Mayor Proposes Limiting Public Speaking at Council Meetings

This week, the City Council will vote on a proposal to limit the public’s ability to speak before the City Council. In response, I sent the following memorandum to the Mayor and my colleagues:

I strongly oppose Mayor Leppert’s effort to alter the City Council Rules of Procedure to limit the ability of Dallas citizens to address this governmental body. Further, I am deeply troubled by the hasty and surreptitious process by which this matter was placed on the council’s voting agenda.

I first learned of these proposed changes last Thursday when Mayor Leppert came to speak with me about this matter (notably, only six days before the council’s scheduled vote). I did not receive a copy of the proposed alterations until Friday night at 10 p.m. Given the significance of these changes, I find it unacceptable for our Mayor to present this for a council vote with only a few days’ notice to the City Council and the public, without a thorough council briefing, and without a public hearing to receive input from Dallas citizens (considering that the Mayor’s proposal affects the public’s very ability to provide such commentary).

Addressing the City Council is not a privilege granted to citizens by the Mayor or the Council — it is a right. We are elected representatives. We work for the residents of Dallas. To seek to limit the time or otherwise prescribe the ability of our residents to provide comment to this City Council is antithetical to our purpose as a democratic body.

Pursuant to Section 7.11(a) of the City Council Rules of Procedure, I request that Addendum Item #34 be deferred, that the City Council be briefed by City Attorney Tom Perkins and City Secretary Deborah Watkins on this matter, and that a public hearing be held to gather citizen input on the Mayor’s proposed alterations.