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Dallas City Council Considers Ending ‘Open Mic’ for Residents

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Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson | Image by Office of Mayor Eric Johnson/Twitter

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At a recent Dallas City Council meeting, Mayor Eric Johnson revealed his desire to eliminate the ability for residents to come and share their thoughts during the city government’s “open mic” sessions.

Current rules of procedure for the Dallas City Council allow so-called “open microphone speakers” to address the council before and after every meeting on any topic or issue they desire.

A limited time is allotted to each speaker and the total number of speakers allowed to go before a meeting currently stands at five. The rest must wait to speak upon the conclusion of the meeting’s agenda.

Residents may also speak on specific agenda items during a meeting so long as their comments remain relevant to the topic at hand.

The idea of changing the rules surrounding open mic speakers was first broached in early summer. The council’s five-member administrative affairs committee considered a briefing by the assistant chief of the general counsel division, Bert Vandenberg, during its June 2 meeting.

In the briefing, Vandenberg presented several options, including limiting the time for open mic speakers, restricting them to council meetings designated solely for briefing, and limiting the number of speakers further.

Based on discussion at the recent council meeting, it appears that the most popular path forward amongst members is to limit open mic speakers to council briefing meetings only.

Johnson, however, expressed his desire for the council to end the practice altogether.

The alleged impetus for this change is a belief among council members that residents are “abusing” the open mic speaking rules and procedures.

Open mic speakers are only allowed to address Mayor Johnson when talking; they must refrain from addressing individual council members.

Additionally, speakers before the city council are not permitted to yell, use profanity, or make slanderous attacks.

“I want the public to continue to speak, but I want us to have some ability to shut down that type of language because it keeps coming,” said Mayor Pro Tem and District 4 Councilmember Carolyn King Arnold. “It would be different if it was a one-timer, but when you see a pattern, I think we need to begin to stand up and protect the integrity of our meetings.”

But Arnold’s point of view may run afoul of Texas law, according to an analysis of the law by Senior Assistant City Attorney Cal Estee.

“When a city opens its session up to all topics, it cannot subsequently restrict speech based on subject matter during that open microphone session,” he argued.

This legal reality presents a challenge for the city council members who wish to silence speech they disagree with, appreciate, or find valuable.

Councilmembers Cara Mendelsohn and Omar Narvaez indicated support for the continued availability of open mic sessions for Dallas residents.

Mendelsohn said while the council may have to suffer some antics from time to time, the opportunity for the public to have a moment to impact the city government’s agenda was worth it.

“We’ve also learned some things that have helped us resolve some problems. We’ve helped residents who’ve come here looking for help — items that were not on the agenda,” she remarked.

“So, I view the public comment period as essential to accessible government [and] wouldn’t want to decrease the frequency or put limits on it,” the District 12 representative concluded.

At the same council meeting in which this policy proposal was discussed, local media personality Alex Stein spoke during an open mic session.

Stein admonished Mayor Johnson for having him removed from a previous meeting for speaking directly to council members and using their first names. The self-described professional troll has made a name for himself by speaking at various government meetings.

“It’s a mess,” Johnson said during the discussion. “I don’t really want to be making decisions about what I think is rude behavior.”

We welcome and appreciate comments on The Dallas Express as part of a healthy dialogue. We do ask that you be kind. Kind to each other and to everyone else in your comments. For more information, please refer to our Complete Comment Moderation Policy.

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regina m imburgia
regina m imburgia
1 month ago

A 92 year old woman came and addressed the Dallas City Council yesterday 11/26 because she has been trying for FIVE years to be heard! The public got to hear her story–this also is the purpose of Open Mic–I will be praying for her and seeing what I personally can do for her. Former CM Kevin Felder (District 7) then spoke yesterday and brought up the $1000.00 monthly car allowance the Council voted for themselves –I am thinking it is NOT just the Alex Stein banter the Mayor wants to stifle– MANY things come up during Open Mic they (Mayor, Council, City Managers) wish they did not have to hear OR for the public at large to hear! Go to DallasForSaferWater.com Fluoridation of our Tap Water should be on the May 2023 Ballot!!

Sandra
Sandra
Reply to  regina m imburgia
1 month ago

Mayor Johnson is running for re-election and he’s reminded of how Clay Jenkins committed a a crime while he was a young man. He doesn’t want his own discretions to come up on him. We elected him carte blanche last term. And everything is impertinent and discourteous to him. Hasn’t he learned from most Mayor, who didn’t want to be criticized, that’s why the disruption, it get’s more media and attention than a polite speaker.

