When Kerr County Commissioners made a controversial decision to close the county’s animal shelter on Saturdays, because of the circumstances surrounding the decision, it has called into quesiton the transparency of the court.
While Commissioners made their decision in open session, it’s clear that most of their discussion and consensus building was made behind closed doors.
The lack of public conversation raises the question about the transparency of the Commissioners Court, and we feel that should be remedied immediately.
The message from this decision is that the commissioners did not want or value public input.
The court should also agenda items more clear when it comes to important matters that should be discussed publicly, especially where comments can be made. That certainly wasn’t the case with the animal shelter decision.
While the commissioners are doing the right thing by hosting a public meeting on Nov. 18 about the animal shelter, they didn’t allow that feedback to inform their initial decision.
So, this unforced error by the commissioners has led to serious questions among the community, along with this Editorial Board, about the transparency of the court. That can be resolved by implementing a strategy that gives confidence to the community about the work of our elected officials, who earn income from this duty.
Fellow watchdog Aaron Yates of KerrvilleUnited has been leading an online campaign, through website change.org, to have the commissioners video record or livestream their meetings. More than 500 people have signed the petition.
It shouldn’t take a petition to do this.
In fact, it should have been done years ago.
Even with the county’s financial issues, the barrier to installing even a basic video system has been reduced dramatically by new technology and broadband adoption across the Hill Country. While not completely connected, about 70% of Kerr County residents have access to high-speed broadband to either watch the event live or on demand on a channel like YouTube or another provider.
The Kerr Count Commissioners Court meeting schedule is not conducive to most people attending in person. This makes the move to have some type of recorded presence even more important. The transcript for the court often take weeks to process and post online.
This is a move that needs to be made and taken seriously by the commissioners.