Like it or not, the Dallas City Council is coming to your neighborhood. After nearly an hour of scattered, often confusing debate, the council signed off a plan to hold one City Council meeting in the afternoon and evening every month. It'll also conduct meetings in different locations throughout the city five times a year.
The vote to change the council's meeting schedule was unanimous, but only after council members complained about the potential and unknown costs of moving the meetings, North Dallas' lack of access to public transit and the possibility that the meetings might not be broadcast live, among other things.
Rickey Callahan said that he feared his staff wouldn't have time to get their work done if they were forced to attend later meetings.
"After all, we want them to at some point get to their desk and get the work done," Callahan said.
The Pleasant Grove representative also worried that those attending Wednesday night prayer meetings at church or working in the service industry might not be able to make an evening meeting, but those pushing for the change explicitly left the fourth Wednesday agenda meeting scheduled to accommodate those who might not be able to make it at night. The second Wednesday of the month, the council will host afternoon and evening meetings.
Philip Kingston, one of the five council members who signed a memo placing the change on Wednesday's agenda, said that anything the council can do to allow more Dallas residents to participate in the political process is a good thing.
"The fuel that runs public policy is public input, even if it's whining and complaining. Whining and complaining have fixed a lot of things in this city," Kingston said before offering to foot the cost to broadcast the meetings live if his colleagues on the council felt doing so was to cost-prohibitive for the city.
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Kevin Felder, who's had several public disputes with Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, said that moving the action to the people would allow Dallasites to examine their council members personally.
"They will get an opportunity to witness the behavior and decorum of some of their council members," said Felder, who once called police at his community meeting.
The City Council's schedule will remain the same — briefing meetings on the first and third Wednesdays of the month and voting meetings on the second and fourth Wednesdays, all at 9 a.m. — until the city manager's office draws up the city's 2018-19 city calendar this fall. Over the next couple of months, Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax said, city staff will figure out the costs of having security and other staff stay past their normal hours, in addition to the recording equipment and microphones that will have to be set up for the offsite meetings.