There is likely not a county or municipal official in Texas unaware of the debate underway in Austin related to state efforts to cap local government entities' abilities to raise revenues they need to meet constituent demands. It's too early to say what the legislative outcome is going to be.
Workers' compensation is not a mandated benefit in Texas. That is one of a few ways in which our state differs from others. At the same time, some employers, including many local municipalities and political subdivisions do carry some form of coverage. The Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool (TMLIRP) is one such provider.
It isn't often that the maneuverings within the halls of a city government make it into the mainstream media. When it does, it is perhaps worth taking time to examine the situation to see if there is something to learn that could help your community avoid unwanted, and some might say unnecessary scrutiny.
Greek mythology tells the tale of Sisyphus; a man who, for eternity, must push a boulder up a hill. Before he ever reaches the top, the rock rolls back down. Today, the term Sisyphean sometimes describes what seems to be never-ending work. Many leaders in Texas local governments might apply it to the task of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Freedom of information is a foundational tenet of American democracy. The argument goes that transparency about government operations is critical for voters to exercise their electoral rights and responsibilities. At the federal level, the Freedom of Information Act requires agencies to reveal information upon request unless doing so might be detrimental to national interests.
Words have power. Meanings of words are important. Definitions can vary, however, and that can create interesting legal tangles. As an example, recall the statement in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton, "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is."
Texas is big in terms of available land. It's also growing in terms of population. By various counts, the number of people moving into the state rises at a rate of around 1,000 to 1,400 per day. Recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show that seven of the 15 fastest growing cities in the nation are in the Lone Star State. That means towns and cities of all sizes face varying degrees of pressure to meet rising demand for city amenities.
Most government agencies have some form of social media accounts and are expected to communicate regularly with their local online audience. The norms of social media dictate posts should be entertaining, informative, genuine and provide transparency – all in real time. Often many employees are running one account and do so without an editor or a review process to approve posts.
Blaring sirens that alert the public to emergencies remain foundational in many communities for reaching the people about need-to-know news. Social media serves as an adjunct method for quick dissemination of information to large populations. But many cities appreciate that platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and even texting, provide options for communication beyond just emergency situations.