EDITORIAL: Limiting voices only hurts the community
Civics is a participation sport, and like many communities, Liberty Hill sometimes lacks enough of that participation.
Sometimes it is simply over available time, sometimes it is a lack of interest, and sometimes it is over what is seen as a lack of the ability to get involved.
Cities and school districts have a responsibility to solicit and encourage participation. They should make it easy, and operate under the philosophy that to a certain degree the more voices the better.
The City of Liberty Hill is inching away from that philosophy today.
In addition to the City Council, which has five members and the Mayor, there are currently three other key boards in Liberty Hill.
There is a seven-member Economic Development Corporation (EDC), a five-member Planning and Zoning Commission and a five-member Parks and Recreation Board. That means as many as 23 members of the community – inside the city limits and out – can have a very hands-on impact in developing and implementing policies and plans for the community.
But the City Council has made the decision to place at least one council member on each of these boards, denying other residents a seat at the decision-making table. This is a mistake.
Mayor Rick Hall has said these changes are to improve communication and continuity between boards and the Council. But there are plenty of ways to do this, and Council members are as welcome as anyone else at other board meetings. Making them voting members only serves to reduce the input of others not elected to the Council.
Mayor Pro Tem Liz Rundzieher went from being an ex-officio member of the EDC to a voting member earlier this year. In November, the Council voted to remove a volunteer member of the Parks Board and fill that spot with Council member Steve McIntosh.
At this week’s Council meeting, it was decided to appoint two council members to the five-member Planning and Zoning Commission. That move is set to be approved in January.
Why not let other members of the community serve on these advisory boards and bring the issues to the Council for a final vote?
Do we need to pad the vote in favor of the will of the City Council from the first discussion by the first board? These bodies are meant to debate and hash out projects – long term and immediate – and bring a closer to finished project to the Council to then consider fresh.
They are meant to bring more voices into the discussion and feed that desire to involve a larger segment of the population. More members, more ideas, more solutions to problems.
Government should be as efficient as possible, but not streamlined to the point that only a handful of people are involved in the process.
These moves by the Council have taken four voices away from the people, and that should lead everyone to ask how that’s better for the community.