Angela Hunt's been on a bit of a tear today, having posted to her Web site three items: one concerning the proposed rules changes for council meetings; one about the city's turning over the keys to the Dallas Zoo to the Dallas Zoological Society; and one concerning the city budget. Since the latter's more or less a teaser for her upcoming town hall meetings, let's instead take a closer look at the other two.
We wrote quite a bit about the rules changes last week -- just as they were being yanked from the agenda, so happened, at the very last minute. But since they'll no doubt resurface at a later date, Hunt weighs in with a warning concerning two proposals in particular: the one doing away with morning speakers, and the one that wouldn't allow council members to pull consent agenda items after 5 p.m. the Monday before a council meetings without the mayor or a council majority's OK. She writes, in part:
Frankly, I've too often seen the consent agenda, and especially the addendum consent agenda, used as a means to sneak through controversial items without debate. So the idea that the authority to allow exceptions would rest solely with the mayor or majority of the council isn't good enough. What about controversial items that the mayor or council majority wants to see sail through without debate?
Take these proposed rule changes, for instance. They were put on the consent addendum, meaning we got them only a few days before we were to vote on them. Those are pretty significant changes to be presented at the last minute, but that's what you do if you want to slip something through unchallenged. Councilmember Vonciel Hill pulled the item off the consent agenda -- the day before the vote, something she couldn't do under the proposed rules -- and requested a full council briefing.
Less transparency breeds suspicion and contempt for government. We need to be making our City Hall more transparent, more open for debate and discussion, not less.
Speaking of: Regarding the Zoo deal, which came up and went down in a matter of days, Hunt writes that she's pretty sure this'll wind up being a good deal for the city. But ...
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I didn't like the fact that this was rushed through, and several councilmembers also voiced their concern that this proposal was moving too fast. The council had only been briefed about the matter the week before. The mayor and others argued that this idea has been floating around for a decade, I suppose implying that we had gotten plenty of notice. But an idea floating around in the ether is far different from a concrete proposal, and a week is too little time to really digest such a significant change to one of our largest assets.