By ESTEVAN MEDRANO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
The Port Isabel City Commission approved a number of policy changes at a regular meeting Tuesday evening under the legal advice of newly appointed city attorney Gilberto Hinojosa and transparency recommendations by interim city manager Jared Hockema.
Hinojosa recommended the removal of “open comments” from the agenda because although the public is allowed to make comments to the Board during the time-regulated “public comments” section at the beginning of each meeting, comments made afterwards could potentially be a violation of the Open Meetings Act. That act calls for proper notice to the public when an item that is not on the agenda for discussion is deliberated.
“When you (the audience) give a public comment to the commissioners and the mayor, they can’t respond to you by law,” said Hinojosa. “It’s very frustrating because you’re telling them something because you want a response, but if they respond to you, they’re violating the Open Meetings Act,” he said.
The Board followed counsel’s advice for now and also approved a recommendation by Hockema that a brief report of the City’s updated financial situation be acknowledged at the beginning of each meeting. Hockema called attention to the light revenues in some areas, including low tax collection, as well as lower than expected revenues from the Port Isabel Event & Cultural Center — still in its first year of operation — which is operating at a deficit.
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