Town hall session tonight hopes to mind-meld Ashevilleans’ Google dreams

A gaggle of area residents will assemble this Thursday evening, say organizers, to brainstorm Asheville’s ongoing efforts to win the favor of Google, which has promised to install superfast — 1 gigabit/second — Internet connectivity in one small-to-medium-sized town somewhere in America.

“We are encouraging people from all walks of life to come: artists, musicians, theater folks, filmmakers, small-business people, the faith community, outdoor enthusiasts, the unemployed, students, techies and non-techies — everyone who loves Asheville and wants to see it thrive,” said Michael Muller, who’s been helping organize the event.

“The goal is to have folks understand what’s being offered so they can better imagine what could happen — for them personally and for the city they love,” Muller added. The deadline for cities and their residents to apply to Google is March 26.

The “town hall” session starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 18, in the Civic Center Banquet Hall.

It’s designed to provide the public with a briefing on what Google is proposing to do, how Asheville might fit into those plans, the efforts to-date by the community, but — most importantly — to directly tap the creative wellspring that is Asheville, according to Ben Teague, executive director of the Economic Development Coalition.

Scheduled speakers include Teague, Troy Tolle of Digital Chalk, José Ibarra of Applied Solutions Group, and Asheville City Council member Gordon Smith.

“There will be a multimedia presentation and we are hoping to stream the meeting live on the Web,” Teague said.

There will also be breakout sessions to allow people to focus on their particular areas of interests. Additionally, everyone will have opportunity to record video testimonials and computers will be set up to allow the public to fill out community applications to Google.

The WNC state delegation and other elected officials have been invited. Rep. Bruce Goforth has confirmed he will attend.

Concurrent with the Google town hall session, area bloggers will be holding a meet-up at Posana Café on Pack Square in downtown Asheville from 6-8 p.m.  Gordon Smith promises to address this meeting at 7 p.m., in addition to playing a key role in the town hall session.

The blogger session is also open to Facebookers and tweeters, says BlogAsheville bemusedly, and promises beer and conviviality. For more information on the session, go here.

To follow the ongoing Asheville Twitter discussion about its Google dreams, go here.

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About Jeff Fobes
As a long-time proponent of media for social change, my early activities included coordinating the creation of a small community FM radio station to serve a poor section of St. Louis, Mo. In the 1980s I served as the editor of the "futurist" newsletter of the U.S. Association for the Club of Rome, a professional/academic group with a global focus and a mandate to act locally. During that time, I was impressed by a journalism experiment in Mississippi, in which a newspaper reporter spent a year in a small town covering how global activities impacted local events (e.g., literacy programs in Asia drove up the price of pulpwood; soybean demand in China impacted local soybean prices). Taking a cue from the Mississippi journalism experiment, I offered to help the local Green Party in western North Carolina start its own newspaper, which published under the name Green Line. Eventually the local party turned Green Line over to me, giving Asheville-area readers an independent, locally focused news source that was driven by global concerns. Over the years the monthly grew, until it morphed into the weekly Mountain Xpress in 1994. I've been its publisher since the beginning. Mountain Xpress' mission is to promote grassroots democracy (of any political persuasion) by serving the area's most active, thoughtful readers. Consider Xpress as an experiment to see if such a media operation can promote a healthy, democratic and wise community. In addition to print, today's rapidly evolving Web technosphere offers a grand opportunity to see how an interactive global information network impacts a local community when the network includes a locally focused media outlet whose aim is promote thoughtful citizen activism. Follow me @fobes

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