Monday, January 12, 2009

Veto of Tommy Hunt's Motion to Cease Funding of Video Recording-Taping of Helena-West Helena City Council Meetings 1-6-2009

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 Funding of Video Recording/Taping of Helena-West Helena City Council Meetings. This motion was made at or near the 27:46 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 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.

For example, the public would like to see, among other things, the actions of Mr. Hunt as he proclaimed that he would not speak on the radio “anymore.” The public would like to see what happened at the 29:23 to 29:34 minute mark on the video. At that point, Mr. Hunt can be seen whispering into Mr. Grubbs’ ear and Mr. Grubbs then turned his microphone off. This is salient in light of all actions taken at this meeting.

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

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

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 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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