Monday, August 30, 2021

Secret Richardson City Council Meeting

From Richardson's Aug 27 Week in Review: "The Council will not meet Monday, Sept. 6 due to the Labor Day holiday. The City Council next meets Monday, Sept. 13, beginning at 6 p.m. with a work session followed by a meeting at 7 p.m." It turns out that's not so.

Richardson City Council is pulling a fast one here. When this was published, the City knew that the City Council's next meeting was going to be Monday, August 30, not Monday, Sept. 13. They posted a notice of the Aug. 30 meeting on the bulletin board at City Hall, but didn't include it in Week in Review: "COUNCIL GOALS MEETING – LARGE CONFERENCE ROOM, SUITE 202, CITY MANAGER’S OFFICE." The subject of the meeting will be "REVIEW AND DISCUSS COUNCIL GOALS FOR THE 2021-2023 COUNCIL TERM." The conference room is not the council chambers. It's not even the next door Richardson Room, where work sessions are normally held. It's the City Manager's conference room, on the second floor where most Richardson residents have never been, and probably never heard of. And it's also a room where video equipment is not a standard feature. In other words, a good place to meet in secret.

This is arguably one of the most important City Council meetings of the year. Yet it won't be televised. It won't be recorded. It will be held in secret. I use the word "secret" intentionally.

The City Council, according to longstanding practice, does not schedule meetings on the fifth Monday of the month. August 30 is the fifth Monday of the month. In December of 2020, the City Council reviewed their 2021 calendar. A slide discussing their calendar states, "Meetings are not generally scheduled on: • The fifth Monday of a month." If that's not clear enough, the next slide states, "• Fifth Mondays • March*, May, August, November." And if that's still not clear enough, an actual calendar states, "August 30, 2021: No Meeting. No meeting / 5th Monday." That apparently was still the rule as late as last week when Week in Review was composed and sent out to thousands of Richardson residents. But by Friday afternoon, in time to meet state requirements for posting notice of meetings on an obscure bulletin board at the entrance to City Hall, this meeting somehow made it onto the calendar. This meeting is to be held upstairs in the City Manager's conference room.

The City of Richardson does not believe in transparency, no matter how much they protest otherwise. I might have to take back what I said about elections having consequences. This shit keeps happening no matter how much turnover happens on the City Council. They are all being snookered by the City Manager.

By the way, earlier I had my own thoughts on what the goals of the City Council for this term ought to be: "Goals for our New City Council". I just wish I had more time to remind our City Council what's expected of them before they sneaked in their secret meeting on the topic.


plg said...

Mark, I'm still thinking about your post from Monday. Does City Council always meet - either every year or every two years - to define goals? If so, are these meetings always open to the public? I ask as a relative newcomer to the Council calendar.

Mark Steger said...

For many years at least, the City Council has met every two years to set their goals for the current term. State law requires all City Council meetings to be open to the public. The goal-setting meeting is probably the best chance the public has of seeing the sausage getting made. So the City Manager has more than a little motivation to keep it out of the public eye. This move to an obscure conference room with no video is consistent with that.