Dallas City Council today put limits on how frequently residents can speak during the open microphone portion of council meetings. Council voted 8-5 to bar anyone from speaking at open mike who already has spoken within the previous 30 days.
This measure appears to be an effort to deter the kooks who speak at every city council meeting in every city and town in our great nation. The slightly out-there retiree who becomes obsessed with say, barking dogs, and uses government meetings to express every thought on the topic that he or she can fit in the time allowed. Every city council has that person. Ours has more than a few.
Hearing out windbags, weirdos and whiners is part of what we pay City Council members to do. They sit through horrendously long and boring meetings because it’s their job. Just as they must wade through the jibber-jabber of budgets and zoning cases and decide what’s best for their constituents, they also must entertain the mutterings of our more eccentric neighbors.
The problem is, most people who speak at open mike do not have a nest of baby birds living in their beards. They’re taxpayers with legitimate concerns, and this forum gives them a voice they might not otherwise have. By limiting our time, City Council is saying they care not about the cray-cray blowhards nor the neighbor with an encroachment issue.
Councilwoman Carolyn Davis gave a great speech on the topic, saying she would not vote to shut out taxpayers from their own City Hall.
“There might be a number of things that come up within a month where that person can come down and speak,” she says. “These are the same individuals who vote for us, regardless of if we like them or have problems with them coming to the open mike. They have the right, as voters in this city, as taxpayers in this city, to come down to their city hall. This is their city hall.”
This is the first limit on speech at Dallas City Hall since 1993, when Dallas voted to amend the city charter to ban open mikes from committee meetings, which had been allowed since 1908 (that information is thanks to Councilman Scott Griggs, who was absent from today’s meeting, probably because his first child was born a few days ago).