EDITORS’ NOTE: Years after the city of San Marcos and Hays County began televising their governing bodies’ meetings, San Marcos CISD has yet to embrace fundamental, real-time transparency through live video.
Earlier this year, the San Marcos City Council voted to allow San Marcos CISD trustees to use its ready-for-showtime chambers at no charge. City Hall facilities are already equipped to broadcast directly to two locally available cable access channels as well as the Internet. In their discussion of the invitation on April 15, San Marcos CISD trustees did not reject the idea outright but declined to immediately accept it, showing no particular hurry to check in with 2013. Trustees talked about the possibility of televising their own meetings but set no time frame for making it happen.
The San Marcos Mercury invited veteran city council members JOHN THOMAIDES and KIM PORTERFIELD to co-write this guest column in which they urge trustees to begin televising their meetings to encourage “more of our ‘clients’ to participate in open government and become informed and engaged in local government.
COMMENTARY by JOHN THOMAIDES AND KIM PORTERFIELD
It is increasingly easy for members of the public to access the information they need to become engaged in their government and help them make choices. An informed public is an empowered public. An empowered public represents the best of our democratic process — and it’s a prerequisite for our community to take increased “ownership” of the school system, both its assets and challenges. It is incumbent upon our elected leaders to be open and transparent in their deliberations.
Today, both the city and county governments televise their public deliberations or stream live online so that citizens can participate even when they are unable to attend meetings. Our school board, rightfully citing budget limitations and the desire to direct all available dollars to the classroom, has chosen not to televise its meetings.
The city of San Marcos and San Marcos CISD enjoy dozens of partnerships, from law enforcement programs to shared facilities agreements to the current development of a Youth Master Plan, that result in shared benefits, more bang for the taxpayer buck and better services for everyone’s constituents.
Now, there is a solution to getting school board meetings on live local television. Realizing the importance of open and transparent government and at no expense to the San Marcos CISD, leaving all dollars focused on the education of our children, the San Marcos City Council unanimously voted to extend an invitation to the San Marcos CISD Board of Trustees to utilize city hall chambers for its regular monthly meetings so they can be shown live on local cable channels.
The city has all the video and audio equipment in place, already paid for by local tax funds, and a qualified person to operate it. We have a dais that will accommodate all trustees and key staff. We have 40 seats in our chambers and room beyond in the lobby for an additional 150 citizens. Most importantly, school board meetings would be broadcast live on both cable networks operating in our city.
Live televising of school board meeting is crucial so that more taxpayers, parents and other citizens can become more educated and engaged about issues our district faces, student accomplishments, and other district activity conducted at school board meetings.
In our experience, televised meetings increase citizen engagement and knowledge and result in more support, happier stakeholders and constituents. The district should do everything it can to make it easier for the public – especially busy parents of young children – to know what goes on at board meetings, even if only by watching them on TV. That kind of openness and transparency helps build connections between the district and the public – something all public entities should do to work as partners with parents, taxpayers and other constituents.
Currently school district taxes represent approximately 60 percent of your annual property tax bill. The city and county represent 20 percent each.
We look forward to this collaboration, subject to school board approval at their meeting on May 20th which will make it easier for more of our “clients” to participate in open government and become informed and engaged in local government, at no expense to educating our children.
San Marcos Mayor Pro Tem JOHN THOMAIDES was elected to his fourth San Marcos City Council term in November 2011. City council member KIM PORTERFIELD was elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2010.Email | Print