Over the years, encouraging greater transparency at Town Hall has been a regular topic for this blog and that's often come along with criticism of how certain things are done. So, when things start to move in the right direction, there's an obligation to recognize those improvements as well.
In early January, several suggestions were made in this post - Transparency Opportunities for New Davidson Board. It now appears implementing at least a couple of these suggestions may be in the works.
The so called "team building" meetings occurring in Commissioners' homes on the 3rd Tuesday of the month have not been added to the Board's calendar, and the current understanding is that they won't be. Since their inception, these meetings have raised transparency issues for many of those who watch town government closely. See "Special Meeting" Confusion Abounds Monday Morning for more background on these meetings. Meeting in private homes is allowed by law and the Town followed all public notice procedures. However, the practice of meeting in private homes is really intended for very small towns that don't have a town hall - not a town like Davidson.
The second improvement in town meeting schedules is that Board members will no longer be meeting in twos with town staff to effectively avoid the state open meetings laws. Last year when the town implemented its 1st Monday meeting on the monthly calendar, we thought that meant an official end of the regular, closed, one-off meetings with staff. However, that apparently was not the case.
On January 28, the town sent out notice about a new "pre-meeting" that will occur prior to each regularly scheduled Board meeting. These will regularly occur at 4pm prior to the Board meetings. Again, it is our understanding that these new open pre-meetings will in fact replace the private staff briefings. From the town's notice..."Going forward, the board of commissioners will hold pre-meetings before every
regularly-scheduled board meeting and work session, typically held on the 2nd
and 4th Tuesdays of the month at 6:00 p.m."
Finally, there may also be a rescheduling in the works to move some content from the regularly scheduled Board Meetings and Work Sessions to streamline the agendas and free up staff from having to attend many of these meetings. Eliminating the team building meetings helps allow for this by opening up that time for staff updates or other items. That should also allow for the regular meetings to be a bit shorter making them more user friendly to Board members, staff, and citizens alike.
While these changes may seem minor to some, they do in fact improve the perception of transparency. Having board members willing to push for that type of improvement is good for public trust in government and good for our town.