Every year about this time I like to take stock of the direction of this blog. I started this blog back in 2005, mostly as a way to express myself on political matters and also to be involved with local government. I didn't do too much with it last year. To be blunt, I was just kind of worn out, and soured completely on the integrity of some local government entities. Couple that with having a crook for president, and I didn't muster up much desire to post. Was also a little exhausted to see how many people accepted the level of corruption from the Trump administration without question. Part of that changed in December of 2018 for reasons I will no doubt talk about in depth at a later time. In any event, I've had my blog site up now for going on 14 years.
I've had, as most people know who are familiar with me, a strong interest in local politics for quite some years, including video recording or audio recording meetings and putting them up for others to see or hear. I strongly believe that elected government officials should be accountable to those that pay their salaries or where taxpayer money is being spent and the more sunshine that can be shone, the better. And our Texas constitution is even better on freedom of speech than the US constitution.Our Texas government encourages people to use the public information act to be informed, and there is a set of laws and rules regarding how open meetings should be conducted.
At some point early last year I quit Facebook ... again... I didn't like the practices of Facebook, seemed (and continue to seem) shady and dishonest, and I didn't want to be part of that. Have felt all the better for it.
I've toyed with the idea of doing streaming video and may do that during this year, who knows?
One factor in continuing with this blog is that I have been somewhat alarmed over what has happened to local journalism over the past 5 years. Companies such as Gatehouse Media have bought up local newspapers, and gotten rid of some personnel staffing the offices. For example, here in Glen Rose, there is not a full time reporter assigned only to Glen Rose, but instead he shares time with the Stephenville office. And there is no longer a physical office location in Glen Rose where you can walk in and, say, hand someone an advertisement. I remember one time going into the office that was on Hwy 67 and being able to look at newspapers that were in a sort of flippable arrangement where you could look for an article by spending some time turning pages. No more. Not only is there not one here, it's in Stephenville, but the papers are not available without asking in advance, and even then, not all have been saved. If a reporter no longer has the time to attend, in person, various government meetings, due to no fault of his or her own, then you cannot read about what happened in the paper, or at least not from the firsthand impression of a reporter that actually was there, and not hearing what happened through the filter of asking, say, the judge.
One answer to this is when government creates, not only agendas, but also audio or video or their meetings. From a practical standpoint, many times I don't know about something when it occurs, but I want to go back and hear what happened, why it was voted on a certain way, in other words, the thinking behind a vote. And we can do that with the govenrment entities that record all their meetings and post them to the internet. (The city, sadly, does not record all their meetings). Consider continuity as well. Sometimes you want to know what has happened about a certain item for longer than just that meeting; maybe there is a history that would shed light on why and how some decisions are made. I heard, on one of the audio recordings, where one of the commissioners said they had discussed certain information about salaries at a budget meeting in the past. Well, suppose that commissioner was no longer in office, who would know? I'm saying that sometimes you want to be able to go back and hear what was originally said to understand the current conversations. And if there are any government officials that want to try to prevent you from knowing what they're doing, you should ask why.
To that end, I'm going to try this year to take the audio recordings of various meetings (maybe not all, depends on my level of interest and work) and put agenda items with them. One problem I have with myself is that I sometimes am trying to find something I know I heard, but it's sort of buried in a big hunk of audio. Being able to see where on audio a given agenda item was discussed at least helps narrow it down. I've done about half the Somervell County Commissioners Court meetings that way into video and posted on Youtube and will sometime in the next week or so finish the second half of the year.
I do think at least some people care also about what happens at the local level. Certainly a whole bunch of people came out at the city to complain a couple of years ago when the trash fees were going up with less pickup. But, really, when it comes down to it, I just believe this is what should happen and I"m going to do it as long as I am interested, regardless of anyone else's interest. That will include calling out local government if I believe they are not being transparent, which should be the supreme rule for any government.