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Council, Lubbock citizens at odds over meeting time change

Citizens Tower
Weston Davis
Texas Tech Public Media
Citizens Tower

The time of day for Lubbock City Council meetings will soon change, after a unanimous decision from council members.

Beginning in August, the starting time for the regular session of required city council meetings will change from 4:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Work sessions, when no action is taken but a lot of information is given, are now set to start at 10:30 a.m. The resolution that makes these changes highlighted these meetings can also happen at a time determined by the mayor.

The council is required by the city charter to hold two regular session meetings a month. The mayor holds the ability to set the time of day for those meetings, which will continue to be held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.

Of five citizens who spoke during the public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting, all were against the time shift, saying meetings set earlier in the day were inaccessible for most working-class people. Some also questioned the council’s transparency on the issue.

Lubbock Citizen Kim Gonzalez said she heard the council planned to change meeting times and immediately went to check the city’s agenda, noting an item to “consider a resolution adopting revised and updated City of Lubbock City Council Rules.”

You can view the City’s agenda for the June 28 meeting here.

Mayor Tray Payne told those in attendance the change did not have to be placed on the council’s Tuesday agenda in the first place. Payne referenced a special meeting of the city council on June 16, where one agenda item included discussing start times for regular sessions. According to the city’s website, video of the June 16 special meeting is not currently available, but you can view the agenda here.

Multiple members of the city council said the change would help city staff. Payne said the meeting time change will save the city from paying as much overtime.

District 1 Councilmember Christy Martinez-Garcia noted the shift will “bring a change to the morale of city staff.”

Recently-elected Mayor Payne said if the new time doesn’t increase engagement from the public and efficiency at the city, as they hope it will, it can always be moved back; but after a decade, they continue to see the same few citizens participating.

“The definition of insanity, which we’ve all heard, is doing the same thing over and over and over again with no different result,” Payne stated. “And for 10 years we’ve done this expecting people were just going to show up after 5 o’clock because that’s when they get off work.”

Citizen Larry Simmons, who’s served on several boards over the years, told the council he understands their frustration with people not coming out to meetings, but he urged them to put efforts into getting citizens more involved, as opposed to trying to “streamline” the council.

The city has changed starting times for regular session meetings four times over the course of 10 years.

After a history of regular City Council meetings starting early in the morning, Former Mayor Glen Robertson called for evening meetings in his 2012 election campaign, to make them more accessible to the working public.

Robertson again changed regular sessions from 6:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., saying the time change helped Council “make better decisions” and solved “logistical problems.”

In January 2019, under Former Mayor Dan Pope, regular sessions were moved again from Thursdays at 5:15 p.m., to Tuesdays at 4:30 p.m. Pope said the change would allow early meeting proceedings to be completed sooner, without “affecting accessibility” for citizens.

District 6 Councilmember Latrelle Joy has been on the council since 2012, through each time change of the past three mayors. She said she has observed that whether people show up for meetings largely depends on the issue being discussed. She added that satisfying everyone all the time is impossible.

Brad Burt is a reporter for KTTZ, born and raised in Lubbock. He has made a point to focus on in-depth local coverage, including civic and accountability reporting. Brad's professional interest in local journalism started on set as a member of the technical production team at KCBD Newschannel 11 before becoming a digital and investigative producer.
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