Seeking a balance between giving citizens a chance to address council and maintain decorum and civility during meetings, Mineral Wells City Council on Tuesday adopted formal speaker guidelines.
Through occasional shouts and disruptions from supporters of Mayor Christopher Perricone in attendance, council after much discussion passed a set of speaker guidelines based on new Texas law passed by the Legislature earlier this year known as HB 2840.
The rules are similar to ones council has had in place. Citizens can address council during the citizens comments portion of the meeting after completing and presenting to the city clerk prior to the meeting a speaker card that requests their name, address and topic. Persons will have three minutes to speak (six minutes if a translator is needed), addressing council directly as a body “with civility that is conducive to appropriate public discussion. The public cannot speak from the gallery, but only at the podium.”
City Manager Randy Criswell presented this updated chart of the city's bond projects, showing progress and schedules of projects.
The action will restrict comments during discussion of individual agenda items unless council is conducting a public hearing.
Tuesday’s action follows one council took in July 2018 adopting rules of order to address decorum at meetings that sometimes denegrate into name calling, arguments between people in the audience and personal attacks.
Perricone has been one to allow people to speak up and shout out from the gallery, often without giving their names and without stepping up to the podium mic. He continued to express concerns about imposing new speakers rules.
“My proposal is you would raise your hand and stand up and speak,” said Perricone. “My concern with what is written down here (the resolution) is I think it is going to make it more cumbersome to speak.”
The mayor on Tuesday did attempt to bring his supporters more to order at times, asking them not to yell out during council’s discussions. Later in the meeting he warned Lann Murphy he would have him removed if he did not stop talking out of turn from the gallery.
At one point, City Attorney Andy Messer offered council his opinion on the legislation, which was met with a verbal outburst from the mayor’s supporters present.
Ward 3 Councilman Doyle Light said he wants to hear from citizens, and said he does often outside of council meetings.
“Absolutely I want to hear from them,” Light stated. “But at some point discussion has to end and I have to do my job.”
Exasperated over the agenda item’s discussion and disruptions from the gallery, Councilman Brian Shoemaker sarcastically quipped, “I am going to propose we have no rules and you can talk whenever you want.”
Shoemaker then told Perricone he could continue to “grandstand for 5 more minutes,” and added, “I am just tired of how these meetings are going.”
Councilman Jerrel Tomlin said he hears constantly from citizens about issues, and encourages their input.
“I have tried to be accessible,” Tomlin said. “I’ve not ignored anyone. I believe they have opportunity for input. There has to be some form of decorum and control.”
Amid more hoots from the gallery, Perricone stood and walked over to Tomlin, handing him the meeting gavel.
“You have the gavel and you have the responsibility to control the meetings,” Tomlin responded, as disruptions from the gallery continued. “You have the responsibility as mayor to maintain order and decorum in the room.”
“That just blows my mind,” Perricone said of council’s direction on the issue. “As far as decorum being maintained I hear that criticism often.”
The mayor allowed people in the gallery to raise their hands and speak on the issue. Several of his supporters took that opportunity.
Though he is not a city resident, Terry Lundy is a frequent speaker at council meetings. He told council, “You have gotten it into your heads you work for yourselves.”
Robert Avants opposed having to complete a speaker’s card to speak on an agenda item.
“If you get your way you are going to cut me off at the ankles,” he said. “That’s not right. We have a constitutional right to question you on what you are doing with my money.”
Terri Glidewell stated, “What you are doing is wrong. Our thoughts do not stop at the beginning of the meeting.”
Shoemaker moved to accept Perricone’s proposal to allow people to speak openly from the gallery during individual agenda items. That motion failed for lack of a second. Councilwoman Regan Johnson moved to accept the proposed resolution, which passed 4-2 with Perricone and Shoemaker voting against the measure.
Mineral Wells City Council on Tuesday approved a multiple use agreement between the city and Texas Department of Transportation to accept maintenance responsibility for the “Crazy” sign that will once again span across Hubbard Street in downtown Mineral Wells as it did decades ago.
The sign is project of Mineral Wells Leadership Class 24, which has raised the money and received the necessary specifications and approvals from TxDOT to build and erect the two-sided lighted sign.
Class leader Cory Crenshaw said the class will remain committed in the future to help with maintenance and repair costs. The sign will be added to the city’s insurance policy to cover replacement if severely damaged or destroyed.
Crenshaw said he anticipates soon placing the order to construct the sign, which he said is expected to take 90-120 days to make. Instead of going over East Hubbard Street near the Baker Hotel, the sign will be erected a couple of blocks to the west across West Hubbard Street, just past North Oak Avenue so that it does not obstruct traffic lights or distract drivers approaching the intersection.
Crenshaw said they are building smaller replica of the sign for people to take photos with. The class has worked on the project for two years.
“My classmates and I have worked very diligently to clear all the hurdles,” Crenshaw told council.
“I can’t wait to see that part of our history coming back,” said Shoemaker.