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Palmview becomes first city in western Hidalgo County to post meeting packets online

As part of a push to make Palmview more transparent, the City Council plans to post meeting videos on YouTube.

Palmview recorded the City Council meeting on Sept. 4 and posted the video on YouTube two days later. Perhaps more important — although far less flashy — Palmview also started posting City Council meeting packets online.

20180904 Palmview Meeting Video Screenshot“When you have nothing to hide, why keep the information from the community?” said City Councilwoman Linda Sarabia.

Both initiatives remain works in progress.

Palmview recorded the Sept. 4 meeting with a GoPro camera mounted above the podium, which left viewers looking down on the City Council from an awkward angle. Palmview posted the City Council meeting packet for Sept. 11, but canceled the meeting for lack of quorum. And days after the special City Council meeting on Sept. 14, nothing but the agenda is available online.

If Palmview pushes forward, though, it will become the first city in western Hidalgo County to publish meeting videos and meeting packets online.

Mission, Palmhurst, Alton, Peñitas and Sullivan City post meeting agendas on their websites, but they don’t publish the meeting packet. La Joya doesn’t post anything at all on the city website, which hasn’t been updated in years, despite paying a public relations consultant $2,000 per month.

The push to make Palmview more transparent started roughly two years ago, when the Progress for Palmview candidates — Sarabia, Joel Garcia and Javier Ramirez — campaigned for City Council.

They pledged to stream city meetings online, allowing anyone to watch or listen live; post meeting agendas and other documents, allowing residents to stay abreast of city business; and create a web forum, allowing people to provide feedback on city services.

Just posting the meeting packets proved to be a major challenge.

They quickly discovered why Palmview didn’t post meeting packets online: staff didn’t provide the City Council with a proper packet, Sarabia said.

During the past two years, the City Council hired a new management team and started demanding the packet before meetings.

The new team included former Weslaco City Manager Leo Olivares and former McAllen City Secretary Annette Villarreal.

“From there, we started getting really good packages,” Sarabia said.

They had the information, but Palmview needed somewhere to post it. The city website, which had been infected with malware, needed work.

The revamped website now includes dozens of documents, ranging from meeting agendas and minutes to old budgets and audit reports.

For now, Palmview plans to post the meeting packet at noon the day before regular meetings, Villarreal said.

The city will post packets for special meetings on a case-by-case basis.

Palmview will also work on recording meetings, adjusting the camera and audio as needed. Without a media or public relations staff, Palmview depends on police Sgt. Arnold Sepulveda to handle the video.

“It’s a good feeling to know that people out there are informed,” Garcia said. “If they want to find out, it’s right there.”

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