Monday, January 12, 2009

Veto of Tommy Hunt's Motion to Cease Broadcasting and Funding of Helena-West Helena City Council Meetings Until Further Notice 1-06-2009

January 12, 2009

Mrs. Sandra Ramsey, Clerk
P O Box 248
Helena-West Helena, AR 72342

Re:       Veto

Dear Madam Clerk:

This is my veto of Mr. Tommy Hunt’s Motion to Cease Broadcasting and Funding of  the Helena-West Helena City Council Meetings Until Further Notice. This motion was made at the 21:21 minute mark of our meeting, according to the video of the meeting. This motion was not in the best interest of our community. The motion was a surprise to me and to the general public..

According to the Helena-West Helena Municipal Code, all matters to be brought before the City Council MUST be specifically set out and identified. These matters were not identified on the agenda before the meeting.

This veto is required because the public has a right to know how its business is being handled. The public must go through procedural hoops to get on the agenda. The public cannot merely “show up” at a meeting and “show-out” as our council seems bent on doing. This type of activity can breed distrust in our community. I have received many calls making references to the apparent “meeting before the meeting.”

I have no way of knowing whether there has been any such meeting. I am, however, concerned with what the perception may be. Therefore, I will continue to enforce our code as stated and adopted by our governing body.

This motion is inappropriate because the radio and television broadcast were recommended by the Transition Team as part of government transparency. These formats allow the general public to see the meeting for its face value and to evaluate the performance of its representatives. Moreover, not everyone who desires to know about city business can or even will attend our meetings. Many of our citizens work evenings or have other matters equally important to them which must be attended. Therefore, these delayed broadcasts must continue such that the public can get the facts as they actually are.

I am not unsympathetic to Mr. Hunt’s concern regarding “dirty laundry.” However, I do believe that such occurrences can be minimized by this council, administration, the employees and the community working together for the greatest good for the greatest number. Not all items in public discourse are pretty or inviting, however, they remain at all times public. Finally, we

Mrs. Sandra Ramsey, City Clerk
January 12, 2009
Page 2 of 2

cannot forget how resilient our people are. They will deal with all things as they see fit their within best interest in due time; they do not need to be shielded from the truth even when it is ugly.

Wherefore, the action by Mr. Hunt was and is contrary to the best interest of our community and I hereby veto those actions for barring the public’s access to the actual content of city council meetings.

Respectfully submitted,

James F. Valley

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