In an unexpected move, Cedar Park Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale moved public comments on non-agenda items to the end of Thursday's council meeting.
The move created controversy Monday when it was unclear whether it could impact citizens ability speak, given that meetings often run into the night. Council members Tim Kelly and Dorian Chavez released a statement accusing Van Arsdale of trying to stifle citizen comments, especially since a group of 20 citizens plan to speak at Thursday's meeting.
The agenda still contains an item at the start of the meeting for discussing agenda items.
Van Arsdale clarified late Monday that people were mistaken about the change and citizens wouldn't be required to wait until the end of the meeting to speak. He said he plans to ask at the start whether anyone needs to speak on non-agenda items early and then allow them to speak at that time. As a result, citizens will have their pick of whether they want to speak at the start or end of the meeting.
Van Arsdale said only holding public comments at the start of the meeting can hamstring some citizens who find it difficult to get there in time to sign up, particularly if they work in Austin.
He said he is "experimenting" with ways to make public comments more responsive to citizens and wants to see if offering two opportunities to speak on non-agenda items would be useful. He said he plans to ask the council if it goes well whether they would like to make having public comments at the start and end of the meeting a permanent addition to the agenda.
"I'm not trying to do anything like other local cities that are working hard to reduce and limit citizens' ability to comment...I'm not interested in limiting people's ability to speak," Van Arsdale said.
Kelly and Chavez objected to public comments on non-agenda items at the start of the meeting not being explained in the agenda and instead being left to the mayor's discretion. They argued that it has resulted in some citizens having to hire babysitters because they thought they would have to remain the entire meeting.
"The First Amendment is not concluded by the words 'if it pleases the crown,'" Chavez wrote in a statement.
Kelly said allowing public comments at the start and end of the meeting would be a good way to meet citizens needs. However, he said he doesn't believe this was Van Arsdale's plan prior to receiving criticism.
Van Arsdale said he was looking for ways to make it possible for more people to address the council.
Other agenda items
The council will consider a proposal to authorize a Performance-Based Economic Development Incentive Agreement with MSB Consulting Group, a consulting and web-based software program creator for school districts.
MSB plans to lease a 45,000 square foot space in the Cedar Park Technology Center at Scottsdale Crossing with plans to eventually ramp up to 269 employees with an annual payroll of $16.6 million. Additionally, MSB is planning an capital investment of $2.4 million.
The agreement will offer $1,250 incentive per hired employee up to a total of $336,250 combined. The terms of the agreement will require MSB to lease by Dec. 31, 2020 and be employing 163 employees by that time. MSB will be required to be employing 269 employees by June 30, 2024.
The incentive is projected to have a rate of return of 19 percent with a payback period of 5.5 years.
The council will also discuss several remaining appointments and reappointments to city board seats.
Lastly, the council will consider approving an exception for noise level regulations for the duration of Haute Rock Entertainment's planned upcoming Haute Mess Music Festival.