Just how welcome?

Only people who read the local daily seem to be talking about the city council retreat at a luxury spa 22 miles from downtown on two weekdays that will be workdays for many and one of which will be a childcare nightmare for some. We common citizens are to foot the bill for a high-priced dubious excercise that will employ two high-paid “facilitators.” The location of the retreat is not any of the municipally owned meeting spaces that would entail no additional costs or be convenient to any interested user of public transportation. Very few of us have staff meetings, however categorized, at The Crossings, which describes itself as “a progressive learning center, meeting place, and wellness spa” located in a “setting that inspires growth, balance and sanctuary.”

I assume that there was a bidding process or RFP as to the facilitators, who are coming from Kansas. The local daily does not report on all aspects of the planning and approval process, but does mention that Futrell, Wynn, and Kim have been devoting time to planning this little exercise “for months.” This is a wonderful piece of reporting (byline Sarah Coppola) and obviously entailed a great deal of effort in chasing down those who would comment, whether on or off the record. This amount of money would go some way toward realizing higher civic priorities.

Knowing that this event would require an Open Meetings posting, I was not surprised to see that, despite all the protestations for public consumption about how the meetings are open to the public, the largest part of the published agenda contains this boilerplate that suggests otherwise: “The City Council will go into a closed session under Chapter 551 of the Texas Government Code to receive advice from legal counsel, to discuss matters of land acquisition, to discuss personnel matters, to discuss or take action on a ‘competitive matter’ of Austin Energy as provided for under Section 551.086, or for other reasons permitted by law as specifically listed on this agenda. If necessary, the City Council may go into a closed session as permitted by law regarding any item on this agenda.” Which item? Which merits secrecy?: “working conditions” and challenges facing a governing body? leadership styles? development of strategic goals that incorporate the goals in the existing strategic plan? or some of the other oh-so-worthy items?

The local daily has obtained a more complete agenda or program than what’s on the City site, showcasing additional absurdities. Watch for the high concentration of trendy expressions: (prioritize, vision, ongoing initiative, self assessment instrument, key objective, dreams and fears, nominal group voting process). Don’t miss the play-nice rules at the end.

Foonote: Kelso weighs in.

Update: On Thursday, 9 November, the local daily reports in a tiny item on an inside page that the retreat, in recognition of childcare issues, will end at noon on Friday. The cost to taxpayers will remain the same.

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