Transparency in Our City Government

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The City of La Quinta Should Televise Its Council Meetings and Public Events

According to a recent editorial in The Desert Sun, La Quinta is “the only city in the valley” that does not televise its city council meetings.

Many concerned citizens believe that La Quinta needs to improve public access to its council meetings because its citizens have a right to participate in local affairs, and be informed before decisions are made on their behalf by elected officials.

The overwhelming majority of La Quinta’s council meetings are scheduled in the afternoon, which seems odd for any city, particularly one who prides itself on an open door policy at city hall.

As it stands, many of the folks who regularly attend La Quinta’s council meetings are either retired or work for the city.  That may not come as a surprise to your readers, but there is a big down side.

Some of La Quinta’s residents are unable to attend these weekday meetings because they are either at work or in school when meetings are scheduled, which results in limiting participation on matters of concern to the greater community.

If there’s an item on La Quinta’s meeting agenda that concerns you or your family, you may not be able to have your voice heard at city hall, unless your boss approves time off.   If you work hourly, time off may come out of your pocket.

But that’s not all, residents who are elderly or have travel restrictions must rely on local media for news “after the fact,” which puts them and others at a disadvantage when it comes to participating in La Quinta’s domestic affairs.

There are other La Quinta residents who cannot attend council meetings for personal reasons.  If they want their voices heard, they have to wait until our city posts its meeting agenda, which does not afford them ample time to send in their comments to the city council.

The Concerned Citizens of La Quinta believes that aside from televising its meetings in cooperation with Time Warner, the city could enhance its communications by placing a web cam along with a microphone in the council chambers, so local citizens could watch and hear what is going on behind closed doors.  Our leaders also have the option to use Skype for video conferencing with constituents.  Public meetings could be recorded for streaming at a later time, or posted on the city’s web site or YouTube.

There is no excuse why La Quinta does not televise its public meetings.  In other California cities,  cable companies underwrite costs to televise council meetings, which may be negotiated when a franchise agreement is up for review.  A new contract with Time Warner should be a top priority for our city.  Why has La Quinta waited several decades to cut a deal?  Of course, there is nothing precluding Time Warner from stepping up and providing public access to La Quinta.

Unfortunately, televising city council meetings in La Quinta does not have the same priority to its current crop of elected officials as voting to make costly and unnecessary “cosmetic changes” to streets and crosswalks around “the village,” which benefits a handful of seasonal businesses and not the community at large.

2 Responses to Transparency in Our City Government

  1. Len Wahlert says:

    Can anyone in the La Quinta City Council address why they won’t televise the city council meeetings? I’m stunned to read this information. I honestly can’t understand why the meetings are in a time period during the day, when working people that fund this city can’t attend.

  2. Len Wahlert says:

    Note to The Desert Sun 5/12/11

    What a great opportunity for the City Council of La Quinta to provide an open view of their work, and representation of us; the citizens. The Council meetings should be televised. Taxpayers have a right to observe the process particularly when the meetings are held while most people are at work. If the La Quinta City Council chooses to make the council meetings available to the citizens of the city it will demonstrate their desire to show they understand the need for total transparency. What an opportunity to be proactive and invite the citizens to engage and be aware of the issues we can all work together to solve.

    This move to openness will also demonstrate that the City Council doesn’t show its age. We are a young, vibrant, and growing community. The future lies ahead of us all. Embracing technology, however the council decides to move forward, will show “thinking” toward the future, rather than this is how we’ve always done it. No ones complaining, so everything is o.k.; isn’t the way any of us should be thinking.

    City Council member Stanley Sniff indicated that he wondered whether other desert cities’ meetings got a significant number of viewers. I can confidently state that if there is no televised council meetings, there will be zero viewers. Streaming the council meetings would allow many part time residents, but significant home owners and residents of La Quinta, to see council activities.

    Also, there is so much corruption at all levels of government that it makes the Council more accountable. This comment should in no way be construed to indicate that I have any of these feelings toward the La Quinta City Council. This concern is obvious from what we see in many Cities, State, and Federal bureaucracies. This would be money well spent and would show a positive move on behalf of the La Quinta City Council.

    Thanks for asking this important question.

    Regards,

    Len Wahlert
    La Quinta
    Member of the Board
    Concerned Citizens of La Quinta

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