Dear Media:

Yesterday, under City Council agenda item 11.1, the Mayor and City Attorney blocked public comment in clear violation of Texas state law.

The discussion was captured on video, between 4:57 and 4:59 here.

Sito Negron, who is the District Director of State Senator Jose Rodriguez as well as the President of the Sunset Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association, called in to state his concerns about the widening of Interstate 10 along the south edge of Sunset Heights.

As can happen when organizing public comment via telephone, there was a technical issue and Mr. Negron was not able to reach the City Clerk, Laura Prine, until after voting had begun.

City Rep. Annello of District 2 stopped the vote and insisted that public comment be admitted per state law and pointed out that there have been technical issues and that flexibility is in order.

Mayor Margo: “We gotta complete the vote. We’re in the middle of it.”

Rep. Annello: “But we also have to take public comment, so I would like the City Attorney’s opinion on that because my understanding of this is that it’s state law, if someone is here for public comment we need to allow them to speak. […] Mrs. Nieman, would you like to give us an opinion on this, please?”

City Attorney Nieman: “I don’t disagree that you all need to finish the vote.”

The City Council then went on to vote on the multi-million-dollar item with 5 in favor, 2 against (Reps. Annello and Rodriguez), and 1 absent (Rep. Hernandez).

The item was brought up again toward the end of the City Council meeting so that Sito Negron and two other citizens could speak, but by then the item had already been voted upon and their comments could have no influence on the outcome.

This is a gross violation of the law and stark evidence of the Mayor’s disdain for the public and of the City Attorney’s blind deference to him, even when the basic rights of the citizenry are at stake.

See Rich Wright’s essay on the agenda item.