Riley On the Record About Private Meetings

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Chris Riley
Chris Riley

Council Member Chris Riley Goes On the Record About Private Meetings

Third in a Series of Recorded Question and Answer Interviews

As reported by The Austin Bulldog January 25, County Attorney David Escamilla is reviewing a complaint about allegations that the Austin City Council may have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.

This is a serious matter and the city is taking it seriously. Mayor Lee Leffingwell has canceled the private meetings he has for years been holding with council members and has said that council work sessions will be held in open meetings.

If the mayor and council members should be found to have in fact violated the Act, they may be subject to criminal prosecution under Section 551.143 of the Government Code, a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $100 or more than $500; confinement in the county jail for not less than one month or more than six months; or both the fine and confinement.

The Austin Bulldog is publishing selected text excerpts from each of the exclusive interviews conducted with the council members before breaking the story. The complete copyrighted MP3 audio file for each interview is linked at the bottom of each article for easy access. You may listen to these recordings to gain a better understanding of the published excepts within the context of the complete interview.

Chris Riley
Chris Riley

Council Member Chris Riley was interviewed in his home on Monday, January 24, 2011. The recording runs 40 minutes 13 seconds. (The interview was interrupted more than once by a man doing work for Riley.)

The Austin Bulldog:

As I said in the e-mail requesting the interview, I’m developing a story about the working relationships between the mayor and council members and the city manager in connection with how the city council works together to develop public policies. One thing that stands out in my mind is that four of the council members, including yourself, are pretty transparent in how you spend your time on council duties, by posting your calendars on the city website. Have you any idea why the other council members…you know, the mayor and (Mayor Pro Tem) Mike (Martinez) and (Council Member) Sheryl (Cole) don’t publish their calendars?

Chris Riley:

I haven’t talked with them about it so I just don’t know. I don’t think it was really a common practice previously.

The Austin Bulldog:

Well, it seems like the four of you all that were elected in ’08 and ’09 are the ones that are keeping the calendars. Sheryl (Cole) and Mike (Martinez) were (first) elected in ’06.

Chris Riley:

Right.

The Austin Bulldog:

They don’t. Of course, the mayor was elected in ’09 (after being elected as a council member is 2005 and reelected in 2008) but he doesn’t keep (his calendars online) either.

Chris Riley:

Right. Maybe it was a matter of when you were first running that it was more of an issue. When we were first running it was more of an issue because we had been through the whole controversy.

The Austin Bulldog:

How did it come up?

Chris Riley:

Okay. There was a controversy over Propositions One and Two (on the ballot with council elections in May 2006) that were related to governmental openness, transparency a few years back. There was a lot of talk then about trying to be more open and accountable, and especially getting more stuff online. I think those of us who ran more recently were … come on in Harvey. So, I think that…can you give this to the air conditioning guy? The Austin Bulldog…I’m just doing an interview.

The Austin Bulldog:

[S]omething that caught my eye is that the published calendars indicate council members and the mayor spend considerable effort meeting with each other, typically on the days right before city council meetings. It seems like all of you are making a big effort and taking the time for all those meetings. What sort of things do you discuss at the meetings?

Chris Riley:

Typically, we talk about anything that we are working on together. There are a lot of resolutions. Every council agenda you’ll see resolutions that two or three of us sponsor. So, we have to talk to each other about those at some point. The other thing is that those are long agendas and there’s a lot of stuff on them. So, a substantial part of those one-on-ones involves just going over the agendas and saying what we’re concerned about. Have you looked at this? Have you looked at that? Just asking about things that our colleagues might know more about than we do. Like, if there’s something involving firefighters, then I may ask (Mayor Pro Tem) Mike (Martinez), since Mike (a former firefighter) has a pretty in-depth knowledge about firefighters. I’ll say, “So what’s this about? Do we understand that?” Just to get educated, get up to speed on things. A lot of those items on those agendas are just…

The Austin Bulldog:

A lot of what?

Chris Riley:

A lot of those items are not things that get a lot of attention. They’re things that involve the minutia of city government. … Especially for someone like me (who was elected in May 2009 and is) new at it, it’s very helpful to be able to glean from my colleagues what they think about items on the agenda. So, that’s the main thing. Just to get up to speed on what we’re considering and share information about those items.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay. You may have already answered the next question. What are the mayor and council members trying to accomplish in these round-robin meetings?

