28 June 2010 at 9:02:10 AM
Regular readers know that we here have had a goal for the last couple of years in particular to see all government entities post their notices and, after, meetings minutes and audio online. I particularly want, as a citizen who attempts to stay informed, to be able to pick and choose which meetings to attend, go to those which have something at them I want to speak up about, and be able to listen to meetings when I can't attend. Minutes are okay, but audio is better; and in this day and age, there is no reason not to have everyone hear meetings.
Let me give you a quick example. Do you work during the day? Then you probably never can go to most government meetings. From the Somervell County Hospital Authoritiy meetings that start at 8:00 in the morning, to the Somervell Commissioners Court meetings that begin at 9:30, when would most people who have jobs that may not even be in Somervell County be able to take off from work to attend. Even the City meetings that start at 5:30 would be difficult for a lot of people to attend, since workers are coming home, parents are getting dinner, etc. To me, the meetings at 7:00 or 7:30 pm are at least in a time frame that people who work can possibly get to. But IF YOU CANNOT GET TO A MEETING and you want to actually HEAR what went on, and what was said, you WANT the government entities to make audio available. There you are, with your kids after a nice dinner, and able to listen, at your convenience to these officials whom you elected and are making decisions for you.
So let me run through a few things. First, IF a government entity has a website, they MUST put their notices online for all meetings. Here's from the Texas Open Meetings Act., p 35
551.056. Additional Posting Requirements for Certain Municipalities, Counties,
School Districts, Junior College Districts, and Development Corporations
Section 551.056 requires certain governmental bodies and economic development corporations
to post notice on their Internet Web sites, in addition to other postings required by the Act. This
provision applies to the following entities, if the entity maintains an Internet Web site or has a
Web site maintained for it:
(1) a municipality;
(2) a county;
(3) a school district;
(4) the governing body of a junior college or junior college district, including a
college or district that has changed its name in accordance with Chapter 130,
Education Code; and
(5) a development corporation organized under the Development Corporation
Act (Subtitle C1, Title 12, Local Government Code).175
(6) a regional mobility authority included within the meaning of an “authority”
as defined by Section 370.003, Transportation Code.176
If a covered municipality’s population is 48,000 or more and a county’s population is 65,000 or
more, it must also post the agenda for the meeting on its Web site.177 Section 551.056 also
provides that the validity of a posted notice made in good faith to comply with the Act is not
affected by a failure to comply with its requirements due to a technical problem beyond the
control of the entity.178
(Now, none of the entities in our county are 48,000 population, so technically, none have to post an actual agenda, simply a notice of the upcoming meeting(s). Some of the entities do here anyway, because heck, don't you want to know WHAT will be discussed beforehand so that you can make plans to attend?
Who has a website?
Glen Rose Medical Center which is a dba for Somervell County Hospital Authority. Meeting notices online? No. Now, the law above does not explicitly say that a county hospital authority must post notices, even though it is an appointed subdivision of the county, but if not on GRMC, then certainly the notices should be posted on the Somervell County website.
Somervell County Commissioners Court - Meeting notices for every meeting online 72 hours before a meeting? No. But they do have their regular meeting notice dates posted-they are also supposed to post notices for EVERY meeting, including specially called sessions, and have them available 72 hours before a meeting. I"m puzzled as to why, months after plans to have the departments keep the website updated, and all the training has been done, that there is still no attempt to comply with the law.
One reason for this might be that the commissioners apparently have the website and public information as a low priority, as seen by the trouble ticket logs posted by Mark Woolverton of their computer IT department.
City of Glen Rose Town Council Meetings. No. Now, to be very fair about it, Mygnonne Thomas was the person who maintained the site and a lot of what is not updated may be due to not having someone else who does this. But it needs to be done. Anyone should be able to look at the links for Public Notices and see the meeting notices; the agendas are listed under City Council but are also not up to date. Again, people want to see agendas BEFORE the meeting so that they can determine what is about to be discussed. AND those meeting notices are not confined only to city council but also preservation board, planning and zoning, 4-b, etc. ANYONE should be able to look at the city website on any given day or time and see the notices for upcoming meetings, BETTER, the agendas for upcoming meetings as well, and AFTER, the minutes and audio from any meeting to see what happened.
Somervell County Water District - YES! In fact, Somervell County Water District puts up the notices, minutes, and audio. (and checkbook register) They rate, in my book, an A+ for government transparency. Plus they put up check registers after approval at board meetings.
Glen Rose Independent School District-Yes. Plus they put up the board packets so that all can read BEFOREHAND about what they're going to discuss. Doug McClure has also put up a site for podcasts (audio) which one can get an RSS feed from. It's all very good.
Here's the deal. We are and have been in the internet age, where information is readily available to all in a timely manner. There would be no Texas LAW regarding putting this up on a website if there was no good reason to do it. Every single local government entity should make it a priority to FOLLOW THE LAW and get their websites up to date, and keep them that way.
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