What began as a flap over clapping in Amarillo City Council meetings appears headed toward the council enacting some restrictions on the comments that residents can make.
Now, can we call it a day? Let’s move on.
The council aims to put some reasonable restrictions on the time residents can take in expressing themselves about issues of the day. Is the council treading on citizens’ First Amendment rights of free expression? Uh, no. It isn’t. The council is endeavoring, as I understand it, to retain some order, discipline and a bit of decorum at its public meetings.
The council has decided to shorten the time residents have to request to speak before the council. The council’s previous rule allowed them to sign up a week in advance; the new rule allows them to sign up just the day before the council meeting.
Is that an unreasonable requirement? Nope.
If we flash back a couple of decades, let’s recall how Randall County’s Commissioners Court used to operate. Then-County Judge Ted Wood thought it was necessary to give residents all the time they wanted to vent their spleens on whatever was troubling them. Hey, we work for them, Wood said, so we owe it to the “bosses” to give them all the time they need to tell us what is on their minds.
Truth be told, the county’s overly generous policy didn’t work out too well. Commissioners Court meetings got bogged down. They went on seemingly forever as residents hogged far too much time to go on and on about … whatever.
As a general rule, governing bodies place some restriction on the time they grant for residents to comment. It’s reasonable to my mind for them to enact those rules while ensuring sufficient time for residents to have their voices heard.
But … “sufficient” should not mean “eternal.”