So, it's time for me to move on. After the jump, the advice I offered on just how to do that. And to start the ball rolling, a suggestion.
Here was my concluding comment to Nathan in the long exchange:
So, just what can we do next in the quest for ever more transparentI think a better strategy would be to admit that legally the city is in the clear here, but in the interest of more and more transparency in government, the city ought to do more than just what's required by law. It ought to be trying to be more and more transparent all the time. But that's not the argument you've been making. You've been hanging your entire case on a legally weak claim that the city is violating the City Charter or the TOMA or maybe some other state law. Which it is not. That's a losing argument for you. And it distracts from a goal -- ever more transparent government -- that many people just might sympathize with.Source: The Wheel.
government? In the council's adopted Statement of Goals are these two
goals in the Governance section:
1. Provide City government meeting agendas with adequate description for citizens to be aware of the topical items to be discussed during the meeting.
2. Provide information to the public in a timely manner.Source: City of Richardson.
Two of the criticisms of how the council handled the city manager's raise pertain to these two goals. The first criticism is that the agenda item ("Personnel: Evaluation of City Manager") failed to provide "adequate description." The second criticism is that by moving a raise and voting on it in the same meeting, the raise was presented to the public as a fait accompli, not "in a timely manner" that would have allowed informed public input.
The city met the legal minimum required of it by the Texas Open Meetings Act, the City Charter, and its own goals. But should we be content with minimal compliance? I hope the answer is no. We should always be looking for ways to improve transparency.
And so, finally, here is a suggestion that would support those two goals above, improving transparency above and beyond current practice. Just like there's a movement underway in Washington to require that all bills be posted online for 72 hours before being considered on the House floor, the Richardson City Council could voluntarily adopt a similar rule. The state already requires agendas be posted 72 hours in advance. Why not new ordinances, zoning changes, all motions of substance, such as the raise for the city manager, too?
The council could operate much as it does now, except when a vote is taken, the vote should not be to pass a new ordinance, but to put that new ordinance on next week's consent agenda. Then, assuming no public input is received to change the council's mind in the meantime, the ordinance could be quickly acted on in next week's meeting. There would no reduction in the council's powers. There would be only an inconsequential seven day delay in the passage of ordinances. Most importantly, there would be a significantly increased opportunity for citizen input to council actions. The increased transparency should be a welcome outcome for all.