Evanston aldermen Monday voted to shorten the time allocated to public comment at most City Council standing committee meetings. But the plan would still provide nearly two hours for public comment on the main twice-monthly City Council meeting nights.

The plan, hashed out at a meeting of the Rules Committee, still will require approval at a regular City Council meeting to take effect.

The aldermen rejected more dramatic alternatives — including eliminating the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting and applying the 20-minute limit to the Planning and Development Committee.

In addition to the A&PW committee, the new 20-minute limit would apply to meetings of the Rules and Human Services committees, which are held on nights other than the second and fourth Mondays when the two other committee meetings precede the regular City Council meeting.

The new plan would give each speaker at all of the committee meetings a maximum of two minutes speaking time, which would be reduced if more than 10 speakers signed up for a 20-minute block, or more than 22 speakers for a 45-minute block.

That’s less than the three minute time limit at full City Council meetings.

While the plan somewhat shortens the total speaking time, it does nothing to eliminate repetitive comments, as was illustrated Monday when one speaker read the exact same statement at both the Rules Committee meeting and the special City Council session that followed.

Since for the most part all items that appear on the A&PW or P&D agenda are also on the City Council agenda the same night, speakers frequently offer highly similar comments on an agenda item during two of the three meetings.

The aldermen have been trying for a long time to find solutions to avoid having Council meetings run into the late night and early morning hours.

Monday night’s action was also prompted by a ruling last week from the state attorney general’s office that, in the absence of specific time limits in the Council’s rules for the committee meetings, the 45 minute limit specified for full council meetings should be applied to the committee sessions.

The longer time limit for public comment at Planning and Development Committee meetings was chosen because major development projects reviewed by that committee often draw the most public interest among all the issues the Council addresses.

The recent adoption of a consent agenda model by the Administration and Public Works Committee has helped shorten those meetings, and the aldermen Monday voted to move up the scheduled start time for the Planning and Development Committee to 6:45 p.m. from 7:15 p.m. in response to that.

Related story

Aldermen seek to stop burning the midnight oil (3/31/19)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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