The Charter Revision Commission reconvened on September 20, 2012. Commissioner Thimjon made a motion the commission move to working sessions over the next 3 months in order for commission members to review and familiarize themselves with the charter language.
Up until this time, all Charter Revision Commission meetings have been televised on Cable Channel 16. There was discussion about whether these sessions had to be open to the public and the answer given by the City Attorney was that, yes, working sessions were still subject to opening meeting laws which would require public notice and the ability of the public to attend the sessions but didn't require they be televised.
The justification for working sessions was to allow them to be better prepared to respond to changes/revisions coming before them. In addition, these working sessions would allow them to go through the language to see if they had any recommendations for language changes.
I personally don't have a problem with them having working sessions as long as those working sessions are to help them become familiar with the meaning of the language of the charter. However, the discussion at the end of the meeting started to sound like they were going to entertain changes from the City Council at these working sessions.
Working sessions for the purpose of educating the commission members on how the charter language works and/or is applied is good idea. If you allow these meetings to drift towards discussing proposals for language changes, then those meetings should be televised. If these working sessions drift away from self education, then it will be clear that their motives to move to untelevised sessions is to make it more difficult for the public to gain information on what they are doing.
The BIG question is why do this? Why are they uncomfortable having their discussions televised and available for public consumption?
One commissioner stated that they haven't received a phone call or an e-mail about the charter commission's work as if that somehow justified moving to an untelevised working session. Who cares if you don't get an email or phone call? Who cares if it seems the public isn't paying any attention to what you are doing. That is not the point nor a justifiable reason to stop televising the meetings.
After listening to the Charter Revision Commission meeting on September 20th, I am not sure what they are going to be doing at these working sessions. What started out as education sessions to help them be better prepared to respond to submitted charter revisions turned into sounding like they were going to be listening and discussing submitted revisions by the City Council. They now made it more difficult to watch them work and listen to what they had to say because now one has to physically go down to Carnegie Town Hall on their scheduled meeting day to find out what is happening.
Open government and transparency is a good governance. Government officials and/or their appointed boards should televise meetings because it is the right thing to do. Who cares if no one contacts city/elected officials or even pays attention to what they are doing? Inconveniencing the public and those irritating naysayers who question and comment on what you say or do is not a credible reason to stop televising meetings.
Oh, and why no mention of this meeting in the ARGUS LEADER and the change to untelevised meetings over the next 4 months?
If you want to know what this group is doing, you are going to have to physically go downtown to find out what is going on with this public commission who, by the way, is working for the people, not just the administration and the city council.
Their meetings are scheduled as follows:
Agenda Discussion is Sections 1, 2 and 3
Agenda Discussion is Sections 4, 5 and 6
January 10, 2013
Agenda Discussion is Sections 7, 8 and 9