GOVT2306 project: public meeting

This project requires that you observe an official public meeting in your community. There are a variety of meetings that take place all the time: city council, city boards/commissions, school boards, county boards, etc. Given the multitude of communities (and therefore options) in the area, I’m not giving you a list – part of the assignment is being able to locate the information about meetings in your area. Look to your local city government webpage for a listing of your local meetings. If you are having trouble finding something, I’m happy to help you individually.

If you truly cannot find anything (or you have an interest in the decision making by a board that absolutely impacts you), the Collin College Board of Trustees is an elected, local government with public meetings and extensive video archives — you can access those here: 

***Please note: Since you have pretty much the full term to plan for this, and since you can use the online recordings available (with a small penalty), and the fact that meetings are held at various times and days (need an evening meeting, they have those… during the day, have those, too… need a weekend? tougher to find, but Saturday meetings happen as well), the “I don’t have time for this” will not be an acceptable excuse. Plan ahead!***

This project is divided into three parts: Before, During, and After your meeting. All three parts need to be completed. How you order or organize these different elements is up to you.

What to do BEFORE THE MEETING:

Choose a local government you would like to observe

Research that government and compile a brief government profile of a page or so, that includes:

When and where the meeting of the sort you are going to attend occur (the normal schedule, place, start time, etc.) PRO-TIP: Lots of meetings will have an “Executive Session” or “Closed Session” before or after the public portion of the meeting. What you check times, you’re looking for the public start time. If they show the meeting starts as 6 with an executive session, then the public meeting at 7, the part you care about and can attend is the public portion at 7. If you find a site that is confusing on this issue, let me know and we can look together.

How are the members of the government you are observing chosen? (How often are elections? Who votes in them? How long do they serve? Etc.)

What is/are the responsibilities of the government, generally? What are they in charge of?

Who do the members of this board, committee, government, etc. answer to? Maybe this is directly to the voters, but maybe they are elected but still report to some other part of the government – so, who do they work for?

What is the policy or procedure for a member of the public to speak?

Anything else you think a regular person would need to know to understand what should be going on at the meeting, in terms of who will be there and what they’ll be talking about.

A link to the government or board website and/or citation info to the place you got your info on these questions.

A link to the AGENDA for the meeting you are going to attend. Every single public meeting in Texas is REQUIRED to post a public agenda in advance. Most do this online. I need to see the agenda for the meeting you attended.

What to do DURING THE MEETING:

Before or after the meeting, take a selfie of yourself in the meeting space. (Be respectful of any phone policies please, and don’t interrupt the meeting for this). If you’d rather not take selfie, you are welcome to get a copy of the agenda or some other official handout, and have a member of the board or staff sign it that you were there.

Observe the meeting (in person is highly encouraged) – take some notes and participate if you wish or if this is something you engage in regularly (in which case, go you!)

Pay attention to the both the policy issues they are talking about AND the processes and procedures they use to conduct the meeting.

  1. Specifically, be looking for things like:
  2. Roughly how many people are at the meeting. Note how many are members of the government or staff people compared to how many people are from the general public.

Among the general public in attendance, note any oddities, groups, etc. Maybe you have a scout troop just there for the opening flag presentation, but then they leave. That’s a different group that the neighborhood group protesting a new apartment building, or a group of business leaders trying to ask for new tax rates.

  • How is public input handled? Are the multiple opportunities, or just one? At the beginning or end of the meeting? Do people take advantage? If so, how did or do the members of the board respond?
  • How are contentious issues or conflicts between people (citizens, board members, etc.) handled?
  • Anything that you observe that was good or bad, in your eyes, as a citizen who is actually represented by this government. They are acting in your name, so what do you see that you like or dislike in what’s happening?
  • What to do AFTER THE MEETING:
  • Compile a trip report of your experience. You should include discussion of the observations you made above, and some reflection on your profile of the government vs. what you actually observed. (To say it another way, how well did your expectations going in conform to the reality you observed?)
  • Specifically, you should include
  • Some reflection on your profile of the government vs. what you actually observed. (To say it another way, how well did your expectations going in conform to the reality you observed?)
  • Discussion of the observations you made during the meeting based on what you find relevant and important to include. I need to get an idea of what you considered important and how you were understanding what was going on – so don’t just tell me this happened, then that happened. Tell me the important things that happened and why you consider them important. Tell me the things that happened that left you wondering “why did they do that?”

What major or contentious issue(s) was/were discussed? What garnered public reaction? Assess the public involvement: Were there opportunities for public input or involvement? Were these taken advantage of? How did the members of the council respond to that public input? Who were the members of the community present? Same questions as above, right?

Your impressions — given that this is your government at work, are you satisfied with the process? Are there things you would change?

——————–

Please provide details and specifics in your responses. The goal here is to evidence that you observed the meeting thoughtfully and gave appropriate consideration to both the processes at work and the issues of the day. You also need to provide adequate evidence that you have a working understanding of the actual government you were observing — how those folks got into that position, what powers they have, what their purpose is, etc.

  1. Your submission needs to address the ideas and issues outlined above. This may be done as a written paper/essay, but it is not required that it be so.  As a guide, a written paper version might be a page or two for the government profile, then in maybe the two to three page range for the trip report, so 3-5 total pages, double-spaced and whatnot. I do not penalize for longer or shorter submissions assuming they cover the material appropriately.
  2. Any outside information or research should be appropriately cited. Anything I have specifically given you as part of this course may be considered “common knowledge” – it’s good practice to cite, but you won’t get penalized if you don’t. Outside info needs to have sufficient citation that I can find it. The citation format of your choice is fine – if you demand I tell you, social sciences uses APA format

GOVT2306 project: public meeting

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