On Monday night the Farmington City Council and the Farmington School Board both held workshop meetings. Both groups addressed issues that will affect finances and other aspects of the organizations those boards represent.
There was an important difference between the meetings, though.
The school board held its workshop in the little theater at Dodge Middle School, the same room with the same television cameras it uses for its regular business meetings. It was held at a regular meeting time. The workshop was an opportunity for a different kind of discussion than the board has in a regular business meeting, but it was otherwise much like any other meeting.
The city’s meeting was held on a date the city doesn’t usually hold meetings. There were no television cameras. Outside of city staff and a reporter from the Independent Town Pages there was nobody else there. And while many of the issues discussed will come back at a regular meeting before any actual money is spent, there will likely be very little discussion in front of the public, if there is any at all.
The city certainly isn’t alone in its use of workshop meetings. The District 196 School Board frequently holds workshop meetings ahead of its regular business meetings. The city of Rosemount has regular workshops in a board room at city hall.
This isn’t the first time we’ve made this argument. It likely won’t be the last. But it is distressing to see that as technology makes it easier and easier for governments to make their discussions available to the public the consensus seems to be to go the other direction.
We don’t think that serves anyone well.