Kopp to host ‘virtual’ town hall meetings

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Up to 15 constituents will interact with state senator online

By AJ Vicens

State Sen. Mike Kopp is hoping to get better connected to his sprawling South Jeffco district with the help of the Internet.

But Kopp isn’t planning to start posting videos on YouTube. Instead, he will kick off a series of “virtual” town hall meetings with his constituents. With the help of Gotomeeting.com, which is designed for online business meetings, Kopp will meet online with up to 15 constituents to discuss timely legislative topics.

“The nice thing is that constituents have an opportunity to get a word in and ask questions that will be responded to,” Kopp said.

At traditional town hall meetings — which Kopp says he still plans to host throughout his district — the exchanges can “cease to be as conversational” when there are large crowds or other hurdles, he said.

The virtual meetings will let attendees see Kopp’s computer screen by connecting their own computers to the host. Kopp can either show images of himself on the user’s computer or display graphics and other information. Attendees and Kopp can have verbal exchanges through the conference-call feature of the service.

The first meeting will be at 8 a.m. March 23, followed by another the next day at 7 p.m. and another March 25 at 7 p.m. The first will feature a discussion of a bill that would grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants; the second will focus on the economy and the state budget; and the third will let attendees talk about any issue.

Kopp and his staff will send “e-vites,” but the software can host only 15 people at a time. If there is more demand, Kopp will expand the service to include more users.

Kopp initially is inviting people whose e-mail addresses he already has, but he’s also taking requests to add more district residents to future meetings. Still, how can Kopp ensure that the meetings aren’t just him talking to his supporters?

“I want to invite the community, but I’m (initially) using my e-mail list to fill up the meeting,” Kopp said. “You’ll either get people who stridently disagree with you, or people that agree. It remains to be seen.”

Kopp said he came up with the idea after using the online meeting software in his business life.

“We would work with clients from around the country on business issues,” Kopp said. “We saved people money in travel expenses, and they got to go home to their families every night. I thought, ‘Why not extend this to my district?’ ”

He added that his district covers a large area, and people from Pine Grove don’t always want to drive to a meeting in Lakewood, or vice versa. Kopp said he’s trying to put his family first while still spending time with constituents.

“(People) can do it with a cup of coffee in their hand, do it without any thought to what they’re wearing,” Kopp said. “They can just sign on and participate.”

***INFO BOX***

Contact state Sen. Mike Kopp at: mike.kopp.senate@state.co.us to get on the list for an online town hall meeting. Further questions should go to his office phone number, 303-866-2638.