Like mysteries? You'll love finding Turlock council minutes

01/11/2008 3:46 AM

01/11/2008 3:48 AM

Like hide-and-go-seek? Enjoy playing Where's Waldo? Can you find the Hidden Pictures?

Turns out the nice folks at Turlock City Hall enjoy these games, too. They even have their own version: Find the Minutes.

Last month, The Bee criticized Turlock in an editorial ("City councils' minutes should be posted online," Dec. 14, Page B-6) because its minutes were not posted. We noted that the city's Web site is informative and easy to use. But we wondered why something so basic as City Council minutes were missing.

As with all Bee editorials, this one went through several members of our editorial board -- which includes the publisher, the editor, the opinions page editor, the associate editor and three visiting editors. Each is asked to make contributions or corrections. The research and writing, however, is usually done by one editor -- in this case, me.

My interest had been piqued by a letter to the editor from Donnie Martin, who bemoaned the lack of minutes on the city site. Before we published his letter, we looked and couldn't find them, either. In a follow-up call to the city, a polite and helpful employee confirmed that Turlock didn't post its minutes online -- though it made them available on request. She also pointed out that video streams of entire meetings were available online, so it was clear the city wasn't trying to hide anything.

Before writing the editorial, we checked with every city in our circulation area, and found that only a few others failed to post council minutes -- Newman, Atwater and Manteca. Our editorial chided all four cities, but we felt a city of Turlock's sophistication and size had no excuse. If Waterford, Sonora, Los Banos and even Escalon can post council minutes, why couldn't Stanislaus County's second-largest city?

A few days later, the employee called back. Turns out Turlock does post its minutes -- if you know where to look. You must go to the city's Web page, then to the "Agendas/Minutes" link, then to the council's agenda link, and then call up the week following the meeting you're interested in. It should bring up all the documents for the next meeting, including the minutes to be approved. Unfortunately, agendas aren't posted until 48 hours before the next meeting. So the minutes for the most recent council meeting might not be available until two or three days after the meeting. Nowhere on the site is this explained.

Turlock isn't trying to hide its minutes. Its format for maintaining online pages has four fields. The first is used for the date, the second for the agenda link, the third to link to the agenda packet (supplemental documents given to council members, including the minutes) and the fourth to the video.

We try to correct any mistakes that get in to The Bee. So count this as a correction: Turlock's City Council minutes are posted. But if you've never played Where's Waldo or Hidden Pictures, then good luck finding them.

Dunbar is the associate editor of The Bee. Write to him at mdunbar@modbee.com or post a comment at www.modbee.com/opinion.

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