For Now, Mayor Tom's Backing Off His New "Shhhh" Policy at Council

The City Hall duo at The Dallas Morning News has been all over Mayor Tom’s proposed changes to the council’s rules of procedure, highlighted by today’s story about some council members’ concerns regarding one of the 18 suggestions, which would remove the morning open-microphone session. Of no surprise to us, Angela Hunt fired off a missive to her colleagues opposing Leppert’s plan, noting that speaking to the council is a right, not a privilege.

“I am deeply troubled by the hasty and surreptitious process by which this matter was placed on the council’s voting agenda,” Hunt wrote.

Sounds like the convention center hotel in a nutshell. Anyway, Leppert’s chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, tells Unfair Park that the item will be deferred and that the council will receive a briefing, per Hunt’s request, in a couple months.

As for why Leppert is supporting such a measure, well, we’re thinking it has something to do with things like this. But Leppert tells Unfair Park: "There were a lot of complaints from both council members and constituents over the amount of time a handful of repeat speakers were taking each week and what appeared to many to be an abuse of the public speaker policies in place.”

Some of the changes actually make a lot of sense, like requiring council members to attend 50 percent of meetings to get paid. But I'm still trying to figure out why limiting the public’s right to speak is a good thing. I’ve been to enough council meetings to know that for every three crazies that rant about nothing, there’s one who brings up legitimate concerns. In fact, a few weeks ago, someone complained about the prostitution problems in District 8 that sparked nearly an hour of council discussion.

“We were simply trying to try some changes that still allowed a robust discussion of issues but tried a new arrangement to see if this improved the process,” Leppert says. “Clearly, there have been some concerns raised, and I am more than happy to step back for a broader discussion of the issue."

Perhaps most disturbing isn’t so much Leppert’s support of the changes, but how he went about getting them passed -- by shoehorning the item in among 149 agenda and addendum items on the docket for tomorrow’s meeting -- the last one before the council takes off the month of July. And council members were first notified of the changes Friday at 10 p.m. Hasty and surreptitious? Nah.. --Sam Merten

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Sam Merten
Contact: Sam Merten