Chris Riley:

For me, it’s a matter of getting better educated about the items that we have to consider. That’s the principal reason for those meetings. Then, an additional purpose is to visit with whom I’m working on a particular matter. If I’m going to be trying to get a resolution on next week with a cosponsor then I might visit with that cosponsor about what we want to include in the resolution, for instance. Sometimes, whatever else happens to be going on. You know, that’s just a time for us to catch up. You know, sometimes that’s the one time that we have to sit down and visit with each other. I mean it could have to do with just purely personal things. It’s just a matter of staying in touch with each other.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay. Are these meetings completely private? Just the (council members) or do the aides attend maybe to take notes?

Chris Riley:

They call them one-on-ones and typically they are just one-on-one.

The Austin Bulldog:

I’m sorry?

Chris Riley:

We call them (these meetings) one-on-ones and typically they are just one-on-one. It’s unusual for there to be people other than the council members in there.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay. Do you personally take notes about your conversations with other council members and the mayor?

Chris Riley:

I usually walk in to those meetings carrying and agenda and a highlighter. I scrawl some notes on the agenda. But, usually not. It’s just usually going over the agenda. Then sometimes, if there’s some item, if I’m working with another council member on the wording of a resolution, then I might take that resolution with me just to be able to talk about it.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay. Do these private discussions help you make up your mind about the position you will take on the things you’re discussing?

Chris Riley:

It doesn’t usually get to the point of making a decision about it. It’s usually more a matter of getting educated about it. You won’t typically hear somebody saying… I don’t come out of those having made up my mind on any particular item. I come out of those meetings having a better feel for them.

The Austin Bulldog:

Do you think that your counterparts that you’re meeting with, do you get the sense that they’re making up their mind? I mean it’s got to help with the decision-making process.

Chris Riley:

Sure. Sure. Absolutely. Part of what makes council weeks stressful is that there’s a lot going on. Things are in motion. Often, especially on difficult things, you’re in the process of deciding what you’re going to do. Certainly, conversations with colleagues are helpful about that. But, most of what we have to talk about is not necessarily all that controversial. Most of it is just more mundane things on that agenda that we just have to get a better handle for.

The Austin Bulldog:

You said most of the things are not controversial. But of course, there are big controversies that come up.

Chris Riley:

Sure.

The Austin Bulldog:

Do these meetings help you reach some understanding with the others about controversial topics?

Chris Riley:

Reach some understanding?

The Austin Bulldog:

Yeah. Reach some understanding of where you might be headed on a particular issue. I mean obviously you probably long ago quit talking about Water Treatment Plant 4, because everybody knows where everybody stands. Nobody’s budging.

Chris Riley:

That’s not something we have to talk about, right.

The Austin Bulldog:

So, there’s no point in talking about it. But, there might be something coming down the pike that’s a big issue. I can imagine what today’s front page, above the fold, banner story (in the Austin American-Statesman), is the mayor going (for) the seventh time (try to get) single-member districts (on the ballot), or some variation on that. … I can imagine when that comes down the pike there will be some discussions about that. So, those are the kinds of big issues that…

Chris Riley:

Yeah. I mean the thing is, the high-profile things like that we’ve already talked to death. I don’t think any of us are still making up our minds about single-member districts. Those of us who had to run—I think I had to run—just two years ago, every forum, every campaign event we went to we were asked about our position on single-member districts. Our positions are already very well established. So, that’s not an item that we would need to spend time on in one-on-one because it’s just not…that’s not a difficult issue.

The Austin Bulldog:

Well, I’ll pick a better example.

Chris Riley:

No, it actually is a good example because the higher profile, controversial things are not ones that we need a lot of discussion on because we already know those. At least I don’t feel like…that’s not what I get out of those meetings, because that’s not typically something that I am in need of getting up to speed on. The harder things for me are the other items on the agenda, things that don’t get as much attention that I’m not as conversant with. That’s why those one-on-ones are very helpful.

The Austin Bulldog:

Right. Because something comes up out of somebody else’s subcommittee or something, I guess.

Chris Riley:

Exactly. Yeah. I’m not on the Public Health and Human Services Committee or the Audit and Finance Committee or the Judicial Committee. So often, talking with a member on one of those committees will be very helpful in getting to understand the matters if I don’t.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay. Would you say you generally reach a meeting of the minds or some kind of agreement about where other council members stand on issues that you’ve discussed?

Chris Riley:

I would say generally not. I mean I do get a sense of what other people are looking at. But, I’m not going in there to reach any kind of agreement. I mean I guess we’ll often share thoughts about how we’re looking at something but there’s no aim of…

The Austin Bulldog:

Share thoughts about what?

