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Texas Press Messenger
Thursday, 20 December 2012 00:40

ed2012mug"TPA Hotline" by Ed Sterling, TPA Member Services Director

Q: I’m a TPA member and I’ve been in the newspaper business more than a quarter century. At long last, I feel like I’m ready to start asking questions and sharing thoughts (gasp!) online. I heard there was some way to do this through you guys down in Austin. Tell me more.

A: Great question. Robust dialog among members is why our group email lists exist. Unlike blogs open to the whole world, they are only accessible to TPA member newspaper employees who request to be on them. You can pick from the following lists and subscribe, free of charge: Advertising, Circulation, Editorial, Job Bank, Technology and Publisher. Go to: http://www.texaspress.com/index.php/services/listserver and follow the instructions to subscribe. It’s easy.

Q: A school requested a no-parking zone near its door for one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. Somehow, the city placed on its council meeting agenda a vote on a resolution worded so the no-parking zone would be in effect for eight continuous hours, from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Can the city council change the resolution on the fly, during the meeting?

A: Let’s start by agreeing that what matters is that your community is clear on exactly what’s up for a vote and that they have a chance to participate by being present at the meeting. Sometimes looking council members in the eye can affect the vote.
With all that in mind, the proper thing to do would be for the city to postpone the vote — before the meeting if possible — or during the meeting if too late to do otherwise. The city could reschedule its vote, posting a revised resolution 72 hours in advance of the next meeting in accordance with notice requirements in the Texas Open Meetings Act. If the city council chooses to press on and vote anyway — recourse for a citizen would be to file a complaint with the district attorney.
Beyond that, let’s look at chapter 52 of Local Government Code, titled Adoption of Municipal Ordinances. And more specifically, let’s look at Sec. 52.013, titled Home Rule Municipalities, because as you say, your city is home-rule and there’s nothing in the city charter about the method of publishing ordinances. Under paragraph (b) it says “the full text of the ordinance or a caption that summarizes the purpose of the ordinance and the penalty for violating the ordinance may be published at least twice in the municipality’s official newspaper.” Note: The word “may” in the previous sentence is archaic legalese for “must” or “shall.”

Q: I am a State Capital Highlights subscriber and in your Nov. 12-18 column, you included the website for complete election results. I went to the Secretary of State’s website and stayed long enough to glaze over. I want the election results for the counties I cover. Is it available, and if it is, how do I find it?

A: No problem. Go to: www.sos.state.tx.us. Down in the bottom middle area of the page, under the VoteTexas.gov logo, click Election Night Returns. A page will open that gives you options to choose and click: County Race Summary (select a county) and County By County Results (select a race).  These tools will allow you cull from the herd the results you want.

Q: Our city selected an official newspaper last week and I didn’t get the opportunity to bid. Here’s what happened. The city decided to move its meetings earlier in the morning and the clerk didn’t carry out the city’s long-held practice of notifying us here at the newspaper as soon as the advance agenda comes out. What can I do, if anything?

A: Appeal to the city. Ask for an opportunity to bid. Also, find out why the city discontinued its practice of notifying you. The law only requires school districts to provide a newspaper with an advance agenda, but for any other type of governmental body to stop what it has been doing for a long time without warning, well, an explanation seems due. One more thing: there is nothing in the law that would prevent a city from publishing its required public notices in more than one newspaper. It’s not common, but here and there, you see it done.

 

Last Updated ( Thursday, 20 December 2012 00:42 )