The rhetoric that arose during the Clintonville Area Commission's consideration of the proposed redevelopment for the Olympic Swim Club site, particularly in online comments, left Stu Nicholson bewildered and upset.

The rhetoric that arose during the Clintonville Area Commission's consideration of the proposed redevelopment for the Olympic Swim Club site, particularly in online comments, left Stu Nicholson bewildered and upset.

The Clintonville resident, whose business card describes him as a "media relations copywriter and coffee-inspired idea person" for the Murphy Epson public relations firm, appeared before commission members May 5 to urge them to find some better method of finding out how people feel about divisive issues in the neighborhood.

While other controversial matters have led to a certain degree of incivility, Nicholson thought the unpleasantness surrounding discussions about replacing the swim club on Indianola Avenue with an apartment building reached new lows.

"It was just, to put it mildly, appalling at times," he said. "It got highly personal and frankly hateful at points, and that doesn't serve our community."

Although public meetings are important and offer a place for people to express their views, some people become reluctant to do so for fear of being verbally attacked or vilified on Facebook forums, according to Nicholson.

"Really good, substantive discussions and ideas get buried when that happens," he added.

Nicholson recommended instead that the CAC consider using one of three online public opinion poll services. MetroQuest, mySidewalk and PlaceSpeak all offer slightly different services and there are fees involved, Nicholson said, but each provides a method for finding out what's on people's minds.

"I'm not really here to push one tool or another," he added.

"I think it's really timely," District 4 representative Judy Minister said of the concept. "I think that just taking the temperature is a good thing. I'm for going forward and incorporating this and, hopefully, using this to see what our neighbors think."

Nicholson suggested that the CAC could enter into partnership with local governments or even developers to offset the cost of using any of the opinion poll services, which he noted forbid anonymous postings, require people to register and would ensure those weighing in on issues actually reside in Clintonville.

Commission Chairman Kristopher Keller suggested that Nicholson work with members of an existing committee that's looking into the panel's website and social media presence.

Nicholson replied that he would be happy to volunteer his time to assist commission members with learning more about the different services available.