There’s an old adage that goes something like this: The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one.
Two weeks ago, the League City council had one. Its members, some overcome by arrogance, self-importance, political posturing or all of the above, had forgotten who they served.
Typically, at the beginning of city council meetings, members of the public have the opportunity to tell council members what’s on their minds. And they usually have three minutes to do it.
It’s an opportunity for residents to speak directly and publicly about issues important to them.
But on Sept. 26, some League City residents didn’t get that opportunity. Residents filled the council chambers to express frustration, anger and despair about their flooded homes and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Some were there to talk about other business, including the city’s tax rate.
At the beginning of the Sept. 26 council meeting, Councilman Dan Becker moved to suspend the rules to allow a presentation from Ike Dike proponents and a discussion about tax reappraisal logistics with county officials to go first.
“There’s some folks here that have worked very hard on these items that I think would like to address the public and the council,” Becker said at the Sept. 26 meeting. “These items are related to the storm and have great public interest.”
Becker made the motion, but a majority of the council went along with the idea of preempting public comment in favor of a official presentation.
The Ike Dike presentation took 20 minutes and the tax reappraisal discussion turned into a 99-minute debate. As the minutes passed, most members of the public filed out. They had been snubbed and slighted. The city council had done a disservice to constituents.
But we’re hopeful that it was a brief lapse of judgment. On Monday, most of the city council members admitted they had a problem. And they immediately set out to fix it.
Council members voted 6-1 to approve a new policy as part of its rules of procedure. Becker, apparently unremorseful, voted against it. Mayor Pat Hallisey was absent.
Councilmen Hank Dugie and Greg Gripon introduced the item.
“It makes total sense,” Councilman Nick Long said.
The title of Section 4 of the rules of procedure has changed with the vote from “Rules for speakers” to “Public comments.”
Under the new policy, council members can’t suspend the rules to push other council business ahead of the public comments, Dugie said.
The city council deserves praise for having the decency to put constituents first and to put forth measures to prevent such a thing from happening again.
There’s a time and place for a lot of things at city council meetings. Presentations about coastal barriers and tax appraisals certainly have a place, but not at the cost of public comment.
• Laura Elder