Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Another Thing I Hate About Texas Open Meetings Act

It promises more than it delivers. The Texas Open Meetings Act is one of those good intentions that doesn't work out as well in practice. In the words of the Texas Attorney General, "The Texas Open Meetings Act honors the principle that government at all levels in this state should operate in a way that is open and accessible to the people." In practice, a lot of things still happen behind the curtains.

After the jump, news about Richardson's Lookout Drive Transfer Station.

In the April 30 "Week In Review" newsletter by the City of Richardson is this item by City Manager Bill Keffler:

"Lookout Station Developments
For our neighbors tracking the Lookout Drive transfer station issue. I want to let you know the City is close to finalizing a deal with the North Texas Municipal Water District and the adjacent neighborhoods regarding the facility. The agreement will detail all issues raised by the community during the public input process, while also balancing the regional solid waste system needs in the community and surrounding area. The City Council is scheduled to review the issues again in the coming weeks. I’ll keep you updated as the issue progresses."
Does that sound like the city is close to finalizing a deal with the NTMWD? It better sound that way because it says so in so many words. Were the deliberations that led to that deal "open and accessible to the people?" Reportedly, the "adjacent neighborhoods" were clued in about the negotiations. Who, specifically, was invited? What about the rest of us?

Bill Keffler's teaser obviously hides more than it tells us. Maybe the NTMWD is more forthcoming with information. Check out their website and you'll find the Lookout Drive Transfer Station issue highlighted on the front page. But the last dated update is from September 9, 2009. Obviously, more neighborhood meetings of some kind have been taking place since then. Where were they advertised? Where were the agenda and minutes posted? Does Bill Keffler's tease sound like "a deal" is close to being finalized? It better because it says so in so many words. The Texas Open Meetings Act guarantees that the final votes will take place in open sessions. But it promises that deliberations will, too. Unfortunately, the Texas Open Meetings Act falls short on that expectation. Well short.

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