The City Council has discussed making changes to Chapter 2 of the Code of Ordinances for the city Section 2-39(b) multiple times since November in an attempt to increase meeting efficiency. Several residents spoke during the public comment period asking council members to move up the agenda item on the list of Individual Items for Consideration, which council did not do.
Mayor Rusty Brockman requested the council to consider revising the time allowed for citizens to speak during meetings, but the cumulative time will remain at 30 minutes for a group or organization to be allowed to talk for and against a specific issue. He also mentioned that citizens have spoken about being harassed by people after giving their address at council meetings.
“I think it's only wise for us to protect our citizens,” Brockman said. “The second part of this is moving it from five to three minutes. We're not limiting the amount of time for any issue. It will be 30 minutes for, 30 minutes against, and with this move from five to three get 10 people instead of six. And so I think that there's some common sense reasons in my mind.”
According to the city, the New Braunfels City Charter provides that the City Council is authorized to establish its own rules and order of business.
Multiple speakers spoke in favor of the amendment to the city ordinance to not share their addresses before speaking publicly, but did not want speaking time to be cut down.
“[You’re] elected public servants,” said Susan Humphries, New Braunfels resident. “Your top priority should be to hear what the citizens have to say. And I think speaking here is a good way for y'all to get the pulse of the citizens of this city.”
Seguin is the only nearby city that also allows speakers five minutes at the podium, with San Marcos, San Antonio and Schertz among cities that limit speakers to three minutes, according to the city.
“If my math is correct, if this passes, it'll be a 67% increase in citizen participation because we're going from six speakers to 10 in three minutes apiece.” said Harry Bowers, City Council member for District 3 and mayor pro tem.
District 2 Council Member Christopher Willis made a motion to approve the first reading of the agenda item with the requirement that speakers have to state if they live in New Braunfels and the option to list which district they live in.
The first reading of the agenda item was approved unanimously during the March 27 regular meeting, but Brockman said the item would be discussed at a future City Council meeting.