Once Again, the Mayor Had the City Attorney Rewrite Rules for Council, Public Speakers

I see Rudy's already posted his item about tomorrow's vote on Dallas City Council rules changes, which showed up earlier this week on the addendum for tomorrow's meeting. (It's Item No. 2.) But what he doesn't get into is why the council will vote on reducing and, in some cases, eliminating public speakers' open-mike time -- or why the council will vote to take away some of its own power, no kidding.

Among the rules being voted upon tomorrow is one that says a single council member can't remove items from the consent agenda during meetings -- a rather common occurrence when members feel they need more time to dig into an issue. (And, on rare occasion, an item will show up on the consent agenda that the council hasn't been briefed on.) The new rule would require a council member to file with the City Secretary's Office a motion to remove the item by no later than 5 p.m. the Monday before a council meeting. That is, "unless approved by the mayor or a majority of the city council."

Which brings us to how the new rules suddenly popped up on the addendum without any prior consideration: Mayor Tom Leppert asked the City Attorney's Office to draft the new rules. According to First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers, the new rules were written by Senior Assistant City Attorney Lisa Christopherson; Ive left a message with City Attorney Tom Perkins for further information. I've also called Chris Heinbaugh, the mayor's chief of staff, to find out the motivation behind the proposed change, which several council members aren't too thrilled about.

It's but one of several proposed rules changes directly affecting the council; the other would "require council members to be present during at least 50% of a council meeting or council committee meeting to receive compensation under the charter." And those changes are in addition to proposals that would limit public speakers before the council -- something the mayor tried to do last summer, before Angela Hunt pushed back and the mayor deferred the item the day before a vote was to be taken by council. Which he wouldn't be able to do under the new rules.

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