Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Dispatch from the Chamber of Secrets

On August 30, the Richardson City Council met in secret session to begin setting the council's vision, mission, goals, strategies, and tactics for its two-year term. I say secret because the announcement of the meeting, the site of the meeting, and the recording of the meeting (namely, none) all left something to be desired in the way of transparency. I reported all that in "Secret Richardson City Council Meeting". Since then, I have another complaint about the process to add. Here are the minutes of that meeting, in their entirety:

Council discussed the goals process and goals for the 2021-2023 Council term

On September 20, the council did it again. They continued their secret meeting in the same manner as before. Lucky for you, this time, I was there.

In the work session beforehand, which was recorded and you can watch, there was one public comment card submitted requesting video capture of the goals meeting as well as the work session beforehand. The City Manager, in his inimitable voice of reason, explained why the public is wrong to want this.

Council members are in subgroups, breakout groups and other things that neither allow the video or the audio capture to be really effective, and we figure it to be as frustrating as not. Select work sessions, special meetings are exempt from the video requirement. We don't use that as an excuse but really say that is the spirit of the state law that acknowledge sometimes certain meetings not having that.

In short, the City does it this way because state law says they can. "We don't use that as an excuse" the City Manager says in excuse. No one has accused the City of breaking state law. State law may not require the City to record such meetings, but it doesn't prohibit it, either. It's the City's deliberate choice to keep these meetings off camera.

And the City Manager helpfully says they do it because you, the public, would be frustrated watching. I've got news for the City Manager. Some of the public gets plenty frustrated watching many City Council meetings. If the public watching at home gets frustrated (or bored) during breakout sessions when they can't hear and see every conversation, they can switch channels and watch "Wheel of Fortune." It's their choice. Don't make the choice for them.

Besides, I was there and can report that there was much more time devoted to full council discussions than was devoted to breakout sessions. I am much more frustrated when I can't see those than when the format of the meeting makes it hard to follow multiple simultaneous breakout sessions.

As you can tell, I'm unpersuaded by the reasons given for lack of video. But enough said about that. What about the vision, mission, goals, strategies, and tactics of our City Council? I'll have more to say about those in the next dispatch from the chamber of secrets. Sneak peek: the meeting was both reassuring and worrisome at the same time.

1 comment:

Justin Neth said...

Great write-up. Thanks for attending the meeting and sharing what you observed for those of us who couldn't be there.