The public meeting I went to was at the City Hall chambers building located in downtown El Paso at two civic center plaza drive. It was a regular City Hall Council meeting where voting sessions were conducted. City Council members and mayors of El Paso do these meetings to resolve problems and improve their city through funding, spreading awareness, and implementing laws. City Hall Council meetings are from Monday through Friday 8:00am to 5:00pm. City Hall Council meetings allow and encourage public attendance and participation. The City Hall Council meeting I went to was Tuesday March 15th. It was three hours long, but I attended the first hour of the meeting from 8:30am to 9:30 am.
At the beginning of the meeting there was a Spanish interpreter provided for Spanish speaking El Pasoans. There was also a sign language interpreter provided for people with special needs. Then there was a prayer thanking God’s grace for safety and prosperity and mentioning the devastating natural disaster in Japan, and asking God to have mercy on Japan and protect the U.S. from similar disasters. After that people were asked to stand in respect for the Pledge of Allegiance which was read by City Council members. Mayor Ann Morgan Lilly announced Mayor’s proclamations. First guest was Miss Shanaya Fastje Day who is an 11 year old girl. She spoke to kids about bullying and its impact and effect on kids. She discussed ways to prevent or at least reduce the cases of bullying. She also mentioned the ways on how kids should deal with bullying and who to reach to incase of such incidents. Mayors thanked her efforts especially Mayor Beto O’Rouke.
Her father spoke about his daughter’s efforts and asked the city of El Paso to assist and help her to make her cause and efforts influential and effective. Mayor Pro Tempore Emma Acosta thanked her and asked to applause her. The second mayor proclamation was Franklin Mountain Poppies Preservation Day. Jody spoke about it and asked people to attend a celebration in the Northeast area of El Paso. The celebration was open to the public and is done every year near the Museum of Archaeology of El Paso. From what I understood it’s to preserve and breed poppies. Then a group kids identified as girl scouts but had no recognition. They greeted the City Council members as everyone does. The reason they came is in the hope to be inspired and to become City Council members or mayors themselves one day. Kids identified themselves by saying their names and then were thanked and left.
Mayor’s proclamations continued and the following was National Brain Injury Awareness Month. This awareness month was March 2011 as approved by Mayor John Cook. The speaker was Nancy Peters who is the director of marketing for Mentis Neuro Rehab center for Brain Injury, and she is also the facilitator of El Paso Brain Injury Support Group. She spoke in general about brain injuries and mentioned statistics and the common ages for brain injuries which were kids from birth to four and from nine to fifteen. Then she allowed some of their patients to share their stories and testimonies. Most of the survivors stories were soldiers of Fort Bliss and veterans of the Iraq war and one of them was a victim of a car accident. They shared their stories and thanked Mentis for their efforts and help for them.
Afterwards there was a call to the public where six members signed to talk. Their names are William Hart, Jerry Fade, Lisa Turner, Jorge Artalejo, Lynn Fitzgerald, and Manny Hinojosa. First was William Hart who spoke about anti immigration laws and how unjust they are. He compared anti immigration laws to slavery and segregation laws who were unjust, cruel, and inhumane. He also mentioned that being laws doesn’t make them good, because there are unjust laws being supported by lobbyists who pay money to law makers in the United States. He asked to get rid of such laws and to emphasize justice and compassion. He also mentioned that the United States is an immigrant country and that the founding fathers had values of freedom, equality, and justice.
Also mentioned that most the immigrants come at a young age and know nothing and love nothing but the United States. The next speaker Jerry Fade was absent, so the third speaker was called. The third speaker was Lisa Turner who spoke about rolling blackouts of electricity and water. She blamed El Paso Electric Company and PSP. She said that they failed to do their jobs and that there was no excuse not to operate in cold weather as the generators and machines are made to operate in all climates. She complained about them not paying attention to their equipment and generators that are supposed to pump water and air to generate electricity. She questioned them spending enough money on maintenance and renewing their equipment and generators. She also said that an Ice storm in New Mexico affects El Paso because of no generator capacity.
The fourth speaker was Jorge Artalejo and his topic was “the wind of change blows through the desert of El Paso”. He spoke about utilities are supposed to operate in different conditions. He also spoke about the city of El Paso elections. The fifth speaker was Lynn Fitzgerald and his topic was “Frank Buckles buried in Arlington National Semetary”. He complained about not having enough memorials in the United States to honor World War 1 veterans. He asked for a memorial in El Paso for all female soldiers who fought in The United States wars. He thanked all service men who fought for the United States and asked to honor them. Before he left he wanted to a share with everybody a picture that depicted the disastrous effect of the natural disaster in Japan.
Final speaker was Manny Hinojosa and his topic was “Transparency”. He requested more transparency from the city of El Paso in matters such as money spending, electric company to be accountable, city’s help for the elderly, and computers ships planted in trash cans and their cost and benefit. He also asked them to improve their web site to be ahead of newspapers on what’s going on in El Paso. He also asked them to answer their emails, be clear or transparent, and to post issues or news on their web site as soon as possible.
After the call to the public ended, there was the Consent Agenda where members of the audience can vote, and items that are not called are approved. Representative Robertson corrected things and asked questions. He also asked to delete incorrect postings and postpone discussions. Introductions for voting sessions began with item numbers and codes about specific cases. Most of the motions passed unanimously, some of which were about city elections, construction, and health.
This was my first City Hall public meeting and it was a new experience to me. I liked the fact that I had the chance to witness how governments operate even if it was on a small scale such as cities. I think that the meeting was productive and positive and continued as expected without disturbances or shortcomings. The most important issue to be questioned during this meeting was about questioning El Paso Electric Company reliability and professionalism. I was there for the first hour of the three hours meeting, which I think is enough time to discuss and get things done.
Courtney from Study Moose
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