Castle Hills City Council confirms restrictions on citizen comments

Council reaffirms new rules to keep public comment to the end of meetings

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter, Eddie Latigo - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - The Castle Hills City Council voted again Monday to restrict public comments at its meetings.

On June 11, the council voted to rescind its former rules of order for city council meetings. It instituted new rules that allow residents to comment only at the end of council meetings -- after the council has already voted -- as well as during public hearings.

Previously, residents were able to speak at the beginning of city council meetings and while specific agenda items were being discussed.

In a special meeting Monday night, the council voted 3-2 to reaffirm the new rules.

The second vote came after Mayor J.R. Trevino requested the council reconsider their adoption. Trevino told KSAT that residents' voices would be stifled by the new rules, and he doesn’t think citizens should have to wait until the end of a meeting to speak.

"I’ve got out of a meeting at 12 o'clock at night. So, expecting citizens to wait that long just to talk about one specific thing is kind of unfair. And at that point, they already voted. So, the comment's irrelevant,” Trevino said Monday.

The new rules were sponsored by Lesley Wenger and Sylvia Gonzalez, and Mark Sanderson joined them in voting for the rules. Douglas Gregory and Clyde “Skip” McCormick voted against the new rules both times.

As mayor, Trevino does not vote unless there is a tie.

Wenger said during Monday’s debate that the new rules were not introduced because of council members’ inability to take criticism but because residents felt intimidated by the way some people conducted themselves at meetings.

It isn’t clear how long these rules will stay in effect.

Wenger had said the new rules were not intended to be a permanent fix, but rather a "time out" for a few months while the council figures out a better way to handle citizen comments.

The Texas Legislature also passed a law requiring government bodies to allow public input before or during the consideration of an issue.

That law will go into effect Sept. 1. 
 

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