The New Braunfels City Council approved an amendment to an ordinance that would change the structure of public speaking at council meetings while scrapping a proposed reduction in public speaking time per individual speaker.

The amendment to the ordinance will eliminate the need for citizens to provide their addresses when speaking publicly, and instead only state if they are New Braunfels residents, live in the city's extra-territorial jurisdiction or are nonresidents. After hearing concerns from the public about stating addresses during public meetings, City Council determined it would be beneficial to remove the requirement.

Council had also been considering limiting the public speaking time from five minutes to three. The cumulative time for a group or organization to speak would have remained at thirty minutes for any one group or organization to speak on a specific issue. Mayor Rusty Brockman cited increasing meeting efficiency and being able to increase the number of public speakers as reasons for considering cutting back on the public speaking time.

“The addresses should have been separate,” New Braunfels resident Michael French said. “They should be voted on separately. Because I know everyone wants to get rid of [stating addresses.] What they don't want to get rid of is their time to speak and it takes a lot of courage to come up here.”

During a regular meeting on April 10, the item, originally on the consent agenda, was pulled to be considered individually by Council Member Lawrence Spradley, who wanted to clarify whether the changes to speaking time allotted to each person would not suppress First Amendment constitutional rights.

“We have a five minute time limit, reducing it to three isn't violating anyone's First Amendment rights, but it is reducing the amount of time... they have when they come up here,” New Braunfels City Attorney Valeria Acevedo said. “So that's a separate issue, but it isn't the violation of the First Amendment. We're not stripping First Amendment rights or anything like that. We wouldn't be bringing something like that to the governing body if it was unconstitutional.”

The city charter gives the City Council the authority to establish its own rules and order of business. The City Council ultimately voted to approve to amend Chapter 2 of the Code of Ordinances for the city Section 2-39(b).

After discussion, Council Member Andres Campos made a motion to no longer require saying addresses while speaking at City Council meetings and instead state if the speaker is a resident, non-resident or lives in the ETJ. The proposed amendment to cut back on public speaking time was tabled in the motion.

“Let’s kill the five-minute thing, because what really started as 'let’s be more efficient' has really created one of the most inefficient processes I have seen,” Council Member Jason Hurta said.

The item was approved 6-1, with Mayor Brockman voting against the amended motion.