Starting a new chapter

I appreciate the folks at Neotrib allowing me to submit articles, especially Karen’s Korner. It has given me a way to share my opinion or write about people that are important to me. It has also given me a platform to vent when things bother me. It has been a rewarding experience to say the least. I have also covered the school, city and happenings around town. I love to write.

In the last two years, it has been a little bit of a bumpy ride reporting city news like council meetings. By the time I researched what the council would discuss, checked Local Government Code for legality, attended the meeting and then write the article it was very time consuming. Just going over the finances takes several hours. Sometimes it could add up to 20+ hours on one article. I wanted the folks here in Italy that could not attend the meetings to stay informed so I put the time in.

Before anyone gets in an uproar, this column is not intended to slam anyone. It is intended to let my readers know why I have made the decision not to cover the council meetings any longer. That is important to me. There were times I would leave the meetings very frustrated with things that were happening or not happening. I began to realize that it was affecting my health and emotions.

I love Italy and the people here. It is ok if we don’t always agree on things. That is life. What is not okay is when citizens are disrespected openly in council meetings. I will say it again – just because someone is elected to serve as mayor or a council member never gives them the right to disrespect anyone.

I have been attending council meetings long before I began to cover them for Neotrib. It is important to me. Until the last two years, I don’t ever remember any elected official disrespecting me or any other citizen in any meeting. I don’t ever remember them allowing another citizen to do that either. I know that guys like Marvin Knight, Bob Pickard, Darrell Cockerham, Dennis Crecelius, John Goodman, Rodney Guthrie, Franky Jackson or Greg Richards would never have done that even if we disagreed. The last two years has been a big struggle for me – it has happened to me and others.

There have been times in the past when I discovered that the city was not following the law. I would bring it to their attention, they would check it out and fix it. It was not intentional. People make mistakes – it will happen. When it does we fix it. No one is perfect. But that has been a struggle the last couple of years. I am not trying to stir the pot when I bring things to their attention – I just want our city to be legal.

Municipal laws are there for a reason. The Local Government Code is there for a reason. Cities should always abide by them. Texas does have rules for council meetings under the Open Meetings Act. Texas does have rules for citizens to request and receive city documents. That is covered under the Open Records Act. It is wrong when our city violates either of those acts. When the City refuses to provide the documents I or other citizens have requested within the guidelines set out by the State, it is wrong.

I also believe the elected officials should be good stewards of our money. They should be held accountable for spending money unnecessarily. When it was stated in a meeting the city purchased 300 city coins for $1250.00 to give employees so they feel appreciated, I almost fell out of my chair. When a city spends over $2,000 or $3,000 on a 4 hour Christmas festival I begin to question their judgment. You cannot fill potholes with those coins or with Christmas gifts.

Contrary to what was said in a recent council meeting, I have never tried to slant what I report. I have tried to report the meetings fairly. Hopefully someone else will step up to cover the meetings so all of us can stay informed.

I want to say thanks to all the city employees for helping me when I needed it. I appreciate them answering questions when they could. I appreciate the courtesy in which I was treated.

I appreciate our elected officials being willing to serve and spend countless hours trying to do what is best for the citizens.

Just because I am not covering the city for the Neotrib does not mean I won’t attend meetings and continue to stay informed. I will.

Lastly, I want to say thank you to all the folks that have read my articles all these years. I also want to say thanks to Italy Neotribune for allowing me to fulfill a dream of being a journalist. Thank you for allowing me to continue to submit Karen’s Korner columns. I plan to only do happy ones from now on. There is too much negativity out there as it is.

The end for now.