Evanston aldermen Monday are scheduled to vote on a resolution that would limit the size of signs and how they are displayed at City Council meetings.

At a Rules Committee meeting last month the aldermen directed staff to come up with rules to limit signs, complaining that large signs held by protesters or taped to windows in the Council Chamber block the view of other people attending the meeting.

And they said the displays contribute to a hostile environment at meetings that discourages other residents from participating.

The resolution drafted by staff reads as follows:

6.10 Persons attending the meeting may hold a sign that is 11 X 17 in size; banners or signs that are larger than the stated size will be permitted. The sign may not block the view of other members of the public and cannot be affixed to the walls, windows, or other glass.

That language might be read as prohibiting the holding of any sign other than one exactly 11×17 in size, and it doesn’t specify the unit of measure, although it presumably is inches.

And while the language appears to allow larger signs, it doesn’t specify what might practically be done with them, given that they can’t be held, or be used to block anyone’s view or be attached to walls or windows.

And the language does not explicitly prohibit attaching signs to the wooden dias behind which the aldermen sit, an action that, in practice, has been barred at recent meetings.

In a memo to aldermen for the Rules Committee meeting, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz had suggested the city consider decorum rules adopted by the City Council in Boulder, Colorado, as a possible model.

Those rules provide, at XVI-b-9, that “No sign shall be displayed in council chambers in a manner that blocks the view of another person.”

This image, from a Boulder City Council meeting in May, indicates that the rules there haven’t eliminated signs from meetings — but appear to have trimmed their size — apparently to about the size of a standard 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of paper.

Aldermen Monday are also scheduled to vote on a resolution that would require people who wish to speak during public comment at council meetings to be physically present in the room, barring people from “phoning in” their remarks.

Related stories

Aldermen back sign limits at Council meetings (6/4/19)

Council to discuss new decorum rules (6/1/19)

Who talks about what at public comment? (5/21/19)

Aldermen push for ‘decorum’ in public comments (4/16/19)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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