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Tensions rise as Des Moines City Council adopts new rules

Indira Sheumaker was the lone "no" vote Monday night. She said she feels the rule change is an attempt to silence her.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Tensions flared at the Des Moines City Council meeting Monday night as councilmembers adopted new rules on how meetings will operate.

The council voted to approve the new rules almost unanimously, with Indira Scheumaker casting the only "no" vote.

Previously, all actions requiring a vote had to be moved by one councilmember. Now, two councilmembers must move to vote, a change that Connie Boesen and Josh Mandelbaum spoke out in favor of.

"The biggest change was a second for a motion to act—not to speak just a motion to act—and that is something councilmember Boesen... we have been talking about since we both joined the council," Mandelbaum said.

Scheumaker said she feels the changes are a way to silence her.

"I feel like my voice is being suppressed intentionally... for them to not have to vote on the motions that I would make, and I feel like it's being done so they don't have to go on record to not support things that are popular," Scheumaker said.

Other community members also voiced concerns.

"This is the largest rule change in the history of the council," said one community member in attendance. "When the council was all white, any councilmember can make a motion. Now that there is a Black member on our council, it requires two—this means our only councilmember of color can't do anything for her constituents unless a white person cosigns it."

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The new rules also specify councilmembers should "maintain a courteous tone and avoid interjecting any personal note into debate" and sets a five-minute limit on councilmember remarks. An addition to Rule 37 also says a councilmember cannot speak on more than four items without "the approval of a majority of the council."

The new rules also define which members of the public (city residents, property owners and taxpayers) can request to speak on agenda items. The maximum number of speaker requests was increased from 20 to 30 and the duration increased from 40 minutes to an hour.

RELATED: Iowa legislators respond to Gov. Reynolds' 2022 agenda | 'This Week in Iowa'

Read the full text of the rules below (changes in blue):

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