ActivePaper Archive Petition calls for televised city meetings, greater transparency - Hobbs News Sun, 2015-09-15

Petition calls for televised city meetings, greater transparency

Picture

Marshall

The City of Hobbs has received a petition pushing for televised commission meetings and greater transparency.

Filed Sept. 8, the petition has 330 signatures — 150 handwritten, 180 obtained through the web — collected and vetted by local Byron Marshall.

“We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to televise public City Commission meetings and archive them via the internet for later viewing,” the petition reads.

The petition is the culmination of almost eight months of advocacy on behalf of Marshall.

Commending Hobbs Municipal Schools for “stepping forward into the 21st Century” by streaming football games, Marshall argued the same should be expected of the city. “There’s really no excuse to me that we shouldn’t have it,” Marshall said. “I understand that, because right now they’re looking at different avenues, they just want to get this system right. I applaud them for their due diligence to get an adequate system. But I don’t think it should take six-eight months.”

But Commissioner Jonathan Sena tapped the brakes, explaining the city shouldn’t sacrifice quality for expediency.

“It’s not as easy as buying a couple cameras and throwing something together for tomorrow,” Sena said. “It takes a thoughtful process to get something that’s quality and excellent.”

In the same vein, Commissioner Marshall Newman commented on the number of different factors both city staff and the commission should take into account, such as funding.

For example, the time frame of implementing a streaming service would lengthen if it were subject to a bidding process.

“If we’re going to put something in, let’s put something in that’s right,” Newman said.

During a Hobbs City Commission mid-July, Marshall asked action to be taken by the city to seek out solutions, claiming he’d accomplished more research in four hours than the commission had achieved in several months. At first, Commissioners Sena and Newman questioned its level of importance in the community.

Confronted by the petition’s 330 signatures, Newman said it would appear there is “quite a bit of interest for televised meetings.”

“The commissioners didn’t see it as a priority so they didn’t put any work into it,” Marshall said. “But at this point, I feel confident the city commissioners see it as something this community needs.”

During the commission meeting Sept. 8, City Manager J.J. Murphy said he inquired about streaming services at other cities during the New Mexico Municipal League conference in Albuquerque, which will be held in Hobbs next year.

The conference brings together city officials across the state for seminars, workshops and networking opportunities.

“I did visit with the Las Cruces city manager, saw some public presentations — I know some of the staff did as well — on accessibility and video,” Murphy said during the meeting. “The Las Cruces manager has endorsed the system they use. And I think (Hobbs IT Director) Ron Roberts is going to set up a demo for Jan (Fletcher, City Clerk) and I to get through in terms of web streaming meetings and stuff like that.” Similarly, Sena said he devoted a chunk of his time at the conference to speak with officials from Las Cruces about the issue and that was he impressed by their streaming service.

“I think having televised commission meetings is a fantastic idea,” Sena said. “I think a lot of people support it. Hobbs has never had it, but I believe it’s time to have it. We want to do it right. We want to do it with excellence.”

In a county plagued by historically poor voter turnout, Marshall said he believes the streaming service would help increase public consciousness of local affairs and thus, turnout.

During the November general election, Lea participation flopped at the polls with the worst turnout of all counties.

“It’s a community fueled and run by an oil-based economy,” Marshall said. “And a lot of times, people who work in this economy don’t have the time to go to meetings. But they also want to know what’s going on. So I think it (the streaming service) will not only increase voter participation during the election, but it will also add to the conversation and our elected officials will know exactly how the people feel.”

Similarly, an audit performed by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government examined the websites of 31 cities and 27 counties across the state, according to a News-Sun story published Aug. 27.

The highest possible score city websites could receive is 95 based on seven criteria: financial data, accountability data, public meetings information, contact information, public records information, website functionality and other frequently sought information.

Hobbs scored 45 and Lea County scored 40. In contrast, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe received scores of 84, the highest in the state.

In a statement Hobbs Communications Director Lindsay Chism said the city is working on a new website.

“The city has been developing a brand new website since the spring of this year and we will be launching the new product in the next two weeks,” Chism stated. “We will be publicizing the launch extensively and expect that many of the issues that were identified as deficiencies in the NMFOG report will be addressed with this new website.”

‘There’s really no excuse to me that we shouldn’t have it. I applaud them for their due diligence... but I don’t think it should take six-eight months.’
Byron Marshall
Petitioner calling for televised city commission meetings