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The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office has rejected a challenge to restrictions on citizen comment at Evanston City Council meetings.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office has rejected a challenge to restrictions on citizen comment at Evanston City Council meetings.

The complaint was filed by Padma Rao who, along with her mother B.K. Rao, has spent the past two years complaining at length at almost every council meeting about the impact on trees of the council’s 2011 decision to rezone the former Kendall College property for single-family homes as well as a variety of other issues.

In a letter received this week by city officials, an assistant to State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez writes that the rules established by the City Council “are reasonable and permit the Council to run its meetings efficiently while still giving members of the public the right to participate in the meetings.”

Those rules limit public comment to a maximum of 45 minutes per meeting and allocate the time proportionately among the people wishing to speak, with a maximum limit of three minutes per speaker if there are fewer than 15 speakers.

The rules also limit comment to items within the jurisdiction of the council as determined by the mayor.

The letter from the state’s attorney’s office cites court decisions in other communities that upheld three-minute time limits per speaker and that limited comment to subjects on the meeting agenda.

It concludes that the City Council’s rules and the enforcement of them do not violate the state’s Open Meetings Act.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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7 Comments

    1. What are you talking about?

      What are you talking about, nobody is afraid to let her speak, in fact everybody has heard her speak, over and over and over and over and over, ad nauseum 

      Same rude repetitive nonsense every time, no respect for anyone or anything else. They shouldn't just be timed out, they should be barred from ever showing up again. Pure pubic nuisance. 

    2. Letter-writing campaign or YouTube videos?

      Agreed. No one is afraid to let Ms. Rao or her mother speak. They have been doing it for years and their position on a single issue has been rejected. Why should others be prevented from speaking because these two women are on a mission to hog the microphone (and camera for TV coverage) at every meeting when their issue has been discussed and deliberated ad nauseum. 

      Here's a suggestion for Ms. Rao and her mother:  if you both remain so passionate about  the sole issue of some trees on a stretch of land, how about a letter-writing campaign?  Write to every government official you can find, every day of the week. But oh so sad — no TV coverage each time that you write a letter. And those nasty stamps cost money. 

      How about this, ladies — YouTube videos?  Get yourself a handheld video camera and tape each other pontificating endlessly about the same trees. Low cost and plenty of face time in front of a camera without the taxpayers paying the cost or endlessly surrendering time as you demand that your mugs appear on TV whenever you want. 

      Either move on to another issue in public comments or beat a dead horse on your own time and nickel. 

  1. Time taken

    Padma takes away time from other people wishing to comment.  To videotape the mayor as the mayor answers her questions is rude and obnoxious.  Not even to mention that this lady and her mother are wasting everyone's time with their precious issue.  There more important Evanston issues to discuss.

  2. Kudos to the Council

    In my view the Rao's are acting like bratty children. Bullies, really. Kudos to the council for standing up to these brats.

  3. Freedom to speak vrs. nusiance

    I'm all for people expressing their views and would agree that the city government many/most times decides what it wants to do and then closes their ears.

    However when parties like this continue to go ater issues long settled and prevent others from speaking, then something has to be done.  Condo/Coop Boards [and I'm sure many others] have a few people that always want to talk and talk and talk and many times that is all they do—never come to meetings that aren't on their topic, never help out or even cooperate with business of the condo/coop, etc..   The 'Condo Lawyer' column in the Trib often said this type of behavior was the number one complaint he got.  He said to tell such people that they are their to listen to the Board who is to make decisions [i admit i'm afraid if the city government took this strongly and prevented comments but then again do they ever listen ?], tell them if they don't participate in the condo business, the Board has necessary business to take care of, and after a fair hearing [single or multiple meetings] to sit down and shut-up.

    When it comes all the business that the city has, some order is needed.  Perhaps like some courts do, impose fines and/or costs of the meeting on those who file and continue to take over meetings with nusiance business. 

    Given how the city government has a "ready, fire, aim" approach to city business [like all its gifts to selected business and zoning], an independent 'judge' would be needed to make such determinations of when steps over the line—probably also including the proceedures by which the Council and all its boards ram through their favorites causes.

  4. Nagging

    Padma will probably keep nagging until she gets her way even though decisions have been made.  Lotsa luck quieting her.

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