Leander City Council
In recent months, City Council meetings in Leander have often run until midnight or later. Some meetings with contentious topics, such as Capital Metro and library policy changes, have brought out a number of commenters and led to lengthy discussions on the dais.
The changes to meeting procedures come as part of an effort to encourage civility, according to Mayor Pro Tem Chris Czernek.
“The biggest part of it was to bring civility to our council and to our city,” Czernek said. “When that happens, I believe things could be more efficient.”The rules of procedure, which council passed Sept. 5, govern when council members speak at meetings. Now the mayor has the option to go down the line of council members during meetings asking for input, rather than having council members speak whenever they choose.The public comments portion of meetings was adjusted Oct. 3 to allow no more than 15 minutes total for public comments on non-agenda items at the beginning of meetings. The time is divided equally at one to three minutes per speaker. For comments on agenda items, people get three minutes to speak, unless more than 10 speakers want to talk on one item. In this case, each person gets two minutes.Some people were opposed to the public comments changes.
During an Oct. 3 meeting, Leander resident Carl Norman said he does not think public comments are what have been making meetings inefficient.
“You as public officials shouldn’t restrict free speech because you lack the skills and acumen to properly plan ... and conduct a meeting,” Norman said.
Cedar Park City Council
Since June, Cedar Park residents and outsiders have been attending Cedar Park City Council meetings to share concerns about three council members’ appearance at a drag queen story time protest in Leander and conduct on social media.
Cedar Park City Council has yet to make official changes to its rules of procedure but asked the city attorney during a meeting Sept. 27 to present possible adjustments at a future date. Council discussed legal issues concerning council rules of procedure in closed session Nov. 7, according to the agenda, but took no action.The city has an adopted rules of procedure document, which states council members “shall show respect and courtesy to, and refrain from making disparaging comments about, fellow Councilmembers, the public, and City staff in the conduct of a City Council meeting, outside of Council meetings, in social settings, and on social media.” It does not outline repercussions for breaking rules.
Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale said he is seeking the attorney’s input because he wants to know what can be done about conduct during meetings. Meetings in recent months have featured yelling—from the dais and from the public—as well as clapping and interjections from the crowd.
“I do think it’s in the last three months taken a shift where it’s distracting from the city business,” Van Arsdale said.
The city is also looking at different ways to conduct public comments. At a meeting Nov. 7, public comments for non-agenda items were scheduled near the end of the meeting, rather than at the beginning. Van Arsdale said his goal is to provide people with more options on when they get to speak, since some people commute from work.“I want to make sure citizens have every opportunity to invest in their council,” Van Arsdale said.