his first public event since election day. The forum will be the first in a series that will include additional public events focused on education and economic development in the city.
The forum will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at Tennessee Temple's McGilvray Gymnasium.
Berke said he chose to focus on crime and public safety first because they were the most pertinent issues he heard coming from citizens during his campaign for mayor.
"It's the No. 1 issue I heard during the campaign," he said. "It makes sense to start with what Chattanoogans are talking about."