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The public has an open mic for now — but Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson wants to revisit that

Ritu Manoj Jethani
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson indicated he's no fan of open mic comments at city council meetings.

Citizens can sign up as open microphone speakers at Dallas City council meetings — but that might change.

Mayor Eric Johnson indicated at Wednesday's council meeting that he would like to eliminate the open mic sessions to keep things on track.

"This is not office hours," Johnson said. "This isn't a constituent coming to visit you one-on-one. We're trying to get the people's business done."

Johnson opined on the issue after a presentation to the city council Wednesday on "City Council Rules of Procedure — Public Speakers."

The city council rules allow open microphone speakers at the beginning and at the end of meetings. There's also a rule that prohibits speakers from "making personal, impertinent, profane, or slanderous remarks or becoming boisterous." The city also doesn't allow more than five speakers before the meeting — the rest can go once it's finished.

Speakers also are allowed on every agenda item so long as their comments are relevant to the topic. Wednesday's discussion did not apply to those speakers.

Johnson has had to admonish open mic speakers for breaking that rule in the past. Johnson said he wants to hear from the public, but that people who violate the rules interfere with getting business done at council meetings.

Council member Cara Mendelsohn said she's in favor of keeping public comments to promote transparency.

"The performance arts speakers are not actually so frequent or so time-consuming as to be unreasonable tradeoff for open government," she said.

Council members and Johnson discussed other options for open mic comments, including separate meetings for them and limiting them to briefing days.

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Caroline Love is a Report For Americacorps member for KERA News.

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Caroline Love covers Collin County for KERA and is a member of the Report for America corps. Previously, Caroline covered daily news at Houston Public Media. She has a master's degree from Northwestern University with an emphasis on investigative social justice journalism. During grad school, she reported three feature stories for KERA. She also has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas Christian University and interned with KERA's Think in 2019.