JOE
JOE
1 month ago

I think some members of the council and the mayor are afraid most of the commenters have things to say they do not want the public knowing. I know for a fact that more than 135 times commenters have provided research and data that conclusively proves that adding hydrofluorosilicic acid (a toxic waste the council calls “fluoride”) to our water is harming the public’s health in a multitude of ways. Some of the council members and the mayor would rather the public believe the Public Relations propaganda meme used to bamboozle the public, that “fluoride is safe and effective” and it is “good for the teeth”.

Well it is NOT.

This is just some of what they do not want the public hearing and learning about:

The practice of “fluoridation” should be put up for a vote to let the public decide if they want it or not.

The money spent on poisoning Dallas County Residents could instead fund supplying toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental hygiene education.
Let the public speak. People want to know the truth they speak.

Marjorie E Steakley
Marjorie E Steakley
1 month ago

Elimination of open mic speakers would be in clear violation of 1st Amendment rights. Further restrictions are being threatened to silence city residents and suburban residents whose water comes from the City of Dallas who are being adversely affected by the outdated practice of fluoridation which is based on industry sponsored junk science. I am one of these people. Fluoridation has caused me to have hypothyroidism and advanced arthritis in both knees. I am on disability and cannot afford thousands for a reverse osmosis system. I can’t even afford to replace a carpet with holes in it the size of basketballs. Moreover, the residents of this city have a constitutional right to speak about other controversial issues in which the council has an influence. Finally, citizens have a right to bring to the council’s attention any problem which crops up in neighborhoods, e.g. police brutality and illegal dumping. It is a simple matter to deplatform abusive individuals without infringing on rights.

Joe Stokes
Joe Stokes
1 month ago

I think some members of the council and the mayor are afraid most of the commenters have things to say they do not want the public knowing. I know for a fact that more than 135 times commenters have provided research and data that conclusively proves that adding hydrofluorosilicic acid (a toxic waste the council calls “fluoride”) to our water is harming the public’s health in a multitude of ways. Some of the council members and the mayor would rather the public believe the Public Relations propaganda meme used to bamboozle the public, that “fluoride is safe and effective” and it is “good for the teeth”.
Well it is NOT.
This is just some of what they do not want the public hearing and learning about:
https://fluoridealert.org/
https://www.dallasforsaferwater.com/
The practice of “fluoridation” should be put up for a vote to let the public decide if they want it or not.
The money spent on poisoning Dallas County Residents could instead fund supplying toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental hygiene education.
Let the public speak. People want to know the truth they speak.

Linda Newland
Linda Newland
1 month ago

I was first speaker on 10/26. If you listen to it you will find I mention most recent times council meeting started late. Not any on time. If Mayor wants an efficient meeting how about starting on time? How about not having any type of awards or pictures as that takes up a huge part of time. The Mayor also asked if it would be ok to turn off TV when speakers speak. The reason for no TV ? I bet so no one can see what the stand up citizens are saying that are wrong and want improvements. If our time to speak is taken away there will be no other way. I have been trying at least for 3 weeks to make an appointment with my Council person Adam Bazulda. Left many messages on phone and no one calls back. Sent message thru Dallas Website and no reply. They don’t even respond when we stand before them to speak but currently TV is on and others can see what we are complaining about. Mayor is supposed to be listening to each person but I tell you that’s not the case a lot of times… The bigger picture = the Council police’s themselves…. Now what could go wrong with that? They can even vote themselves raises…. Wow o wow…. I need a job like that…. Just the other day I saw the Mayor advise the audience not to clap but on 10/26 after he heard my speech he did not tell the audience they should not clap… to me that says he can’t even follow their own rules…..Us citizens that are requesting what they call fluoride but is actually a byproduct of fertilizer industry. (Search and you will find it’s classified as a poison.) not be added to our water that is naturally fluoridated. We’ve had doctors, dentist and such speak but they are set in adding to our water. Why is that?

Erin
Erin
1 month ago

public servants forget that they work for we the people- not the other way around. It’s absurd that they want to continue poisoning everyone. The neuro toxins in the hydrofluorocylisic acid have already succeeded in making people dumb. SHAME-