Evanston aldermen tonight are scheduled to discuss a new ordinanace that would tighten rules for citizen comment during council meetings.
One major change would give the mayor the option to make speakers addressing items not on the council’s agenda wait until after the council has competed its scheduled business for the evening to offer their remarks.
That provision appears to be directed in part at two residents who have for several months now spoken at each council meeting about the preservation of trees on the former Kendall College property, although the issue was no longer on the council’s agenda.
The public comment period now is governed by City Council rules adopted by resolution.
The proposed new ordinance, drafted by Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar, preserves the current limit of 45 minutes for the entire public comment period, the limit of 3 minutes maximum time per speaker and the mayor’s authority to further limit speakers’ time when there are more than 15 speakers to keep the total comment period to 45 minutes.
Perhaps anticipating a legal challenge, the ordinance provides numerous citations to case law supporting the council’s authority to impose such restrictions.
The ordinance also allows the mayor or committee chair to bar “repetitious, irrelevant, profane, slanderous, immaterial or inappropriate comments or testimony.”
And it authorizes “reasonable limitations” on “speakers who impugn the motives of Council members, or who disrupt, disturb, and/or otherwise impede the orderly conduct of a meeting.”
Adds that “Speakers shall not engage in debate with or threaten or personally attack Council, staff, other speakers, members of the audience, or any other person.
It also requires that audience members “not applaud, cheer, or boo” speakers, staff, or council members.
It also encourages residents to submit written comments in addition to or as a substitute for speaking during citizen comment.
And it says that council members shall not respond to speakers comments “except to request information, refer a matter to the appropriate public body, request that the City Manager respond, and/or express a point of personal privilege when his/her integrity character, and/or motives are assailed, questioned, or otherwise impugned by the speaker.”
The Rules Committee meeting at which the proposal is to be discussed is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Aldermanic Library at the Civic Center.
The proposed citizen comment ordinance