Monday, July 19, 2010

City Council Retreats From Open Government

I won't be blogging about the Richardson City Council meeting this week. I won't be watching. The meeting won't be shown via cable telecast. That's because the Richardson City Council is meeting not at its usual city hall venue, but at the Richardson Woman's Club instead. The work session is billed as a "retreat." But it's still a council meeting and an important one at that, one in which the council will deliberate the 2010-2011 budget. The meeting is still subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act. It's still open to the public. It's really no different from any other council meeting other than this meeting will be witnessed only by those members of the public who follow the council members in person to the unusual venue for this one meeting. In other words, things are back to the way they were a year ago, before the public demanded and received, in the interest of open government, cable telecasts and Internet streaming of council meetings. These annual "retreats" may be a long-standing tradition, but it's a tradition that needs updating. Until the cameras follow the council, these "retreats" limit public access in a way that is no longer considered acceptable week in and week out at city hall. Calling a regular weekly meeting a "retreat" shouldn't change our expectations about open government. It shouldn't change how open our city government is.

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