Livin’ in a virtual world: Racco joins the teletown hall train

21 Oct

I heard this evening that mayoral hopeful Mario Racco was having a Teletown Hall phone call tonight. I thought I’d call in and have a listen.

While I think it’s a great idea, and I really do, I feel so strange. Like I’m eavesdropping.

(ie. Right now, the host man is asking me to press 1 if I’m voting for Racco on Oct. 25.)

Racco’s not the first candidate to host one in Vaughan. Ward 3 candidate Steven Del Duca did two weeks ago and I hear Ward 2 candidate Nick Pinto did last week as well. (But, it just happens I had the media call in number for Racco’s. I thought I’d be a good journo and listen in, especially since I’ve been all up in all your faces to get engaged, get informed, vote, etc.)

It’s a new(ish) thing – Teletown Hall. From what I gather, candidates collect names/numbers of voters who say they’d like more information or gather numbers from their ward via information companies/voters list. Then on a said time/date, a call goes out to those people.

Del Duca said his call went out to about 9,000 people. About 2,000 stayed on for a minimal time (about 5 minutes), about 800 stayed on for 20 minutes, and about 570 households stayed on the call for the full 75 minutes.

“The call was meant to be an hour,” Del Duca said by phone tonight. “But the company (who runs the teletown hall) saw that no one was dropping off the call between 20 and 60 minutes. No one was leaving.”

So, his call was extended an extra 15 minutes. Callers could press 3 to be queued up for a question. The calls were screened, then asked, Del Deca said.

Anyone who had a question that didn’t get a chance to ask, Del Duca called them the next day.

“I got a lot of feedback at the doors afterward, from people who were on for varying degrees of the call,” he said. “It’s a cool feature. It shouldn’t replace the door-to-door canvassing.”

When I asked Racco’s campaign how many people called in, Racco’s campaign said: “We are reaching out to 20,000 residents this evening. This is comprised of those who told us they wanted more information and those who we have had been able to reach because Mario’s pledge has been to connect with every resident. This is also part of his platform to be accessible and open to the residents as a first step to cleaning up city hall.”

I do think these virtual meetings have a real potential of engaging people. I hope so. I’ve been to many a Vaughan public meeting where there’s me, another journalist, a couple usual faces, and that’s it. I think if people got used to these call ins, they could be a great, easy way to get input from people. Plus, while it does put a little bit of onus on people – you’ve got to answer the call and listen – you don’t have to go anywhere, you can wear your pajamas, and you can enjoy a cold beer or a glass of wine while you enjoy your new-found civic participation.


P.S. I’ll post some of Racco’s Q and A later (let’s be honest, tomorrow – I need to go to bed soon!)


One Response to “Livin’ in a virtual world: Racco joins the teletown hall train”

  1. Illya Marchak October 21, 2010 at 2:30 AM #

    I think the idea is great, it’s pretty low-tech, and lots of people can get involved really fast without the need for all that extra stuff associated with a town hall meeting. All that really matters is what’s being said, and that’s what should matter.

    I think the next step would be a video-cast or multi-cast over the internet, where participants can not only talk (and at their option see each other), but also exchange files. For example if the meeting is about a proposal, the participants can automatically receive a copy of the proposal when they join in, and the leader of the discussion can turn their attention to various parts of the document, etc. My bet is that we’ll start seeing a lot more of this “virtual reality” stuff in the future. And I give it a thumbs up! Letting people participate on their own terms on their own time is definitely the way to go.

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