Wichita Falls City Council Moves, Limits Public Comments-And It Looks Very, Very Bad [Opinion]
I really don’t know where to begin with this one. This just looks bad. At Tuesday’s Wichita Falls City Council meeting, councilors voted to move the public comment portion of the meeting to the end of the meeting and limit citizens to 3 minutes. The previous rule allowed for 5 minutes.
I can feel the ground shaking already from the foot-stomping, fists-pounding-the-dining-room-table armchair quarterbacks who never attend a meeting. For those of you who never exercise the right to face and address your council, mayor and city manager, please sit down and leave the bitching to the rest of us. Thank you.
I firmly believe that, if you’re going to address an elected body, you need to have your points fine-tuned and ready to present clearly, concisely and quickly. Don’t screw around; make your point and move on. That said, our elected officials have an obligation to listen to what we the voters have to say, whether they like it or not.
But perception often becomes reality. On the surface, at least, the move smacks of an action designed to remove some potentially uncomfortable comments from the public’s ears. I'm sure the council did not deliberately set out to appear that they are trying to limit free speech, but that appearance is all over this move. That is the perception that is created here.
In an interview with KFDX, Mayor Stephen Santellana cited ‘people using it as a time to vent….asking for resignations’ as one of the reasons for making the change. While I can appreciate the desire to keep the meetings flowing and manageable, simply disliking the comments or finding them uncomfortable is not a valid reason to make the change.
Yes, people stand there and vent. I’ve seen more than a few people who need to rehearse a bit before they get there (see my clear, concise advice above).But it is the right of those citizens to be heard. So someone calls for a resignation; so what? Mayor, Council members: welcome to elected office. You will not please everyone. Not everyone wants to be or will be your friend. With all due respect to each of you on the council, this comes with the territory. Deal with it.
Mayor, Council members: welcome to elected office. You will not please everyone. Not everyone wants to be or will be your friend. With all due respect to each of you on the council, this comes with the territory. Deal with it. You cannot be a thinned-skinned individual and do this job. In some respects, it’s not much different from being a talk radio host. If I had let negative comments get to me, I’d have quit this gig years ago.
Business is being conducted at these meetings and those who wish to address the council should be prepared and ready to put up their A game when they arrive. If you’re coming to complain, express disdain for a particular individual or a particular action or ordinance, that is your prerogative to do so. And it should be that way. But have your thoughts and argument clearly laid out on paper before you arrive. That will save everyone some headaches.