Council’s Public-Comment Proposed Rule Falls Short

After seven months of non-stop organizing and advocating for public comment at committee and council meetings, Clevelaned City Council will meet formally Wednesday to vote on a rule that will establish a public comment period at its regular Council meetings.

Some members of Clevelanders For Public Comment (CPC) have been approved by Committee of the Whole Chair Kevin Kelley to comment in person on Wednesday at 9 AM. [As of the publication of this release, at least one member of CPC, Jessica Trivisonno, requested to comment and has not been approved to comment.] CPC members will comment on the deficiencies in both the proposed rule and rule making process.

Council will be voting on a rule that provides a regular public comment period at Council meetings and says public comment will occur “in accordance with the rules and procedures established by the Clerk of Council….” The rules and procedures proposed by the Clerk of Council were outlined in a press release issued by City Council on August 13, but the press release said those rules will not be finalized before the August 18 meeting.

“This opportunity to comment Wednesday morning does nothing to assuage our concerns about residents being locked out of this vital democratic process,” said Nora Kelley, Ward 17 resident. “Especially since council president Kevin Kelley (no relation) has dismissed our well-researched and thorough proposal and has not engaged with our coalition.”

Last week Kevin Kelley issued a watered-down version of CPC’s proposal via press release which the coalition found to be problematic.

“There are two key issues with their proposal,” said Jessica Trivisonno, Ward 3 resident. “The first is that Council is giving up control of public comment rulemaking and delegating it to the unelected Clerk of Council. The second issue is this rule change does nothing to improve the public comment process at committee meetings.”

CPC will advocate that Council members amend the proposed rule to say public comment will occur “in accordance with the rules and procedures established by the Clerk of Council and approved by a majority vote of of Council…” and will continue pushing Council to adopt a fair, transparent process for public comment at committee meetings.

The key differences between the two proposals are:

  • CPC’s proposal provides a process for signing up and commenting at committee meetings. No such process is included in the proposal from the City Council.
  • CPC’s proposal holds 30 minutes for public comment with no limit to how many people may address Council in those thirty minutes. Based on the press release, Council Clerk Britt is proposing to allow 10 commenters who have up to three minutes per person.
  • CPC’s proposal gives anyone who signed up but isn’t able to comment at a Council meeting due to lack of time the privilege of being first-in-line at the next meeting. Based on the press release, Council Clerk Britt is proposing that comments are made on a first-come-first serve basis and individuals need to sign up each week without any rollover from one week to the next.
  • CPC reviewed its proposal for consistency with the First Amendment and with sensitivity around issues of disability, language access, and citizenship.
  • CPC’s proposal allows individuals to comment only on agenda items and subjects that concern the legislative, administrative, and public affairs of the City. Based on the press release, Council Clerk Britt is proposing that people can comment on items not on the agenda, but it’s unclear if there will be any constraints on what can be addressed.

CONTACTS:
Clevelanders for Public Comment
Jessica Trivisonno; 330-322-2284
Nora Kelley; 206-947-0781

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