Featured, from left: Juan Guerra, Edinburg City Manager; Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortéz; Omar Ochoa, Edinburg City Attorney; and Carla M. Rodríguez, Edinburg Assistant City Manager, in the City Council Chamber at Edinburg City Hall following a news conference on Friday, April 5, 2019. Photograph By ANA ÁVILA
Featured, from left: Juan Guerra, Edinburg City Manager; Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortéz; Omar Ochoa, Edinburg City Attorney; and Carla M. Rodríguez, Edinburg Assistant City Manager, in the City Council Chamber at Edinburg City Hall following a news conference on Friday, April 5, 2019. Photograph By ANA ÁVILA

Edinburg, Texas — The Edinburg City Council recently approved purchasing software to make it easier for any person to request public information.

“Transparency in government should be a hallmark of the City of Edinburg.”

Omar Ochoa — Edinburg City Attorney

On Thursday, May 23, 2019, the city council unanimously approved investing $17,850 to purchase computer software and related maintenance services to manage the city government’s public information requests.

“Edinburg’s elected city leadership has had a long commitment to going above and beyond the basic legal requirements. For example, our city government doesn’t just post the agendas for its meetings, it also makes available to the public the agenda packets, which has all the background information,” Ochoa said. “In the late 1990s, the Edinburg Cable Network was created in part to let the citizens of Edinburg see for themselves, without any editing taking place, everything said and done by the mayor and city council during public meetings. Many of the biggest state agencies in Texas were not doing that backthen.”

Ochoa also pointed out that the city government makes video recordings of previous city council meetings available online.

“The video archives are very important. It’s not a requirement under state law, but the city council does it anyway,” said Ochoa. “Our elected leaders are proud of what has been done to be transparent, to be open to the public. This latest step that they are taking to centralize and automate our public information requests is in that direction.”

GovQA (https://govqa.com), headquartered in Woodridge, Illinois, will be in charge of setting up the system for the city government under the one-year contract it received from Edinburg.

“Edinburg’s city government gets a large volume of public information requests for a variety of different items. Right now, there is a mostly manual process – folks will send in an email to the City Secretary’s Office with their specific request,” Ochoa explained. “But this (GovQA contract) will allow us to automate the process, and provide a better platform for citizens seeking public information.”

In 2017 approximately 532 requests were processed, 832 in 2018 and approximately 300 through the end of May 2019, according to Ludvina Leal, the City Secretary.