Lubbock City Council Votes to Make Changes to Citizen Comment Period

Thursday, the Lubbock City Council made changes to their citizen comment procedures.
By Monica Yantosh

LUBBOCK, TX -- The Lubbock City Council voted Thursday to make some changes to their citizen comment. 

It was a 5-2 vote in favor of making the changes. Councilman Todd Klein and Councilman Victor Hernandez voted against the changes.

The changes now make it so the agenda will typically come out on Friday's, and then people will have until Monday at noon the week of a City Council meeting to sign up to speak during citizen comments. They will be posted on the agenda.

Anyone who signs up after Monday at noon, but wants to speak on an item listed on the agenda, will then be allowed to speak during the citizen comments at the beginning of the meeting.

Anyone who signs up after Monday at noon, but are not planning to speak about an agenda item will be asked to speak at the end of the council meeting.

All comments will be televised, though anyone speaking at the end, when city council cannot respond, will have some kind of disclaimer on the screen that explains that council cannot respond and the views are only of that speaker.

Many people signed up to speak about the proposed changes, leading to at least an hours worth of citizen comments, as well as discussion between council members and those attending the meeting.  At one point, the discussion even got a little heated, with Mayor Glen Robertson using his gavel to interrupt one woman. 

Mayor Robertson's reasoning, he explained after doing so, was to interject during what he considered an accusatory or out of line comment.  While he was not able to respond to the woman speak, he did interrupt to try to clarify her comment.

The Mayor, as well as other council members, agreed there needed to be action, at times, by either the Mayor or City Attorney, to interrupt someone when they spoke in that manner.

"Getting some clarification from our legal department as to what's permissible, and what's not permissible, because there are positions that are being taken that are completely wrong," Councilman Victor Hernandez said at one point Thursday.

According to state law, council can only respond to those citizens who are either on the agenda or who signed up the day of, but are speaking about an item already posted on the agenda.

"This council has been very open in allowing people to say some stuff that is just totally out of bounds, and I think we're trying to reign it in," Councilman Hernandez said.

Many people did get up and give Council some constructive advice on what they might want to consider in changing things. "Whether you sign up in advance, whether you sign up the night before, you must sign up to talk about an item that's posted. and that is to allow everyone in the room, not just those sitting on this side of the microphone, but to allow everyone in the room a chance to participate in the conversation," one person told Council.

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