13 minutes is how long the Enterprise City Council lasted on 1/19/16, which is not that unusual in itself. I did think some of the things that happened during that short 13 minutes were worthy of sharing so that is what you are reading. You can see the entire meeting online here 1/19/16 City Council Meeting. It lasted a total of 13 minutes and 19 seconds according to the video and that included the opening prayer, pledge of allegiance, all items approved unanimously and the passing of the gavel of the President of the Council to Rhett Marques. You have to give them credit. That is an impressively efficient use of time to get all that done in 13 minutes.
5 Minutes is what the entire exchange between a citizen and the council and mayor and the legal response from the city attorney took from that 13 minutes.
What they did not do
What city officials did not do though, as normal, is respond to a citizen’s questions. They did sit behind the city attorney and let him give a response that you cannot see in the video referenced above or hear very well if at all. The city council and mayor chose to ignore the questions during the meeting. This is not unusual.
What they did do
What was unusual is they called time on the speaker. That is very rare. I don’t remember seeing that happen before in the meetings I have attended and I know some speakers have gone beyond the 3 minutes allotted. If you watch the city video at the time one city council member is notifying the president the 3 minutes is up the speaker is emphasizing he was not there for a legalistic response (5:30-5:40 on the video) – very illustrative I thought.
City Attorney Response
The city attorney did stand up and share some words during the meeting during the 5 minutes mentioned above including,
“We’ve been very transparent. We will continue to be transparent. The law does not say that we are to transform a document into a certain format just because a person would like it to be in a certain format.”
The fact you cannot see or hear them on the city’s video is another reason it is best to be there if what transpires there concerns you. Anyway, the city attorney is apparently offended that his actions are being questioned and ignoring the fact or just doesn’t care that citizens are being offended and stonewalled when asking for public information.
You can see how this was covered on WDHN at this link Take Back Enterprise at odds with city leaders, claims lack of transparency continues. Here is a quote from the mayor.
“We don’t know what anyone wants with records from time to time and one of the things we don’t want is them to be manipulated in any way, shape, form or fashion.”
If you send someone a picture from your phone does that give them access to go in and make changes to YOUR picture on YOUR phone? The same principle applies here. The only way someone could “manipulate the data in any way” is if they were given access to the city network and access to the accounting software where the information is stored. I suspect very few people have that access.
I don’t think it is any of the city’s business to determine the motive of why anyone wants any information. It is public information that belongs to the taxpayers and when taxpayers request it, it should be provided in a reasonable format and in a reasonable time. What the mayor and city attorney used as an excuse is not a valid reason for not clicking on “Export to Excel” or “Export to CSV” instead of “Export to PDF.” This is the “transform a document” the city attorney referred to.
The Facts Presented
You can see the statement that was read at the council meeting here at this link January 19, 2016 Address of Enterprise City Council. What is obvious is the city is stonewalling. Any objective observer can see the contradiction between “If you need anything, we’ll help you in any way, shape or form or fashion” and then offering the information requested in an unsearchable format for $7500.
The Questions Asked
From the statement read at the meeting here were the questions asked and unanswered.
1. Do you have a good reason why you won’t release our city’s financial data in Excel format?
2. Do you have a good reason why you would charge $7500 for such data when it should be able to be produced in a relatively short period of time by someone proficient with the software?
1. Will you intervene and demand more openness or do you affirm the mayor’s decisions to restrict access to this data?
Those don’t seem like unreasonable questions to me. The silence by the council speaks volumes. The final comments by the citizen addressing the council summarize his purpose for being there,
“I didn’t come tonight to talk about a legal opinion. I came tonight to draw a contrast between your words and your actions. Your words say that you are open and transparent. Your actions do not.”
I think the reactions from the mayor and city attorney in their statements and decision by the council member not to respond at all insults the intelligence of the citizens they are elected and hired to serve. They have finally achieved transparency with their comments. The citizens of Enterprise can see right through them.
So who really cares about any of this? I am sure there are some saying just as Hillary Clinton did the first time she testified about the Benghazi terrorist attacks, “What difference at this point does it make?” However, I am also certain there are others who have seen this story repeated far too often and are ready to do whatever they can to prevent this from being repeated after the next city elections in August. It should be an interesting 7 months ahead.
What difference at this point does it make to you?
Until next time…
Originally posted on Peculiar Perspective on 1/23/2016