Hobbs, N.M. -- I had made plans to attend the April 20 meeting of the Hobbs City Commission. I’d wanted to address the commission concerning a couple of matters, but unfortunately, I was unable to attend, due to a family emergency that kept me at home. Since I couldn’t appear in person to make comments on those important items or to attend even as an observer, I would think the next-best thing was to watch the commission meeting live on the Internet or via our local community channel. Those options don’t exist for Hobbs citizens, but Monday’s meeting proves the city could make it happen, IF it wanted to.
At Monday’s meeting, the city commission approved another $750,000 to expand on its EAGLE IC surveillance system which has already received more than two and a half million dollars. Hundreds of cameras are being installed throughout our community, and at the last meeting, the commission voted to require new apartment complexes to also install cameras that would tie in to the city’s surveillance center.
To me there is no bigger government intrusion into the lives of ordinary Americans than having your every step in public being monitored. As the community grows, so too will the number of cameras. Because of EAGLE IC, it would seem that the City of Hobbs has the money, the equipment and the expertise to make watching each city commission meeting as important as the city watching the public. Providing accountability from the decision makers who are attempting to hold you accountable is a must! Not everyone has Internet or cable access, so can you imagine “watch parties” where neighbors gather around a single computer monitor or television?
I lived in Las Cruces a lot of years, and there citizens can watch city and county meetings live online, watch archived meetings after they happen on the city and county websites, and the city and county meetings are broadcast on the cable company’s community channel.
I know that even rural towns and counties in New Mexico are broadcasting meetings. It would seem all that is standing in the way of those same services happening in Hobbs is the approval by the commission to make meetings more accessible to the public. The public will then hear what commissioners have to say on important issues. They will hear their words in context, instead of out of context in a newspaper article or as hearsay. It’s a sad irony that with this surveillance system consisting of hundreds of cameras, maybe thousands 10 years from now, I feel like the business we citizens conduct in public is becoming unreasonably more transparent to government. Wouldn’t it seem reasonable, then, that our city government become more transparent as it conducts the public’s business?
I hope we all believe that informed, engaged citizens make the community better, and I hope we can all be a little more informed and engaged in the near future with the broadcasting of commission meetings. Please make it happen.
Marshall is a Hobbs High graduate and former NMSU student. In 2013, Marshall returned to Hobbs from Las Cruces to support and improve his community through activism and enhanced public dialogue about important — and often overlooked — issues that merit the community’s consideration.