Things are changing in the city of Rosenberg. And according to the Rosenberg City Council, that change starts with citizen comments at meetings.
At the July workshop meeting, council members reached a consensus to make changes to the rules governing comments from the audience, limiting speech.
“The legislature passed a new law that is effective Sept. 1,” City Attorney Grady Randle explained. “Any open meeting that requires an agenda requires citizen comments.
“Your rules are pretty good as they are. Do you want to have audience comments at the beginning or on the agenda item or both?”
Council member Jacob Balderas, who advocated for free speech that same night, suggested that audience members are only allowed to speak once, at the beginning of the meeting.
“I am fervently against censoring speech,” Balderas said later that night. “You can’t control what people say.”
Council members Richard Olson, Kevin Raines and Steven DeGregorio concurred that audience members should only speak once, at the beginning of the meeting. Currently, audience members can speak during general comments and can sign up to speak on each agenda item.
“One thing that is frustrating for people is when they wish to speak about an issue and then jerking the rug right out from under them by saying, ‘we’re going to move comments to the back of the meeting,’” Mayor Bill Benton began. “People would just flip out. So, I would say either let them speak at the item or at the beginning of a meeting. I would never, ever make folks wait until the end of the meeting.
“Pick an item or speak at the beginning of the meeting under general comments about all of the items.
“But you got three minutes to do it.”
Council member Isaac Davila said he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“I do not want to limit anybody’s freedom to speak on any topic they want to,” Davila said. “I kind of like the way we have it now. That’s my opinion.”
The rest of council did not agree. This item will be brought back to council for consideration. The next council meeting is scheduled for Aug. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, located at 2110 Fourth St.