Chris Riley:

About how we are looking at different issues. But, you don’t typically go into those meetings and come out with…you would never come out with any kind of agreement. That’s not what those meetings are about. Those are about the sharing of information. They’re not about securing agreements.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay. Well, you get a sense of where people are headed on a given issue though, after you’ve made the rounds. You’ve talked to the mayor and all the other council members. You have to have some sense of…you know.

Chris Riley:

It’s not necessarily the same things you talk about in each one-on-one though. I mean I might talk with (Mayor Pro Tem) Mike (Martinez) about some firefighter item but that doesn’t mean I need to talk with everybody else about it. We’re one of three cities in the country, along with Seattle…

The Austin Bulldog:

We’re what?

Chris Riley:

As the article in (today’s Austin American-Statesman) pointed out, along with Seattle and Detroit, we are one of three cities in the country where all the members are elected at-large. We only have seven members. There is a lot on our plate and there’s a lot to get to understand.

The Austin Bulldog:

You’re all elected at-large and what?

Chris Riley:

We represent the whole city. There is a lot to get to know. So inevitably, what happens is that different council members develop different areas of focus, different areas where they have a special expertise. Again, the easiest example is (Mayor Pro Tem) Mike (Martinez) with the firefighters and issues that relate. But lately, (Council Member) Randi (Shade) has been very involved in social services contracts. We have an RFP (Request for Proposals) out for social service contracts. So, she has a lot of interest and expertise in that. So, when I go to my one-on-one with Randi, if there’s an issue related to social services then that’s a good thing to talk with her about. But, I wouldn’t necessarily talk to everybody else about that. If there’s an issue that relates to Waller Creek or homelessness, then I would talk to (Council Member) Sheryl (Cole) about that. But, I wouldn’t necessarily talk to all the others about it.

The Austin Bulldog:

I see where you’re going. I understand now. (Mayor Pro Tem) Mike Martinez, when I interviewed him last Thursday, said it’s rare that someone votes differently than was understood in these one-on-one meetings. Brian Rodgers says you told him the same thing. “We already know how we’re going to vote on Thursday, except Bill was sometimes the wild card,” that’s when you met with him on the 28th of December at the Austin Java house.

Chris Riley:

I did.

The Austin Bulldog:

Is that what you told him?

Chris Riley:

I don’t remember saying exactly that. I can see…I mean yeah, I wouldn’t have made a comment about a colleague like that to a member of the press.

The Austin Bulldog:

Well yeah, but Brian’s a civic activist. He gets around and of course he’s thinking about running. I think the questions that he told me he asked you, like, “What’s your day like? Are you having any fun?” And you said, “No.”

Chris Riley:

No, I did not say no.

The Austin Bulldog:

The thing I’m homing in on…he was just trying to get familiar with…

Chris Riley:

He wanted to get a feel…

The Austin Bulldog:

…what it might be like if I ran and I got elected. Might this change the majority and…

Chris Riley:

One question that he asked me was, “Can you just show up on Thursdays?” I was trying to convey to him there is a lot more than just showing up on Thursdays. I mean council weeks tend to be busy. One thing that makes them busy is, yeah, we do typically have meetings that week. We meet with a lot of people who are interested in items on the agenda.

The Austin Bulldog:

Oh no, I see your calendars. I’ve studied your calendars. I know what you’re doing if you’re calendars are accurate. Let’s get back to the question that I asked you. Brian (Rodgers) says that’s what you told him, “We already know how we’re going to vote on Thursday, except for Bill. He’s a wild card.” Did you or did you not say that?

Chris Riley:

I don’t remember the context of what I was saying. On the vast majority of items on the agenda, no I don’t know how people are going to vote on Thursday. On the high-profile items like Water Treatment Plant 4, sure, yes, we do typically know. I mean things have been established. But on an agenda with 100 items on it, I can’t tell you how all my colleagues are going to vote on those. Typically, a lot of those will go on consent. But sometimes…let me just give you one example.

I remember when we were doing the (ThunderCloud Subs) Turkey Trot this year. The Turkey Trot was a big deal. There was an item on the agenda to waive some rules, because it was an unusual route this year, because the (Texas A&M) Aggies (football) game was in town. It was an unusual race. We had to waive the normal rules on street closures to allow this unusual route. The mayor voted against that at the council meeting. I had no idea that he was going to vote against that. We hadn’t talked about that item. I was very familiar with the Turkey Trot. I didn’t feel a need to ask him about it because I had been dealing with that issue. That’s not one where I needed to pick his brain on it. So anyway, with respect to the comment that I talked about with Brian, we must have been talking about some particular issue. Yeah, on bigger issues then I would expect we would generally know about what to expect from each other. But on the more routine things, we wouldn’t necessarily talk about all those.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay. That’s fair. When you get to the council meetings and listen to what citizens are saying about the issues you previously discussed in these private meetings, do you sometimes hear any information that causes you to change your position?

