Amarillo’s City Council has decided to make an issue out of something that shouldn’t really matter.
It is going to prohibit applause during City Council meetings.
Holy cow! Stop the presses!
A constituent decided to break out in applause. Mayor Ginger Nelson ordered him out of the council chambers. I understand he was arrested. The “altercation” has produced something of a mini-tempest at City Hall.
Some folks argue that the mayor has inhibited someone’s First Amendment right of free political speech. I wouldn’t go so far.
Then again, I wonder why the mayor decided to make this an issue in the first place. Does the applause distract anyone? Does it delay the conduct of city business? Are there epithets being hurled?
I get that the council has the authority to set rules of decorum and behavior. It can allow public comment, for instance, or it can disallow it. The council allows constituents to speak on issues of the day.
I remember a time when Randall County Commissioners Court — presided over by County Judge Ted Wood — would allow constituents to speak for as long as they wanted. If they want on for hours, hey, that was OK with Wood. The county belongs to them, not the commissioners, he said. Woods’s generosity with public time drew some criticism, too, just as Mayor Nelson’s relative stinginess has brought some barbs.
I don’t see this issue as any big shakes one way or the other.
If I were King of the World, I would allow constituents to applaud. Within reason, of course.