A deceptively quiet-looking Dallas City Hall. Photo by Kelsey Shoemaker.

Politics & Government

City Council Votes to Limit Time Spent on Public Debate

Are council members just tired of hearing each other talk?

The City Council voted 11-4 this morning to halve the amount of time its members can spend publicly debating a given item.

Previously, each council member was given 18 minutes, split across three rounds, to speak on any particular item that the council or a council committee is weighing at a public meeting. Ten minutes in the first round, 5 in the second, and three in the third. Under the new rules, each council member is limited to 9 minutes, a 5-3-1 split. This only counts the time that a council member spends actively flapping their gums, either speaking or asking questions — the clock stops when city staff or others are answering questions. The chair of a council committee can extend that time limit as requested or as necessary. This does not limit the time allotted for comments from the public. That’s something else.

Adam Medrano, Omar Narvaez, Philip Kingston, and Scott Griggs were the four votes against the new time limits.

This is, depending on who you ask, a procedural move that will lead to more efficiently run City Council committee meetings, or an anti-democratic attack on transparent debate amongst elected officials. Let’s look at a few pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Shorter meetings
  • Potentially minimizes soapboxing
  • Not nearly enough time for Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway to get on a roll

Cons:

  • More time spent arguing about procedural time limits, exceptions to time limits, rather than substantive debate
  • Potentially minimizes government transparency
  • Not nearly enough time for Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway to get on a roll

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