"The Town Hall" show is not the latest reality TV program to entertain the nation but a labor of love that I produce to communicate with Ashland residents and the City Council about complex issues we're facing, from food and water to transportation, environment and our homeless population. Since January 2009, I've produced about 40 shows that try to tell the community stories about itself.
I am not a filmmaker by trade, but a mayor who is trying to make government more responsive and accessible to citizens. In mid-2011, I asked myself, "How can I refocus these shows as a tool to allow citizens and even the council to be better informed before decisions are made?"
The answer is exemplified by some of the more recent shows, which are archived on the city of Ashland website (www.ashland.or.us) under "View Videos" and then "Town Hall & Special Shows." (You will need RealPlayer to view these videos. Improved Flash-based versions will be available in February.)
These shows are intended to help all of us figure out what's going on so we can influence city or county decision making.
Three recent topics were:
- Ashland Community Hospital is seeking another medical services organization with which to partner. This is going to alter the hospital's character in important ways and the final agreement will have to be approved by the City Council. Why is this happening and what will the changes be like? On Nov. 14, I got together with both the chief executive officer and the Board Chairman of ACH to find out.
- Jackson County administrator is a very powerful position in local government. The current administrator is also an unusual human being — yet few people have insight into what makes him tick or how he came to hold this critical position. A video shot on Nov. 9 samples his thought processes about important county issues and explores his roots and how they motivate him.
- The Ashland Water Advisory Committee has been working for almost two years with outside consultants and city staff on a Water Master Plan that will be brought before the council for approval this spring. For several months, the committee was divided over how to provide sufficient long-term supply in various scenarios. In a video shot on Dec. 7, three committee members and a citizen observer explained how they finally resolved their differences.
These videos are experiments, so I need feedback on how they work from your perspective. Contact me at email@example.com.
John Stromberg was elected the mayor of Ashland in November 2008, with his term ending Dec. 31, 2012. He has a Ph.D in business administration and a master's in statistics from University of California Berkeley, and a bachelor's in physics from California Institute of Technology. He and his wife, Jane, have been married for 41 years and have two adult daughters and three grandchildren.