Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco County considers hosting town hall meetings over telephone

DADE CITY — Frustrated by lackluster crowds at public meetings, Pasco officials hope to try a new way of interacting with residents: a telephone town hall meeting.

The system is essentially democracy by conference call. For a countywide meeting, officials would call about 100,000 people with a prerecorded message telling them how to join the call. From there, a Colorado-based company would play the role of producer at a talk radio station. Callers can press 0 to ask a question, or simply listen and learn a little about their government.

Meetings would feature one or two county officials who would field between 15 and 30 questions in an hour.

"If you have 1,000 people listening, that's 1,000 people who we weren't reaching before," said Assistant County Administrator Michele Baker.

She pointed to the small Brevard County town of Palm Bay, which has hosted three telephone meetings since July and scheduled another for later this month. City Manager Lee Feldman described one meeting that had 2,000 people, including 500 who stayed on the line for the full hour.

"I've never had a public meeting of a town hall type where I've had 500 people there for an hour," he said. At most meetings, "we're lucky if we can get 30 people to stay an hour."

Pasco commissioners heard about the proposal during a workshop earlier this week in Dade City. (Crowd estimate for that meeting: about 20, including several county staffers, reporters and commission meeting "regulars.")

Details of the plan are still being worked out. Commissioners might hold a trial run this summer where administrators answer questions about the county budget. Officials might also host several smaller meetings featuring one commissioner and County Administrator John Gallagher.

A countywide meeting would cost about $11,000, including $8,000 to make the initial calls to residents and $3,200 for the vendor who manages the meeting. Baker said there is enough money in this year's budget to host one countywide meeting or a couple smaller meetings.

Most commissioners at Tuesday's workshop supported the concept.

Commission chairwoman Ann Hildebrand called attendance at previous county meetings "skimpy" and occasionally dominated by one group of people, such as proponents of elderly nutrition programs. She said she used similar technology during a meeting of Tampa Bay's regional transportation agency, and she answered questions from residents for about two hours. "It was highly successful," she said.

But Commissioner Jack Mariano was skeptical. He doubted that busy parents with kids to feed would pay rapt attention to a dry government meeting. He said people might call in but quickly set the phone down and move on to other activities. He suggested filming the meetings and encouraging people to watch on TV.

"This sounds like a lot of money," he said.

But Feldman, in Palm Bay, said people appreciate the convenience of a telephone town hall.

"I've only heard good feedback," he said. "They don't have to leave to go the meeting, they don't have to worry about finding somebody to watch the kids."

Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

Pasco County considers hosting town hall meetings over telephone 03/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 10, 2011 7:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. College basketball scandal dips into Tampa Bay

    Preps

    Tuesday's national college basketball scandal has recruiting ties to Tampa Bay.

    In this March 15, 2012, file photo, San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland, left, talks during NCAA college basketball practice in Columbus, Ohio. Bland was identified in court papers, and is among 10 people facing federal charges in Manhattan federal court, Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File]
  2. Datz to open in St. Petersburg, join the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art

    Food & Dining

    Now Datz news.

    Get it? Tuesday, Datz, the longtime line-out-the-door, oft-Instagrammed and -Yelped Tampa stalwart known for shock-and-awe sandwiches and oh-so-much bacon, announced it is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Lunch guest eat at Datz Deli at 2616 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Times files.
  3. Republican leader McConnell pulls the plug on latest Obamacare repeal effort

    WASHINGTON --- Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday officially pulled the plug on the latest plan to repeal the health care law, telling senators they will not vote on the measure and effectively admitting defeat in the last-gasp drive to fulfill a core promise of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, after the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary. DeVos was approved by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) DCSA119
  4. Lightning's Brayden Point could be perfect fit alongside Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov

    Lightning Strikes

    SUNRISE — Brayden Point ended last season as the Lightning's No. 1 center, thrust into the role as a rookie due to injuries.

    Lightning center Brayden Point (21) advances the puck through the neutral zone during Friday's preseason game against the Nashville Predators. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  5. For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Blake Snell starting, Wilson Ramos cashing in

    Blogs

    The Rays open their final road series of the season tonight at Yankee Stadium, which is also where they played their first of the season.

    LHP Blake Snell will be on the mound for the Rays, looking to continue his successful late-season run, in which he is 4-0, 2,57 over his last eight starts.

    Tonight marks Wilson Ramos' 55th start of the season.