Speaking out of turn?: Kyle town hall idea hits snag

Plans for Kyle city leaders to hold a series of town halls has been put on hold as officials determine whether they can do so while avoiding Texas Open Meetings Act violations. 

The idea came from City Council members Daphne Tenorio and Alex Villalobos who both requested to host town hall meetings “regularly” to promote citizen involvement.

On May 7, Tenorio and Villallobs announced their intentions to host meetings where citizens can comment and receive immediate responses from city leaders. 

Public forums and citizen comment periods during city council meetings do not allow for response and immediate discussion between council members and citizens. Following Tenorio’s and Villalobos’ announcement, other city council members expressed interest in being present at these events in order to be available to take questions and comments.  

“It’s just a meet and greet for anyone to come and talk freely and ask questions,” Tenorio said. “We can’t do citizen comments where you’re not allowed to talk back too.”

However, the idea hit a snag when city staff and its legal team raised concerns on how the town halls can differentiate from standard city council meetings, while also not violating TOMA. 

Per TOMA rules, any meeting that has four or more members of the city council present, known as a quorum, is required have a set agenda posted 72 hours beforehand. Meetings that meet quorum requirements must also be recorded. 

Mayor Travis Mitchell supported the town hall idea but was open to having individually scheduled meetings with constituents other than at city hall. These meetings would include as many constituents who would like to attend but would only have one council member at a time present. Mitchell’s proposed meetings could be held at a coffee shop or other non-municipal establishments.

“We could market it as coffee with council members,” Mitchell said. “It might be that we end up having to make it less formal, not sponsored by the city.”

Constituents who attend city meetings regularly complain that council is unable to participate in ongoing discussion or answer questions during citizen comment periods.

Resident Lila Knight said May 7 she finds it difficult to communicate with council members outside of regularly scheduled meetings.

However, city council members are now waiting to get a response from City Manager Scott Sellers and the city attorney as to what types of meetings they can host to promote resident communication.

If allowed, council members Tenorio and Villalobos are hoping to host these meetings on the third Sunday of each month. City leaders plan to host a meeting at 3 p.m., May 19, if approved. 

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