Cedar Park City Council discusses rules of procedure amid residents' concerns over council members' social media posts

Cedar Park City Council discussed its rules of procedure Sept. 26.

Cedar Park City Council discussed its rules of procedure Sept. 26.

Cedar Park City Council is looking into stricter council rules of procedure, as residents continue to speak out against council members’ conduct on social media.

Residents have been expressing concerns at meetings since June, after three Cedar Park council members attended a drag queen story time protest in Leander. Since then, council members’ statements on social media and appearance on far-right platforms such as InfoWars have fostered more pushback.

Emotions came to a head at the Sept. 26 meeting, during which residents criticized council members for criticizing certain resident groups on social media and a spat ensued on the dais during a discussion about civility.

During citizens comments, a member of the community played a video Council Member Dorian Chavez posted on Facebook Sept. 12. In the video, Chavez says he aims to keep away “social justice warrior bullcrap” and says groups like Indivisible, a satanic witch coven, Antifa and “many other progressive groups” are preaching hate speech.

Cedar Park resident Neitha Engert said she does not think council members should be saying residents are mobs, terrorists, Antifa or satanic witches.

“We’re moms, we’re dads, we volunteer in the city—that’s who we are,” Engert said. “You don’t get to spread lies about us.”

Another member of the community, Christopher Crow criticized members for speaking on far-right outlets and accusing people in the community of being Anti-American.

“You’re not a reflection of our community or the best of this community,” Crow told council. “The makeup of this council is a reflection of the normalization of the far-right in these times we’re living in, combined with a municipal election turnout that numbered in a single digit percentage of participation by eligible voters. For that fact, it’s our fault you’re up here. But you have our attention now and I’m sure we’ll do better next time.”

Later on in the meeting, council took up an item regarding council rules of procedure. Council Member Anne Duffy had requested the item be placed on the meeting’s agenda. Though council currently has rules of procedure, she said the rules focus more on administrative duties and do not really address codes of conduct.

“It’s unfortunate that social media has taken on its own life and people are using it as their platform and as their main way of connecting with constituents, making accusations and labeling people,” Duffy said. “We have an obligation to set some ground rules and have some civility.”

During the discussion of rules of procedure, Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale said current rules do not spell out what council can and cannot do when it comes to ensuring civility between council members and citizens and he would like to have legal guidance on the issue.

When discussing a need for civility, Duffy and Council Member Tim Kelly got into an argument on the dais. Duffy said Council Member Tim Kelly made a disparaging comment directed at her on social media. Kelly said Duffy was twisting what he wrote and began to yell. In the midst of the dispute, Van Arsdale called for a 10-minute recess.

After the recess, Van Arsdale suggested—and council agreed—the city attorney find and present council with some examples of mechanisms that would help ensure more civility going forward.
By Marisa Charpentier

Reporter, Cedar Park | Leander

Marisa Charpentier joined Community Impact in September 2018. After working as an intern, she became a reporter for the Cedar Park | Leander edition in October 2018. Charpentier graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with degrees in journalism and Plan II Honors.



MOST RECENT

Cedar Park High School (Courtesy Leander ISD)
PHOTOS: Leander ISD's six high schools host cap and gown pickups

Vandegrift High School's class of 2020 picked up their caps and gowns during a socially distant drive-thru at VHS on May 29.

COVID-19 hospitalizations also increased to 97 in the Austin metro. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
88 new coronavirus cases in Travis County on June 1 set single-day high

COVID-19 hospitalizations also increased to 97 in the Austin metro.

Richard Rhodes, the president and CEO of Austin Community College, said June 1 that the district is prioritizing the hiring of a new chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer. (Courtesy Austin Community College)
Austin Community College prioritizing hiring equity officer despite ongoing hiring freeze

The district brought up the hiring during a discussion about protests and demonstrations that have taken place over the past weekend.

Businesses shuttering their doors due to coronavirus restrictions lowered the sales tax revenue collected by cities in May compared to May 2019. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas comptroller reports 13.2% year-over-year state sales tax revenue drop in May

Tax collection revenue fell significantly in several sectors from May 2019 to May 2020, according to the comptroller's office.

Williamson County reported 34 additional cases between May 30 and June 1. (Screenshot courtesy Williamson County)
OVER THE WEEKEND: 34 new cases of coronavirus, additional death reported in Williamson County

Currently, 10 patients are hospitalized, and four are in intensive care, per the report.

Demonstrators gathered at the Texas Capitol on May 31 to protest police brutality. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas officials respond to demonstrations, unrest in wake of George Floyd killing

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a state of disaster in Texas on May 31, while various city officials and law enforcment responded to protests and violence over the weekend.

A group of 16 mayors from municipalities within Travis County have signed a letter to County Judge Sam Biscoe requesting a per capita approach to the issue of COVID-19 relief funding. (Screenshot courtesy Kara King)
Group of 16 Travis County mayors signs letter requesting $23M in county COVID-19 relief funds

City leaders in Travis County, from Bee Cave to manor, have signed a letter to County Judge Sam Biscoe requesting more than $23 million in federal coronavirus relief funds be released to 21 municipalities as soon as possible.

Demonstrators gathered in front of the Texas Capitol on Sunday, May 31, to protest police brutality. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell speaks on George Floyd, Austin protests

“I think like everyone else, I was horrified [by Floyd’s] death," Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said.

Leander ISD is holding an online survey so LISD stakeholders may “share ideas, concerns, and thoughts regarding our starting school” Aug. 13. (Community Impact staff)
Leander ISD online survey seeks feedback from families regarding August reopening

Leander ISD is holding an online survey so LISD stakeholders may “share ideas, concerns, and thoughts regarding our starting school” Aug. 13.

There have been 1,168 coronavirus recoveries in the county since mid-March, and active cases in Travis County are estimate at 2,011. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Weekend update: Austin metro coronavirus hospitalizations drop to lowest level since April 28

There have been 1,168 coronavirus recoveries in the county since mid-March, and active cases in Travis County are estimate at 2,011.

Candidates in the Senate District 14 special election responded to Community Impact Newspaper's questions about their campaigns to fill the vacant seat in the Texas Senate. (Design by Shelby Savage/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Senate District 14 candidates discuss the issues ahead of July 14 election

There are six candidates running in the special election to fill the seat of former Sen. Kirk Watson through 2022.

Travis County judge pushes back against attorney general's reprimand of stay-at-home order

Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe responded to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's warning that county coronavirus orders conflicted with the state's.