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Folks who like to bend the ears of Evanston aldermen about items that aren’t on the City Council’s agenda may soon have to stay up later on Monday nights.

Padma Rao speaking at the Monday, March 26, City Council meeting against the Kendall rezoning decision made a year earlier (from the YouTube video).

Folks who like to bend the ears of Evanston aldermen about items that aren’t on the City Council’s agenda may soon have to stay up later on Monday nights.

The City Council’s Rules Committee tonight is scheduled consider a proposal from city staff to add 15 more minutes to the 45 minutes allocated for citizen participation at City Council meetings.

But the additional time would come at the end of the meeting, after all other business is concluded.

And, if the revisions are adopted, the time at the start of the meeting would be reserved for people speaking on topics that are on that night’s council agenda.

Aldermen would also be free to respond with follow-up comments, feedback and discussion during the new “citizen forum” at the end of the meeting.

The rules that now limit aldermen to “requests for information, referrals to the appropriate committee, or to the City Manager for response” would continue to apply to the citizen comment period at the start of the meeting.

The proposal is the latest effort to address concerns about off-agenda comments by speakers at council meetings.

In one example of behavior that’s prompted the proposed rules revisions, two speakers have shown up at every council meeting for the past year to complain at length about the council’s vote on March 28, 2011, to approve rezoning for the former Kendall College property that may result in some trees on the site being removed to permit construction of single family homes.

They’ve pledged to keep occupying six minutes of the council’s time at every meeting untl the council reverses its vote.

Related stories

‘Truth squad’ for citizen comments?

Aldermen eye codifying citizen comment rules

Related documents

Existing city councl rules on citizen comment (.pdf)

Staff memo with proposed rule changes (.pdf)

Related video

Citizen comment from the March 26 City Council meeting (YouTube)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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2 Comments

  1. Limiting speach at the council meeting maybe a problem

    On the surface this proposal is simple, you speak on an agenda topic,  So I speak on Trader Joes, and raise questions, does that prohibit me from speaking on where in the budget they are funding it from since that is not an agenda topic?  When I am questioning Trader Joes does that mean I can't say anything about the overall finanical picture of the city? 

    In one sense they are trying to limit what people say.

    Do they stop me from speaking and tell me speak at the end?

    I do welcome the exchange from the council, most of the time one wonders if they hear what you are saying. 

    One also wonder if at the end they will all get up and leave, and let the citizens speak to empty seats?

    Also does that mean people, can first speak to an agenda topic, then speak at the end again, thus they now have six minutes versus three, although the rule has never been clear.

    Is the city creaing this to improve the meetings or limit citizens speach, it does have one good point at the end of the meeting, if you do like the actions they voted on you can tell them, But I suspect some of them are going to get up and leave.

     

  2. Again

    1. Aldermen are not supposed to respond during citizen comment for a reason, and so creating a "citizen forum" where they respond is ridiculous. No need to allow or even encourage some of the more embarassing displays that I have already seen occur between public servants and private individuals at these meetings. The public servants should sit and listen, that's the job. If they don't like it, don't run again. 

    2. Making the "citizen forum" after the meeting robs the whole point of discourse, if the items on the agenda are passed without any discussion but what is narrowly related to them, we lose the point that everything in this city fits and works together. 

    3. Executive session adds a certain length of time past the "end" of the meeting, is that included in the proposal to the Rules Committee tonight? If it is, there is no way people will stay until after midnight to speak off-topic except the people like Padma Rao who are extremely dedicated. So if the goal of this proposal is to move the goalposts on people like Ms. Rao, not to say anything about how disgusting it is that neighbors and fellow community members can't just accept that when they take office people will protest them, does the council really think that the extremely motivated will give up? Or will they be the ONLY type of person who stays for these "citizen forums" at midnight?

    This is a solution in search of a bigger problem. Just sit and listen for six minutes and get on with the meeting. It's the right and respectful thing to do. 

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