Here is a guest post that I have re-purposed from the blog of Luis Sandoval, who was a participant in Tuesday's Virtual Town Hall Meeting that was held by San Antonio for Mayoral Candidate, Julian Castro. I'm a volunteer for the campaign helping out on social media strategies.
Luis is a friend. A very smart person. And a great writer & social media expert.
I first want to share the relevant questions and answers that were exchanged during this amazing discussion happening both in person and streamed on the internet thanks toBlogCatalog's, Bloggers Unite initiative. The event organized by Alan Weinkrantz was a huge success and regardless of political affiliation was an interesting take on the merging of two worlds, similar the the recent US Election, which finds President Obamasitting at the head of our nation.
After the Q&A reporting I will give my final analysis of the event as a whole and where it fits into local politics.
The gathering started at 6:05 p.m. with an opening by Alan Weinkrantz followed by an introduction to Julian Castro who thanked everyone for being present. The event was attended personally by bloggers, traditional journalists, and other media types from San Antonio that had been invited to this private event. The audience was live on the internet via chat room but the video stream was available for them to watch and interact with.
Julian wanted to express his interest in seeing technology and media efforts infused into every aspect of the city at the community level, the political level, and the personal level. He expressed his love for they city he grew up in and how he wants his efforts to help the city become a functional entity. He looks to embrace social media tools to allow individuals to engage him in questions, comments, thoughts, and have a real say in the course of how the city is navigated during these tough times in America. All lofty goals, but he seemed genuine in his statements.
He expressed his concern with voter turnout talking about how only 13-15% of voters turn out to engage in the process, with a huge gap remaining in the 18-30 demographic. Hoping that social technology can help increase the turnout, especially within that demographic by speaking to those individuals on the formats that they are most familiar with.
His goal is to ultimately create a dialog that does not currently exist and provide just another way for people to enter into the political process.
Question 1: From the internet regarding San Antonio's green initiatives
Point 1: Mentions the importance of sustainability; wants San Antonio to be a leader
Point 2: Pursue ways to put San Antonio into the "Green Economy" building green collared jobs
Question 2: From invited blogger regarding Julian's plan on dealing with poverty
SA is ranked as one of the poorest big cities in the nation. Julian wants to continue to build programs that help the less fortunate work to become functional citizens for their own personal lives. Two problems to work on to help alleviate some of the poverty issues:
1. Illiteracy: Relatively high numbers need to overcome their lack of being able to read or write. Build programs that will help elevate the number if illiterate and get them to where he knows they all can be.
2. Teenage pregnancy: A key problem for girls under 15, work with established assistance programs like Project Worth, and build on after school programs to help keep youth engaged.
Question 3: From invited blogger regarding the creation of jobs
He commits to make job creation a priority focusing on two points:
1. Wants to create a competitively trained work force by working with public libraries, public school districts, after school programs, job training programs, and universities and colleges in the city.
2. Foster the growth of current economic strengths such as the BioSciences expansion at Ft. Sam.
Question 4: From the internet regarding the creation of a financial district in Downtown
Julian believes that San Antonio is prime to build itself a financial district with its proximity to Mexcio and the rest of Central and Latin America.
Question 5: From invited blogger regarding issue with San Antonio school districts
Julian agrees that better efficiency is required when it comes to the school. Because a lot of his initiatives place the burden on education and training, he'd like to review the current status of the school system and possibly collaborate and consolidate where he can and where it seems most appropriate. He recognizes that the issue is bigger than just the city and goes up the chain to State and Federal Government concerns.
These are just five of the questions asked during the hour and a half session that was amazing informative. Other questions fielded included inquiries on taxes, communities and neighborhoods, transportation, public services, technology, economics, and current processes within the local government.
It was a good turnout for media types in person, while 30+ people engaged the mayoral candidate online, proving the experiment was successful in terms of gauging an audience online.
Ultimately this mayoral candidate proved himself to be articulate and ready to tackle questions without any kind of preparation. Julian's approach is definitely one with family and communities in mind. In all fairness I was unable to attend the other candidates event, but I welcome any opportunity to hear that side of the story too.
As an experiment I think there was an overall success. The convergence of traditional media with new media types was a good atmosphere and established an understanding that there is a place for both to coexist.
My only concern with regards to the technological advances that our city is making, is that we cannot forget those that are unable to tap into those networks. There are vast populations in our city without a computer much less an internet connection. Any mayoral candidate must not lose sight of those constituents regardless of the cool "newness" of the internet's social networks. Social media must be understood as an extension of the constituency not the focus, because that will distance those individuals not connected to modern trends.
Several outlets posted articles on the "Social Media War." The focus was who was doing what rather than the message. The messages that I heard at what I attended were strong, and evident that every one had a chance to be heard. From what I hear about the event that I did not attend, there was a similar atmosphere.
Despite Twitter, Facebook, and other video networks and their popularity, let's hope the candidates do not lose sight of what their real duty is, as mayor of this fine city we are the investment, the people, and ultimately that is what they will be judged on.