North Texas Daily

City Council changes open mic policy

City Council changes open mic policy

July 22
12:51 2016

Matthew Reyna | Staff Writer


The Denton City Council agreed to change the open mic session of their meetings, but did not eliminate it entirely as had been considered. The open mic decision was made during a regular meeting on Tuesday, July 19.

The council’s amended ordinance will allow six speakers to speak at meetings. Four speakers must pre-register, while two speakers can present without previously registering to speak.

The two open mic speakers must refrain from speaking on topics that are on the Council’s agenda for that meeting. All speakers, pre-registered or open mic, will present at the beginning of the session, instead of having to wait until the end of the session.

District 3 Councilperson Kathleen Wazny approved of this change.

“I don’t think it’s fair to ask a citizen to wait until the end of the meeting to speak,” Wazny said. “People have lives and shouldn’t have to wait until midnight to have their say.”

Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Roden voted in favor of the amended ordinance, but was not sure if the new open mic rules were practical.

“Do we even have a rule that hits on that they can’t speak on something on the agenda?” Roden asked. “If we did have that rule, how in the world is that enforced, practically speaking?”

According to City Secretary Anita Burgess, the current open mic rules were approved less than a year ago in August 2015. District 2 Councilperson Briggs did not believe the open mic should be removed after such a short test run.

“When I re-watch the work session that we did, [open mic] was only around six or seven months old and there was consensus at that time to pull it off,” Briggs said. “I don’t know that that is enough time to  gauge if it is working or not. I can’t figure out exactly why we did pull it off. Why did it come up in the work session to be removed so soon?”

Wazny was passionate about keeping the open mic in some form. She cited the fact that making people pre-register could eliminate the spontaneity of citizens to speak on issues.

“It’s important to recognize that we are a democracy,” Wazny said. “Citizens have the right to speak to their elected officials.

At Large Place 5 Councilperson Dalton Gregory was in favor of eliminating the open mic and did not think removing it was a violation of democracy.

“I don’t see this as an attempt to limit [free speech] in any way,” Gregory said. “Some people are going to frame it that way, but this is an attempt to provide plenty of opportunity for people to be able to speak, but also for us to be able to respond to them.”

According to Burgess the council is not allowed to respond to open mic speakers without being in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

After over 45 minutes of discussion, the council voted 5 to 1 to keep open mic with the amended rules. Gregory was the only councilperson who voted against.

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