Speaking up during public comment time at Evanston City Council meetings could become more challenging for citizens if aldermen adopt a proposal floated at a meeting this week.
Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, asked at Wednesday night’s Rules Committee meeting that the aldermen schedule a discussion for their Aug. 1 Rules Committee meeting of how officials might regularly respond to “non-factual” comments made by citizens.
Under current council rules, aldermen are expected to listen, but not respond, to what residents say during their alloted three minutes or less of speaking time during the citizen comment period.
But on several occasions recently — notably when failed 7th Ward aldermanic candidate Kevin O’Connor claimed that the city is bankrupt and that officials had worked out a secret deal to sell the golf course and Chandler-Newberger Center to Northwestern University — aldermen and city staff did respond, denying O’Connor’s claims.
“When we’re silent,” Burrus said, “that’s acquiescence that makes people in the audience think we agree with what’s being said.”
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, suggested that rather than having aldermen respond, that the city manager could be asked to correct statements that are not factual.
Left unmentioned, at least this week, is what adding responses might do to the total time spent on the public comment period, now limited to 45 minutes per meeting, or whether citizens would have the opportunity to respond to the attacks on their veracity.
Top: Kevin O’Connor, speaking during the citizen comment period at a recent City Council meeting.