League of Women Voters plans to protest Amarillo City Council meeting time change

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson
On Monday, the League of Women Voters announced plans to protest the Amarillo City Council's recent decision to change the time of its meetings on. The protest will take place on September 10 at City Hall.

Janette Kelley, Amarillo League President, will hold a news conference on the steps of City Hall beginning at 2:00 pm. The League of Women Voters feels the time change makes it difficult for people to attend the weekly Amarillo City Council meetings.

“We believe that 7 a.m. meetings, especially when a budget is being considered, make it almost impossible for taxpayers to participate in the meetings.

“We further believe that having varying council meeting times i.e. 7 a.m., 12 noon and 1 p.m., confuses and discourages taxpayers from attending and participating. These times do not allow the average worker or teacher to attend and participate.

"The former meeting time of 5 p.m. allows more taxpayers to attend and participate and should be reinstated," the organization said in a statement.

Amarillo City Manger Jared Miller said the City Council is not trying to silence public comment from concerned citizens.

"Obviously we're not trying to silence people. I would say that no matter what time we choose for public comment, there's going to be people that cannot come.

"We're going to do the very best we can to accommodate peoples' needs. If they can't make it for public comment, obviously we will be available to receive their input, and make sure that, that input is provided to the City Council," Miller said.

Amarillo resident Crystal Nelson accused the city council of trying to "silence any opposition" with the proposed time change.

“I know that every single one of you has children and clearly know better – 7 a.m. is not a good time for this meeting. Any parent or even anyone who knows a working parent is aware there is virtually no way they can make a 7 a.m. non-mandatory meeting.

"This is another city publicity stunt to silence any opposition and a failed one at that. The citizens of Amarillo, the real bread and butter of the city, are ready for real representation," Nelson said.

Before the start of the 12:00 pm session of last Tuesday's City Council meeting, Miller said public comments would no longer be broadcast by the city. Miller said this decision was based on continued "personal attacks" against city officials by public speakers at the weekly City Council meeting.

"We're not going to broadcast public comment. It's not required to be broadcast and, in fact, it's not even required to take place," Miller said.

Miller has previously warned that anyone making personal attacks would be banned from speaking at future City Council meetings.

"Any person making personal, impertinent or slanderous remarks, or who shall become boisterous while addressing the City Council, or any person who shall refuse to abide by the orders of the presiding officer of the City Council shall forthwith be barred from further audience before the City Council," a long standing rule for City Council meetings states.

Many of the people who regularly attend and speak at the weekly meetings feel city officials are attempting to silence opposition and disscent.

“I can smell something. I’m not sure if it’s annoyance, cowardice or fear. Look at how many people are here in comparison to last week.

"There are so fewer people here than that were here last week and it’s not that they’re not passionate. That’s because we’re here at noon.

"What an effective way to suppress the opinions of your population. You shifted from a 15:00 (hours) meeting where a bunch of people showed up and now it’s 7 a.m., then lunch hour.

"You really did a good job of neutering the population of these meetings. That was a fantastic manipulation and I commend you," Nathan Smith said during last Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Miller said it's irresponsible for the city to broadcast incorrect information. He also said the city is actually giving the public more opportunities to be heard.

"Frequent examples of grossly incorrect information and it's irresponsible of us to broadcast that when one of our core pillars is accurate communication.

“We're actually giving more opportunity for people to present public comment to the City Council. We've doubled it starting last week," Miller said.

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