Chris Riley:

Let me think about that. I’m always listening to what people are saying. Could you state your question? Do I frequently…

The Austin Bulldog:

No, I didn’t state a frequency. I just said, do you sometimes hear new information that causes you to change your position?

Chris Riley:

Yes, I would say. Sometimes I do. I’m trying to think of a situation where my vote has gone from one thing to another.

The Austin Bulldog:

I’m sorry?

Chris Riley:

I’m trying to recall a specific time when my vote has actually shifted during the meeting. I know there have been cases like that. I would say they’re unusual. I do try to get up to speed and get a feel for each issue before the council meeting. We do get a lot of input. I can show…well, I don’t have that up right now (open on his laptop computer, which was on the table where the interview took place). For every council meeting I have e-mail subfolders set up for every…

The Austin Bulldog:

You have what?

Chris Riley:

I have e-mail subfolders set up.

The Austin Bulldog:

Subfolders, okay.

Chris Riley:

Subfolders set up for all the different items on the agenda that we’re hearing from people about. So, I get a lot of those e-mails and I consider those. So, by the time you get to the council meeting you’re generally hearing…the things you’re hearing at the council meeting are things you’ve generally heard from the e-mails leading up to the council meeting. So, I would say it’s unusual to be surprised by what you hear in a council meeting. That’s why it’s a difficult question.

The Austin Bulldog:

I got you now. That’s great. Got you. Thanks. Sometime around mid-year last year, 2010, meetings with the mayor were changed from one-on-ones to pairing with two council members to meet with (Mayor) Lee (Leffingwell). I’m a little hazy, because I looked at those (calendars) about a week ago. It seemed to me like on your calendar I consistently saw you meeting with the mayor for an hour every Tuesday, practically. You know, pretty regularly on Tuesday. Like Tuesday morning around 10:00 or something like that.

Chris Riley:

It shifted to an hour, I can’t remember. Sometime…a couple months ago. I can’t remember exactly when that was. But yes, we shifted to an hour.

The Austin Bulldog:

Well, the thing about it is, were those hours shared with another council member?

Chris Riley:

Yes.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay, you’re not reflecting that on your calendar. That’s what’s confusing me. Because when I look at some of your other…whoever you’re paired with…who are you paired with on those?

Chris Riley:

Usually (Council Member) Randi (Shade).

The Austin Bulldog:

Randi, right. Randi, she puts down two-on-one, or Chris and I meet with the mayor.

Chris Riley:

But see the thing is…

The Austin Bulldog:

That’s why I was confused. Because you’re not reflecting someone else’s presence.

Chris Riley:

I should do that. The thing is, that was Lee’s initiative. I still have my regular one-on-ones with Randi. It’s in the mayor’s office. But you’re right. I should indicate that it’s going to be—at the time that we started doing it I wasn’t clear on whether it was always going to be Randi (I was paired with) or whether we were going to rotate (pairings).

The Austin Bulldog:

So sometimes you aren’t sure who you’re going to be paired with (to meet with the mayor) or if you were going to be paired?

Chris Riley:

I didn’t know exactly what the mayor had in mind. I did know that he wanted to shift it to a full hour and do two-on-one. So, I put it on my calendar. Okay, my one-on-one with (Mayor) Lee (Leffingwell) will now be an hour. So, that was the change I made, but it didn’t cause me to change my regular one-on-one with (Council Member) Randi (Shade). As it has turned out, it’s just been me and Randi, I think (paired to meet with the mayor).

The Austin Bulldog:

Well, my observation on the calendars that are posted, to the extent that I’ve had an opportunity to study them all very thoroughly, is that most of the time (council members are) paired with the same people. It shifts sometimes, but the routine is that this is my party mate. Why did Lee do that?

Chris Riley:

Why did he make that shift?

The Austin Bulldog:

Yeah.

