I have to give credit where credit is due. Howard Smith and Elaine Hays deserve credit for dissenting with Mayor Ginger Nelson and other Councilmembers regarding public comment rules.
On Tuesday, Smith and Hays were the only two Councilmembers to publicly disagree with the topic of cutting the amount of time that residents could speak during the Amarillo City Council's public comment period. The discussion was brought up by city manager Jared Miller and Mayor Ginger Nelson, while looking at other policies that are currently enforced by cities statewide.
Thankfully, Hays and Smith both disagreed with cutting the time. Smith disagreed on the fact that he would like to hear from residents on important issues. Hays also disagreed, citing what she views as an inability for members of the public to communicate thoughts accurately to the City Council in just two minutes.
One of Hays' quotes in the meeting seems to sum up why the Amarillo City Council should be weary of creating any new policies relating to public comment.
"I want to make sure that we aren't looking for solutions for problems that don't exist," Hays said.
As it stands right now, there are some problems with public comment. However, none of those problems are created by citizens, but rather were created by ineffective government policies. Several of these policies, including the so-called "clapping ban," which was created by Mayor Ginger Nelson and this City Council, seem to do no good for the meetings and only create anger among citizens. The City Council should not be looking to create solutions for problems that don't exist (like so-called "small groups of citizens" who disrupt meetings) and should instead be looking for solutions to problems like sanitation, homelessness, and general economic illiteracy.
It was very pleasing to see dissent by Hays and Smith over this issue, as hopefully both Councilmembers saw that this policy would do nothing but create more problems. I certainly hope that Councilmembers Freda Powell, Eddy Sauer and Mayor Nelson will see this as well, but I won't hold my breath.
At any rate, it was good to see the dissent and I hope that we will see more dissent in the future when an issue is brought forth which warrants it.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-In-Chief