■ By Melissa Diaz Hernandez
The city likes to talk about transparency and the city can be transparent – but only when it serves their interest. The city of Hemet was somehow able to broadcast the “War on Crime” press conference on the city’s Facebook page in real time, yet they are unable to stream the city council meetings. One would think that the council meeting following the press conference would have also been broadcast live to the constituents, but it wasn’t.
During a work study on how council minutes are recorded, the discussion took a left turn by addressing the need to video record or stream council meetings for the public. Mayor Pro Tem Michael Perciful and Councilwoman Karlee Meyer had quick and cost-effective solutions that could be implemented immediately. Mayor Linda Krupa and Councilwoman Bonnie Wright agreed that meetings need to be recorded and viewable by the public. As we saw at the press conference, the city has the means and ability to stream live content. So, why isn’t this happening?
If meetings were streamed live, one would discover that a new city hall is included in the Downtown Revitalization Plan that was unanimously approved April 11. However, Project Planner Ron Running didn’t mention the inclusion of a new city hall during his presentation to the council. Shouldn’t it have been mentioned? In three years of consistently attending city council meetings, I have yet to hear about the dire need for a new city hall. A dire need for police officers? Absolutely.
What I found even more interesting is that there are no known means or action plan to fund this particular version of the downtown facelift. Are there phases for the implementation of such a grandiose plan? If there are, you wouldn’t know if you sat through any of the presentations given by Running or the Arroyo Group. But true to form, the Hemet City Council unanimously adopted Running’s plan – regardless of cost.
The city could apply for grants, but keep in mind that we have no idea how much this is going to cost – overall or in phases. And, to my knowledge, no downtown plan has ever addressed its projected cost. And thus far, no downtown plan has ever been executed.
Money seems to be important to the Planning Commission, as the question of cost came up multiple times when this plan was presented there. However, not one single question related to cost was asked by council at the April 11 meeting. How are we going to pay for the downtown plan or a new city hall? Are we going to have a bond measure? Use Measure U funds? Is there going to be an annexation attempt? During the April 11 presentation, the term “public-private partnership” was thrown around multiple times. Are the struggling businesses in this valley ready to take on this endeavor?
What else would the people of Hemet find out if the entire city council meetings were streamed live?
People would get to see if their council members are engaged with their constituents while they speak on behalf of an agenda item or during the communications from the public. People would be able to hear the discontent of fellow constituents and see the true lack of community engagement by the majority of council members.
One would also find out that Mayor Pro Tem Perciful has asked not once – but three times – to have the water billing issues brought before the council. An issue that has been brought forward by many city residents on multiple occasions. We could witness the voting results of agenda items as they happen. We could see the presentations by department directors when they ask council for funds instead of having to bother the city clerk – or better yet – post the presentations on the city web site…I could go on and on.
I will end with the definition of transparency as generously provided by Merriam-Webster. Transparency is defined as “characterized by visibility or accessibility of information, especially concerning business practices.”