Chris Riley:

I liked the idea, frankly. Because when you’ve got a long agenda to cover and only half-an-hour it seemed very superficial. Plus, with Lee there is a lot to talk about. About scheduling things, about all sorts of city business including stuff that’s not on the city (council) agenda. Sometimes, he and I will cover for each other at different public events, so we can talk about those events. So, it’s nice to have the full hour. By the time you get through all this other stuff…

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay. You were talking about you like being paired up. What do you think (Mayor) Lee (Leffingwell) was trying to accomplish by pairing you?

Chris Riley:

Being able to go into more depth on the agenda and have just a more…well, I can’t speak for what Lee was…

The Austin Bulldog:

I’m going to ask him. I have an appointment with him this afternoon. … I just thought maybe he said, this is why I’m doing it, at some point.

Chris Riley:

My impression was that he thought that with everything else we had to talk about that everything was just too compressed in half-an-hour. It was just too rushed. It’s nice going in there when you have a whole hour because it’s just a lot more relaxed. We’re not feeling as pressed. We can relax and just have a pleasant conversation.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay. That’s fair. Do you think maybe this is…you know, you don’t know exactly what he had in mind. You have an impression. Do you think that maybe he wanted to have two-on-ones so that he could reach some kind of a consensus before you go into the council meetings?

Chris Riley:

I don’t think that’s what he was looking for. Our conversations don’t typically get to that point. It is helpful to have three people in the room kicking around ideas, but I don’t get the impression that there’s an effort to achieve consensus with a majority of the council beyond just getting a better understanding of how we’re viewing the different items on the agenda.

The Austin Bulldog:

… Well, basically there’s a whole lot of meeting going on. A lot of round-robins, which leads me to ask do council meetings need to be orchestrated like this? I mean that you guys are so much into talking with each other that you pretty much sense where things might be headed? I mean I think that’s orchestrating the council meeting, to some extent. I mean I realize that everybody needs to know as much as they can about the agenda. And I can see the benefit of talking to colleagues about areas they have more expertise in than you do. But, it still seems like, from an outside viewpoint, from me, I think that it just seems orchestrated. I mean it’s like you go into the council meeting, everybody’s pretty much…you said you got your e-mail, you’re getting all that input so you don’t hear much to your surprise. But in terms of where the council might go on any given agenda item, it seems like there’s just not a whole lot of surprises.

Chris Riley:

But the thing is there are. I mean if you look at the last council meeting, the vote on the Bradford-Nohra House (for historic preservation), I don’t think any of us knew that there was going to be a 4-3 vote on the Bradford-Nohra House. I certainly didn’t. I was surprised by that. I frankly didn’t know…

The Austin Bulldog:

That was just a thorny issue that won’t go away.

Chris Riley:

I know.

The Austin Bulldog:

What did you vote anyway? I lost track. I mean what did the council vote?

Chris Riley:

I voted in support…we voted 4-3 in support of his historic designation. It’s going to take a super majority. It’s going to take six (votes to approve historic designation).

The Austin Bulldog:

… Oh, that’s right. … You all only gave it (approval on) first reading, right?

Chris Riley:

That’s right.

The Austin Bulldog:

So it will have to come back (for further consideration on second and third reading).

Chris Riley:

But I, frankly, did not expect that. I didn’t think there was that much support.

The Austin Bulldog:

Well, unless two people shift their votes—you need six for a super (majority), right? So then two people have to go the other way.

Chris Riley:

But the point is, I didn’t come out…yes, I had one-on-ones with all my colleagues, but I had no idea.

The Austin Bulldog:

Did you all talk about that?

Chris Riley:

Sure. Well actually, I did talk about it with (Council Member) Bill (Spelman) but didn’t know how he was going to vote. I did not talk about it…the only other person I recall talking about it with was (Council Member) Randi (Shade), because Randi has devoted a lot of time and energy to that case. She knows a lot about it. She can tell you exactly about the whole background. That case has been going on long before I was a council member. So, it was very helpful to get her perspective on it. She told me the whole history and who’s living there, and just her take on the whole case. But at the time I talked with her, I didn’t know how I was going to vote. I thought I knew how she was going to vote.

The Austin Bulldog:

Was she part of the four (votes) for (historic designation)?

Chris Riley:

No, she was against it.

The Austin Bulldog:

Is that right?

Chris Riley:

Yeah. But, I honestly did not know how that was going to go. To me, that’s pretty typical. Now, to me that council meeting was not orchestrated at all. We were listening to everybody and making up our minds. The public deliberations on that case were actually done right there at the council meeting. You saw them. The public participated in it. The fact that we I was better educated through talking with, especially (Council Member) Randi (Shade) about it, I don’t see how that undermines the public interest in open government.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay. Have you ever had second thoughts about engaging in these kinds of private meetings among council members to discuss public business?

