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City of Mercedes scraps public comment during city meetings, opts for online forum

The city of Mercedes has rid of their public comment forum during city meetings and some residents at Tuesday’s meeting were not on board.

The city of Mercedes has rid of their public comment forum during city meetings and some residents at Tuesday’s meeting were not on board.

“I think people should be able to have an opinion,” said Mercedes resident Yesenia De La Rosa.

The council says they decided to create a ‘Report a Concern’ tab on the city’s website where residents can submit a wide range of concerns.

“I know there is mixed feelings from the public because it is a change, but I would just encourage to consider this change as a positive step in the right direction,” said Mercedes Interim City Manager Sergio Zavala.

Under the Texas Open Meetings Act, cities are not necessarily required to have a public comment forum.

“But, many times they do want to have it so they can get public input and so citizens can have their say,” said Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas Executive Director Kelley Shannon.

Zavala says the city made the move in order for residents to easily make inquiries from the comfort of their home.

“Some of them may not be able to come to the city commission meetings during that given time of public forum,” said Zavala.

“At least they are trying to get input in some form or fashion, so it’s not a bad thing," Shannon said. "It’s even better if the people can comment at a meeting where their elected officials are there and listening.”

The city says they are keeping a close eye on the new online feature and monitoring whether the public forum needs to be brought back.

“If what we did is not being fair to our citizens and to our residents and things are falling through the cracks, absolutely. Our job is to make sure all people are heard within our community,” added Guajardo.

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