If nothing else, Ward 9 Councillor Dale Henderson is known for the enthusiasm in which he brings forward his sometimes lengthy lists of “exciting ideas” to solve the city’s various issues.
Last Saturday (Feb. 16), Henderson took that enthusiasm to the video sharing website YouTube as he launched his own channel, Dale TV.
“I think there are some exciting ideas about what we can do in this town, ideas that I have, not that other people have, how we move the city ahead,” Henderson said. “I want a dialogue as to how we can do things differently.”
Transportation issues, low taxes, job creation and several other issues were brought forward during the launch of nearly a dozen individual videos on Henderson’s channel. Utilizing how own brand of deadpan charm, Henderson delivered the videos off-the-cuff and before a virtual wall of television screens in times ranging from over eight minutes to more than twice that.
While Henderson said the videos were intentionally low budget, “delivered on a shoestring,” they were designed to solve a problem the councillor said he has seen develop in particular over the past six months.
“I had never heard negative comments in my life until the last six months. That is why I did this,” Henderson said. “I was challenged on things and this is a way to solve the problem. I don’t want to be filtered; if I say it is red, I don’t want to be quoted saying it is blue.”
Henderson said the response he has received since the launch “has been unbelievable” and, he says, “quite positive.” The councillor said the public are telling him to keep the videos coming as they are giving people his unfiltered perspective on issues ranging from using donations to fund city programs and even annexation of more rural lands to the north of the city.
Henderson said many of his council colleagues have already wished him well and have “eagerly” offered up ideas on how to keep moving the show forward. Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Orser is one of those advocating for Henderson to continue his burgeoning video career.
Although, Orser does suggest Henderson change his wardrobe — perhaps adding a cape or some Elvis-style sequins. But whatever fashion trends his fellow councillor should choose to follow, Orser said he thinks Henderson should continue to build Dale TV.
“First and foremost I think he’s got the local media nervous. He is inside city hall, he is definitely reporting what the truth is as he sees it,” Henderson said. “I think he is going to be quite interesting to follow as he goes forward with this venture to deal with the public directly.”
Ward 8 Councillor Paul Hubert, who has taken to YouTube himself during the 2006 and 2010 election campaigns, said he thinks Henderson’s venture into public engagement is assisted by the growth of much more user-friendly forms of technology. “In six years I am on my fourth or fifth website, the technology is increasingly flexible and interactive. It is a lot easier to use.”
Hubert said he hopes Henderson is indeed using the videos as a way to educate the public.
“You have to be careful that it is about engagement and not just running for the next election,” Hubert said. “Is it really engagement around issues? If that is his objective, then I think that is a good thing.
Mayor Joe Fontana is someone else who has used new technologies to speak directly to London residents. Fontana has used his virtual town hall meetings, for example, to speak directly to residents on a wide variety of topic over the past three years.
While he hopes the proposed City Hall News would present something of a more unified approach to informing the public, Fontana said he not only has no issue with Henderson, or any other councillor, speaking directly to the public.
In fact, the mayor said it certainly beats the alternative.
“I’d rather councillors do that then just be silent and not do anything. The reverse is probably even more problematic,” Fontana said. “If some people want to use YouTube or do surveys or hand out fridge magnets or dance on the Victoria (Park) Bandshell, however you want to get people engaged, get them tuned in to what you are doing, what the city is doing, it’s all good.”
The plan for Dale TV, Henderson said, is to expand beyond the original 11 videos with “three or four” future topics already lined up. Henderson said his intention is to present subjects on a weekly basis.
One of his topics for the near future is something Henderson said he is expecting to become an Internet sensation.
“The big one I have coming is on democracy. I am going on with 15 minutes around how we have lost our democracy. I have learned you have to change that from the inside,” Henderson said. “You have to bring it back with the voter doing something different. That one I am sure will be going viral.”
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