By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
KYLE – A much anticipated city council discussion about the structure of citizens committees in Kyle fizzled out Tuesday night after an earlier motion to pass civil service rules turned into such a labored and strenuous discussion that it sucked much of the energy from the council chamber.
In the end, the council passed the new committee structure on its second reading, but the matter didn’t generate the conversation that had been predicted. After all, the council tabled the very same second reading on Sept. 16, with Councilmembers Michelle Lopez and David Wilson citing concerns from citizens.
The controversial measure’s easy passage lit one more candle on a surreal evening at Kyle City Hall. The meeting began 90 minutes later than usual, at 8 p.m., so councilmembers could attend Texas Night Out festivities in the city’s various neighborhoods. Once they convened, many councilmembers were shell-shocked by a speech from a police union attorney finding flaw with the civil service ordinance the council was to pass that night.
Once the civil service ordinance came up for discussion, the debate wound out for more than an hour before the council worked out the kinks in a 30-minute executive session and voted, 6-1, to pass the legislation. By then, though, the hour was running late, and Mayor Miguel Gonzalez removed a half-dozen items from the agenda so the meeting might have some chance of ending before midnight.
Among the items pulled was a presentation about the city’s plan for a 42-acre recreational park, which someday is likely to be named Kyle Vista Park.
So, the controversial committee structure ordinance flew through without serious contest. Even Lopez, who motioned to table it last month, decided the city might as well give it a try.
Under the new structure, the city will re-organize its citizens committees into seven committees, appointing a councilmember as the chair of each committee. The committees will be required to meet every three months.
The committees will be designated as Strategic Planning and Finance, Community Relations, Public Works and Service, Mobility, Parks and Recreation, Safety and Emergency Services, and Economic Development and Tourism. The last of those committees will not conduct its business under open meetings statutes, because the city claims that its business is of the type that’s normally handled in executive session.
Gonzalez has pushed for the committee structure with hopes that the committees, and the councilmembers in their charge, will be made more productive. However, critics of the plan have long argued that taking the chairs from citizens will discourage citizen participation. More recently, critics have charged that placing councilmembers in position to work closely with city staff could compromise the purpose of the city’s council-manager form of government, which is designed to insulate the day-to-day operation from politics.
In the aftermath of the civil service discussion, however, the council had little to say about the committee matter.
“If we find out in a couple years that this doesn’t work, we can tweak it, we can change it,” Lopez said.
The council has moved informally towards assigning councilmembers to committees, but none of those appointments has been made official. Kyle communications director Jerry Hendrix said this week that the appointments are likely to be made at an open meeting in the near future.Email | Print