Monday, June 5, 2023

City Council of 2023 First Policy Decision

The Richardson City Council of 2023 has been sworn in and they have made their first policy decision. I do not mean choosing Mayor Pro Tem from among themselves as they did when they chose Arefin Shamsul. Choosing Mayor Pro Tem isn't optional. What I mean is that they have made an actual policy decision that they did not have to make. What is it and what does it say about the new Mayor, Council and their upcoming term?

I wrote extensively about the importance of this election and what it might mean for Richardson. So what the new Mayor and Council does right out of the gate might set the tone for the next two years and give us a hint as to how they are going to govern. After all, we have two new council members and a new Mayor. 

The new Mayor and Council's first decision had to do with public engagement and public input. That is great news. I have been critical of the past council's attitudes toward public input and engagement. I went as far to describe it as broken.

Public engagement is not an option for a council. This blog is an expression of that. Elected officials should expect and should not complain or grumble that they receive input or criticism. They should not complain that they are told (yes... told) what to do by citizens. They are elected by the citizenry, and they are not up there to make decisions on their own. Their business is not their own. It is the people's business. If an elected official does not like public input and engagement, then that public official should find a different hobby.

All of this does not mean they should do things simply because a citizen asks. As any Captain Obvious can tell you, a governmental body cannot do five contradictory things if it receives five opinions and it may be that all five it receives are not what it should do anyway. What a Mayor and a City Council should do is express an attitude that welcomes that public input. They should want input. They should seek it. They should realize, "we do not know everything but some person or persons do know what we need to know."

By now you are saying, "OK Mr Richardson Echo. What was this Mayor and Council's first policy decision?" and you are right. I have pontificated long enough.

What the City Council did was increase the length a citizen may give public comment in the Visitor's Section of City Council Meetings from three minutes to five minutes. This was done without fanfare or announcement as far as I know. Tonight's work session will be the first where comments (if any) will be restored to a maximum of five minutes in length. 

Agenda excerpt showing change from three to five minutes
Excerpt of the Richardson City Council's
May 22 and June 5 Agendas.

For about 14 years, the length of comment time was five minutes and it was changed (without public input incidentally) during the last council term. I was critical of this change and I wrote about when I discussed why a Mayoral change could be a good thing for Richardson

I will recap what I said previously in just a moment but do not get excited and thank me. You should thank a citizen named Randy who addressed the Council on May 22, 2023.

In his comments, Randy congratulated the new Mayor and Council. He discussed dances at the Senior Center including some connected to Richardson's 150th celebration. He concluded by saying this:

I've noticed that we have cut from five minutes to three. I'll have to come get people to help me in the future because I can't always get my stuff in within three minutes.

Ding Ding! We have a winner! Randy Q. Citizen, while addressing the Council on a perfectly legitimate topic, tells the Council he doesn't have enough time.

I previously wrote the following:

The message to citizens is: We want to hear 40% less from you. The less we hear, the better.

I have privately asked council members where this change comes from. I received no clear and consistent response....

I hope a new Mayor brings clarity to this issue.

The Mayor and City Council have brought clarity to this issue. Congratulations to them! They have sent a message without fanfare or announcement that they are not afraid of more public engagement and input.

So right out of the gate, this Mayor and Council has expressed independence from the previous Mayor and Council. They have done so with a positive message to citizens saying public comment and engagement is welcomed. More of this please!

The next stop is to see if this council holds its Goals Sessions in an accessible location, if those sessions are recorded, and importantly if they ask for public input on those goals.

Thank you Mr. Mayor and Council for this improvement.


  1. "This was done without fanfare or announcement."
    Or public input, or public deliberation, or dare I say, clarity about even who made this decision. The policy may have changed, but some policy-making still seems to be made in the dark.

    1. Yes, and will it be the last 'decision in the dark'?