The city of Kerrville has gone through an extensive revamp of its charter — the document that runs the city — and we generally support 18 of the 19 propositions that voters will decide upon, but Proposition N gives us pause.
On Tuesday, voters, along with those who have already voted, will be asked to vote for and against the city’s changes — most of them are minor. However, in Proposition N there are decidedly anti-transparency moves that remove publishing the salary information of city employees and has the potential to take this newspaper, or others, out of the picture when it comes to publishing notices about the budget action.
In turn, the city proposes making the city’s website the sole repository of this information. The budget would be made available at city facilities, including the library.
While we do have a small financial interest in the decision, the truth is that we’re opposed to any move by the city to make its website the sole arbiter of city news and information.
We would argue there is no reason to make this move for several reasons, but first here’s what the current charter says when it comes to communication regarding budget action by the City Council: “means to print in the contemporary means of information sharing, which includes, a newspaper of general circulation which is published in the City, and on the City’s website.”
Instead, the city has reworked the language this way: As used in this section and this article, the term “publish”refers to making the information available on the City’s website and otherwise complying with state law.
While the city is not legally obligated to run these announcements, we think it’s important to distribute this content to as wide an audience as possible, and the community’s newspapers still reach a significant number of people on a daily and weekly basis. City officials have indicated they don’t intend to change current publication practices, but if so, why is this amendment necessary?
It’s important to note that the city of Kerrville benefits from a robust print media market that is competitive, critical and also supportive of many of its efforts to improve its quality of life. Kerrville is also unique when it comes to the fact that it has several publications that cover it regularly — an increasingly rare thing these days.
Our audience remains steadfast in its interest in all things local, is highly engaged and eagerly looks for content about the city that is objectively produced by this newspaper’s reporting staff and through the city’s own paid contributions.
This move doesn’t completely surprise us considering that municipalities across the country have fought to have their legal announcements pulled from adjudicated publications for the last few years.
At the end, we urge voters to reject Proposition N and send it back to the City Council and city staff for a rewrite.