Chris Riley:

If I thought that we were working towards actual decision-making behind closed doors then I would. But, that’s never been the case. So, no, I haven’t had second thoughts about it. Because I’ve seen it as a very important way of getting educated about the agenda. I’ve been through the required training. I’m very familiar with the Open Meetings Act. I understand the rules that govern us. If I thought this were an improper attempt to circumvent the Open Meetings Act then of course I would have difficulties with it. But, that has never been my impression. I see this as just a way of getting educated about the city’s business, which, to me, serves the public interest and is consistent with the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.

The Austin Bulldog:

I didn’t hear that last sentence.

Chris Riley:

To me, that serves the public interest and is consistent with the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay. Have you ever been provided, aside from the training you have to take, which is watching that DVD that the state puts out…

Chris Riley:

Actually, it’s online.

The Austin Bulldog:

Yeah, it’s online. I mean that’s the only training that you’re required to take. I have a copy of the letter that (then City Manager) Toby Futrell put out in July of ’06, shortly before the (Open Meetings) Act was going to change to actually require officeholders to take this training. You know, it says you’ve got to do this by such-and-such a date. You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do that. You’ve got to get the certification. It told you basically how to apply for all that. So, aside from that guidance that you have to watch that video, is there any other training that you…do you have to answer the door?

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay. As I was saying, aside from watching that online video, have you been given any written guidance or any oral guidance or any lessons by anyone on the city staff?

Chris Riley:

Oh, I’ve been involved with…

The Austin Bulldog:

I’m not talking about ethics training like (Assistant City Attorney) John Steiner might give or something like that.

Chris Riley:

John Steiner has done Open Meetings training as well. I’ve been dealing with the Open Meetings Act ever since I was a first-year law student. I worked at the Opinion Committee at the Attorney General’s office, which dealt with open meetings and open records. … The video that you see on the Attorney General’s website, that was prepared by the Opinion Committee. They’re the ones who deal with…

The Austin Bulldog:

How long did you work there?

Chris Riley:

One year. So, I’ve been fairly familiar with the act ever since then. Having served on a lot of city boards and commissions, we often had trainings on Open Meetings Act requirements.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay.

Chris Riley:

Just as a refresher, last night, I did watch the video again just as a reminder. I saw that it’s the exact-same video that I saw two years ago.

The Austin Bulldog:

Didn’t change any?

Chris Riley:

No.

The Austin Bulldog:

Well, (the video doesn’t) need to (change) if the Act hasn’t changed. … Okay, so you were talking about you had John Steiner present something. Was that as a council member or as a board and commission (member)?

Chris Riley:

As a board and commission member.

The Austin Bulldog:

So have you received anything in writing from the city?

Chris Riley:

Not that I recall.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay.

Chris Riley:

Well…not that I recall.

The Austin Bulldog:

Have you ever considered that these meetings…well, you’ve already said if you thought they would violate the Act that you wouldn’t do it, right?

Chris Riley:

Right.

The Austin Bulldog:

So, I guess that answers that question already. Well, that’s all my questions.

Chris Riley:

Okay.

The Austin Bulldog:

Do you have anything that you’d like to add about any of this?

Chris Riley:

I would just say that I understand there’s a balance to be drawn between government that’s completely…well, I better not even say that. All we can do is follow the law. We could just…

The Austin Bulldog:

That’s all anybody wants.

Chris Riley:

We could stay holed up in our offices and never talk to one another.

The Austin Bulldog:

I’m sorry?

Chris Riley:

We could stay holed up in our offices and never talk to one another. I don’t think that would serve the public’s interest. I remember in the past, complaints about the council being a seven-headed hydra that we were all just off on our own, we weren’t working together. There was no communication. No coordination whatsoever. I would say one of the strengths of this council is we’re trying to work together on significant initiatives like homelessness and Waller Creek and the redevelopment of the capitol complex.

The Austin Bulldog:

Significant issues like homelessness.

Chris Riley:

Right.

The Austin Bulldog:

What else?

Chris Riley:

Waller Creek, the redevelopment of the capitol complex or the rebidding of social service contracts. To undertake major initiatives like that requires some degree of cooperation among council members. That requires us to communicate. So, I think having some degree of one-on-one communication is really essential to governing effectively.

The Austin Bulldog:

Okay. Anything else?

Chris Riley:

No, that’s it.

The recording of this interview is subject to copyright © The Austin Bulldog 2011.

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