Fayetteville Government Channel: When is a meeting not a meeting? | Street Jazz

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fayetteville Government Channel: When is a meeting not a meeting?

Posted By on Wed, Aug 3, 2011 at 10:15 AM

While not a monumental issue, perhaps, this may be of some importance for those who get most of their news about the inner workings of Fayetteville government from watching Fayetteville Government Channel.

Fayetteville is fortunate in the regard that not only are meetings shown on FGC, but citizens have an opportunity to make a real difference by exploring issues even further on Fayetteville Public Access Television. Before FGC came into being in the early 1990s City Council (then City Board of Directors) meetings and Washington County Quorum Court meetings were both shown on Fayetteville Open Channel, the city’s access provider.

We all owe a great deal to the hardworking folks at FGC.

FGC attempts to show all of the meetings that time and money allow, but are there times when value judgments are being made, that some meetings are more equal than others?

Obviously, you have the meetings with more marquee value, such as City Council or Planning Commission meetings, but there are many other commissions, boards and committees which meet as well, and some may not be shown on FGC, simply because a quorum of its voting membership may not have shown up to a particular meeting.

Should this be the case? If no actual voting takes place, does the meeting then have no value for the viewing public?

Let’s take, for example, the Telecommunications Board. I’ll use this because I sat on (and chaired, okay) the board for several years. On more than one occasion we didn’t have a quorum of members show up at meetings.

Anyone familiar with committees (both government and non-profit) can attest to the fact that not everybody shows up when they should. It’s a pain in the neck, but it’s cold, hard reality.

So you can’t vote on anything. If you are a non-profit, well, you can just sit around and grouse and drink coffee (or whatever) and eat pizza. If you are a government body, you have a couple of choices.

You can fold up the deck chairs and go home.

That kind of sucks. Because not only the ones on the body who actually care about business have shown up, but folks at home turn on television and expect to be informed. To just say, “Well, looks like we’re all dressed up with no place to go. Better luck next time,” just seems sort of cavalier.

OR:

A board or committee could hold an “informational meeting.”

What’s an informational meeting when it’s at home, you ask, Gluttonous Reader? Well, in the specific case of the Telecom Board, there would be agencies which would come to make reports to the city, such as the public access provider, the Cable Administrator and UA TV.

The beauty of having an informational meeting was that, even though it wasn’t “official” (in that no votes were taken or calls to action called for) the board could still hear the reports.

More importantly, the viewing public(taxpayers/voters) could hear the reports, and know what was going in the world of Fayetteville Telecommunications. In the case of UA TV, falling back on informational meetings when you lacked a quorum was especially important, since they were only scheduled to come in every few months.

These folks don’t come before the boards and give their reports just to kill time, because they have nothing else to do that particular night. These are reports that they have worked hard on, and they deserve the respect to be heard, both by the board (even if not a quorum) and the public.

Is UATV performing well?

Is Fayetteville Public Access Television making new inroads into the ever increasing diversity that is Fayetteville?

How well is the Cable Administrator doing his job?

This is how the public learns, from these public reports, and learns even more from the questioning of Telecom Board members, which can go beyond the surface of the reports.

I have used the Telecom Board as an example, but fill in any name you want.

There is a school of thought that believes that if there if no quorum present nothing of interest is likely to be said in the room, but nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not sure how many folks in City Hall feel that way, but I’ve talked to more than a few FGC viewers, and they would like to see and hear what is going on.

******

Get rid of the “resume padders”

Some folks only apply for board positions because it looks good on a resume, and then they never show up at meetings. If you have those on your board, dump ‘em with the recycling.

Why the recycling? Because no doubt they will find another board they will con soon, and they will be dead weight there, as well, while they add another few lines to their resume.

*****

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