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California gubernatorial hopeful Gavin Newsom's town-hall meeting [Updated]

October 6, 2009 |  3:54 pm

Gavin-newsom-ustream Did you hear? Gavin Newsom, the Democratic front-runner for California governor, held an online town-hall meeting today.

No? You didn't hear?

The San Francisco mayor hosted yet another teleconference at noon today, taking questions from Facebook and Twitter users.

The live-stream video was embedded on Newsom's Facebook page, but didn't draw much of a crowd.

[Updated, 6:10 p.m.: Nick Clemons, a representative for Newsom's campaign, called to tell us that the viewership numbers reported earlier in this post were deceptively low. The numbers were taken from UStream’s live report. Due to technical problems that caused the video stream to periodically cut out, UStream's report was inaccurate.  UStream says 4,500 people tuned in over the course of the hourlong chat, company representative Shari Folds wrote in an e-mail that was forwarded to us by Clemons. An early headline on this item described the town-hall-style meeting as "lonely."]


Viewers drifted in and out as Newsom answered questions about taxes, parks and marijuana decriminalization. The latter is a popular topic online, and one that President Obama faced during his own town-hall meeting.

"You could not find a stronger supporter of medical marijuana," Newsom said, referring to his pot policies. "I'd love to see that happen."

Newsom is no stranger to taking on controversial subjects. Addressing the idea of a healthcare public option, which San Francisco has ...

... implemented to an extent, Newsom said: "The American flag is still here in city hall. We haven't replaced it with a Canadian flag."

At the broadcast's height, Newsom nearly maintained 200 concurrent viewers, according to video host UStream's on-screen statistics. The number slowly climbed as some Facebook users buzzed about the video in status updates.

That was soon hindered by technical issues that didn't reflect well on the UStream service or its co-founder John Ham, who was interviewing Newsom.

"I hope some of you are still watching," Newsom said.

"Oh, we have a ton of people watching," Ham said, at which point the on-screen counter clocked in at 115. "I know there are millions of you out on the Internet that would love to ask the mayor a question."

Newsom likes the idea of merging social media with government. "Imagine governing like this -- not just campaigning," Newsom said. "This is going to transform the old vending machine approach to government."

Will his newfangled vending machine be able to attract a larger audience in future sessions?

-- Mark Milian