Farmersville City Council gets an earful on occasion from residents who contend they don’t always know all there is to know about what the council is doing on residents’ behalf.
The council, though, has taken measures to repair that alleged shortcoming in its transparency.
It is now “streaming” its proceedings online, live, in real time on its website.
The city usually has a resident who’s been streaming council proceedings to her Facebook page. Her name is Donna Williams. She owns an antique shop on the downtown square. She believes the council needs to do a better job of letting residents know what is going on. She records the meetings and then streams them onto her Facebook page.
Williams has been streaming council meetings for a couple of years. She believes she is performing a valuable public service for her fellow Farmersville residents.
I covered many city councils and other governing bodies over nearly four decades as a print journalist. I don’t yet know precisely how the Farmersville City Council’s transparency matches up to other jurisdictions I’ve covered. Thus, I will reserve some judgment on the particulars of the community’s relationship with its council.
My experience has taught me over time that cities often never do enough to please every resident they serve. Amarillo was my last stop on my full-time journalism career, and I found the complaints there about city government almost laughable. The city council there meets in “work sessions” prior to the formal council meetings. The work sessions are as open to the public as the formal meetings. Yet some residents would complain that the council was meeting in secret, that it sought to hide public business from the public.
The only serious concern I have noted about the Amarillo council work sessions is that the room where the council meets have few seats available for the public to attend.
Farmersville’s website home page has a tab that readers can click to open the live streaming as it is occurring. You click on the tab beginning at 6 p.m. while the City Council is meeting and you can watch the council conduct business that is open to the public.
Donna Williams told me that many Farmersville residents work in other communities. They cannot always be at home in time for 6 p.m. council meetings when they get off work at, say, 5 p.m. Which brings up an interesting question: How does live streaming solve that concern for those who might be en route from work to home by the time the council has convened its regular meeting at City Hall?
I want to give the council credit, though, for listening to the concerns expressed by some residents, such as Williams. The city has gone through its share of community controversy that has spawned concern among residents that they weren’t kept adequately informed of council deliberations and decisions.
The city approved, for example, a Muslim cemetery that caused a good bit of community concern. What those concerns centered on make me scratch my head, given the fact that the individuals buried in that cemetery are, shall we say, already dead and they are certain to remain that way forever.
But the city has moved on from that debate. It is now offering a live streaming service to Internet-connected residents who want to stay abreast of City Council business.
From where I sit, I consider that progress. The city’s effort at live streaming council meetings likely won’t end the gripes from a few soreheads … but it’s a start.
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.