By Parimal M. Rohit
Signal Staff Writer
A local politician might have called your home Wednesday evening, but he was not campaigning or reminding you to vote. Instead, he called to include you in a town hall-style conference call, in which more than 4,800 Santa Clarita Valley residents participated.
The “Tele Town Hall” gave constituents a chance to speak to Assemblyman Cameron Smyth through a mass conference call. Participants discussed issues ranging from increased traffic to illegal immigration to water to government spending.
“This is very similar to a call-in radio show,” Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, told listeners at the beginning of the call. “I would be your host.”
Tele Town Hall has been popular among other legislators, as it generally garners a much better response than traditional town halls do, according to Smyth.
Several thousand residences received a recorded phone call approximately 6 p.m. Wednesday night. Such calls can seem like a telemarketing call, but the 4,835 residents who listened in were pleasantly surprised to find it was not.
“I think it’s great. I wish more politicians would do it,” said Bill Gausnell of Valencia, “I applaud (Smyth) for doing this. It wasn’t rehearsed; he did a good job answering questions.”
Gausnell added he would like to see Tele Town Halls conducted more frequently. “Once a quarter would be somewhere to start.”
“I thought it was useful to some extent,” added Ronald Orsini of Canyon Country. “I don’t know how much Smyth can do with it, but at least we have a voice.”
When constituents received the phone call informing them of the conference call, they were instructed to stay on the line if they wished to listen to the discussion and were also given the option to ask Smyth a question. Smyth also conducted four informal surveys throughout the phone call.
With such a high volume of phone calls, Smyth was unable to answer every person’s question. Accordingly, he instructed constituents to leave voicemails if their topics weren’t addressed.
“I thought it was a great caucus,” said Christina Polio of Valencia, who listened in on the meeting and asked one of the first questions.
“You are able to stay involved with the issues without leaving the luxury of your living room.”
Smyth definitely appreciates the phone meetings.
“The ability to reach out to thousands of residents is unheard of,” he said.
“Residents find it very refreshing that we are reaching out to them.”