While an item to consider moving Bryan City Council meetings to as early as 8 a.m. starting in November was pulled from Tuesday’s agenda, Bryan citizens still had a lot to say about the issue.
After Mayor Jason Bienski announced the agenda item had been pulled,
18 people spoke for more than 30 minutes against moving the meeting time during the Hear Citizens forum. None spoke in favor. The item was originally placed on the agenda by councilmen Greg Owens and Chuck Konderla to start a discussion about possibly starting workshop and regular council meetings earlier in the day to cut down on long staff hours worked during meeting days.
The Bryan City Council typically begins its meetings at 6 p.m. But the meetings are becoming longer, Konderla told The Eagle last week, and he’s spoken to constituents who have said they would like to attend but don’t want to leave their families in the evening. Konderla said the advantages to earlier meetings would include a better work-life balance for staff and potentially attracting City Council candidates who would not be able to run otherwise.
However, those who spoke Tuesday weren’t buying it.
Former mayor Lloyd Joyce said he was shocked and disappointed when learning about the agenda item, and asked the council members to reassure the citizens that they are encouraged to attend meetings and voice their concerns. Joyce said he couldn’t believe any members were willing to go on record as supporting a move that places the workload of city staff and council members as more important than putting citizens first.
Joyce also disagreed with the assertion that moving the meetings would attract more council candidates, and said he would not have been able to serve as mayor or council member had meetings started at 8 a.m. during his tenure. He also said comparisons to the Brazos County Commissioners Court, which meets at 10 a.m., is “all wrong,” because county commissioners are paid and “don’t have to hold another job or operate their business.”
“Why change something when it works?” Joyce said.
Karen Hall with the Citizens for Bryan political action committee said two meetings a month is not an unreasonable commitment for an individual to make if they want to serve their community. She said one “guess” behind why the item was suggested is an effort to reduce the number of people who speak at Hear Citizens at the beginning of meetings.
“You could reduce that number by not doing dumb stuff like this,” Hall said.
Hall recommended the council watch the videos of past meetings and time different sections that could be shortened, such as the reports and items of community interest discussed at the end of the agenda. Her suggestion they join Toastmasters to learn how to be informative and concise got a few laughs from council members.
Tuesday’s meeting was three and a half hours long.
Loud applause followed each person’s three minutes at the lectern. They repeated the sentiment that moving the meetings from 6 p.m. would prevent residents with jobs from attending council meetings.
John Miller, a resident who lost his job this summer, said he could attend morning meetings now, but not once he finds employment. Miller asked if people will have to choose between jobs and an active participation in government. He said it’s a catch-22 for those with jobs or who attend school during the day not to be able to attend meetings where items concerning jobs and education are on the agenda.
Miller said he thinks the proposal was an attempt to “disenfranchise” the citizens of Single Member District 2 — represented by Councilman Rafael Pena, who goes to school and works during the day — by effectively removing their council representation.
One man, John McBride, said he is disabled and it would be “virtually impossible” for him to get to the council chambers in time for an 8 a.m. meeting. He went on to say that a lot of the citizens in the room have to work to pay their taxes and want to be able to see the political process in Bryan and have the opportunity to speak about it.
“Please don’t cut us off,” McBride said.
Tuesday's council meeting began at 12:30 p.m. with a workshop followed by the Bryan Commerce and Development, Inc. board of directors meeting and executive session. Once the regular 6 p.m. meeting ended after about three and a half hours, the council went back into executive session before adjourning for the night at about 10:45 p.m.