It’s election season, so there is a lot of talk of “transparency.”
At least as far as the sitting members of the City Council go, it is all talk.
The City Council in the past four years of this term, or to be more accurate four-and-a-half years, has become ever-more opaque.
Most of the changes are subtle, and some not so subtle – such as City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba attempting to ban the media from the Katie Dorsett Council Chamber during council meetings. Jaiyeoba’s plan was to have journalists sit at a table on the balcony where the view of the City Council is limited to one or two councilmembers, and hearing what is being said is difficult. Determining who is speaking without being able to see the speaker is even more difficult.
But since meetings are open to the public, and even journalists qualify as “public,” journalists have moved into regular seats in the council chamber. Jaiyeobo said that he needed the press table for city staff, but in the City Council meetings, since the media table was eliminated, the vast majority of the time the seats formerly reserved for the media have been vacant.
However, it is worth noting that it is a City Council meeting and not a city manager’s meeting. The mayor and City Council control the meeting.
But there are more subtle changes that make City Council action more opaque.
One is the posting of presentations for City Council meetings and work sessions. A few years ago, these presentations were posted several days before the meeting. This gave councilmembers and the public an opportunity to go over the facts that would be presented and do their own research before the meeting. The result was that at the work session or meeting, the City Council could have an in-depth discussion of the topic. Then the presentations started being posted only hours before the meeting. Councilmember Justin Outling complained that, as a councilmember with a job, he didn’t have sufficient time to study the presentation before the meeting.
Then the presentations were not posted before the meeting but were posted after the meeting.
Now the presentations are reportedly emailed to the members of the City Council but are not posted on the City of Greensboro website at all.
There is no doubt that they are public documents and could be obtained by making a request to the Public Information Request Tracking Administrator Kurt Brenneman, who works in the Public Library Department, although if his name and position are listed anywhere on the libraries’ website it is extremely well hidden.
Or the presentations can be obtained from members of the City Council or city staff.
Requests for information about why they are no longer posted on the city website have not been answered.