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GUEST COLUMNIST |More Access to City Government?

Contrary to what people may initially think, local government often affects people’s day to day lives in a more impactful way than the State or Federal Government. After all, who is it that builds and maintains the road in front of your house, polices the neighborhood, sets building codes, and even creates guidelines on what pets you can and cannot own? You guessed it: Local Government.

As a society, we allow local government to have so much control over these things because, among other things, local government officials are the easiest to contact so we can share our opinions and desires. With local government, your average resident can literally affect local policies if they feel passionate enough about a particular issue. In short, we trust local government with such power because we believe we have more ownership in the way things are done locally. However, in order for residents to be able to effectively weigh in they must have access to a transparent government.

Well, Maumallians, the opportunity to have a more accessible, transparent city government is within our grasp. The Council is currently considering whether to videotape City Council meetings and post the recordings online. Posting recordings online would be beneficial to residents for many reasons. Among those reasons, it would obviously be beneficial to folks who have other obligations on Monday evenings, who would rather spend time with their family, who would like participate in Maumelle Softball, or who would simply prefer the control of skipping past boring portions while re-watching those parts of meetings that interesting.

On Monday evening, the City Council agreed to continue pursuing the recording and broadcast options available. Unfortunately, the Council was split 4‑4 with Mayor Watson being the deciding vote in favor of continuing to pursue our options. The biggest objection appears to be the cost of the project, which comes in at roughly $10,000 and is the equal to eight ten-thousands of a percent (0.0008%) of our total budgeted expenditures for 2013. While I appreciate close scrutiny of spending (and hope this same level of scrutiny is applied as the Council examines next year’s budget), it is important to realize that we can improve the accessibility and transparency of our local government for less money than the city has budgeted for treadmills this year.

Now is the time to act if you would like for City Council meetings to be recorded and posted online. Don’t let this opportunity slip through our fingertips. Contact your Alderman this week and let him or her know that, when it comes to broadcasting our Council meetings, it’s time we caught up to our neighboring cities such as Conway, Little Rock, and North Little Rock. If it is easier for you, just send me an email at calebjnorris@gmail.com and I will make sure the Council sees it.

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