Proposed Ordinance Language

ORDINANCE NO XXX-2021

By Council Member:

AN ORDINANCE
To supplement the Codified Ordinances of Cleveland, Ohio, 1976, to enact new Section 111.10 related to public comment at City Council and Committee meetings

WHEREAS, the Charter of the City of Cleveland directs City Council to determine its own rules and order of business; and

WHEREAS, a democratic government requires the informed and active participation of the public; and

WHEREAS, public comment is a standard procedure at City Council and Committee meetings in Ohio; and

WHEREAS, the continued absence of public comment at City Council and Committee meetings will perpetuate disengagement of Cleveland residents; and

WHEREAS, City Council recognizes the value of public comment and wants to permit public comment at City Council and Committee meetings and hearings.

BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CLEVELAND:

Section 1. That the Codified Ordinances of Cleveland, Ohio, 1976, are supplemented by enacting new Section 111.10 to read as follows:

Section 111.10 Public Comment

  • (a) City Council shall permit public comment at each regular City Council meeting and at each Committee meeting and Committee hearing.
    • (1) Public Comment at regular City Council meetings. At the start of each regular Council meeting, Council shall provide a public comment period for members of the public to address Council on any agenda items and subjects that concern the legislative, administrative, or public affairs of the City. The public comment period shall end when every individual signed up to provide a public comment has provided their comment or after thirty (30) minutes, whichever occurs first. Council may vote to extend the duration of the public comment period during a Council meeting. Each person may address Council for up to three (3) minutes.
      • (A) The public comment period shall not begin until a quorum of Council members are present and quorum shall be maintained for the duration of the public comment period.
      • (B) Any person who wants to address Council during the public comment period must complete a public comment form and file it with the Clerk of Council. The public comment form must be accessible to the public both in English and in Spanish and online and in hard copy and will request the name, address, and organization (if applicable) of the person addressing Council, whether the person addressing Council requests language interpretation and the language to be interpreted, whether the person addressing Council requests accessibility accommodation and the accommodation requested, and the subject of the comment. A person may file their public comment form starting one week before they wish to address Council until the scheduled start of the Council meeting. Any material or information to be distributed to Council must be submitted with the public comment form. The Clerk of Council shall indicate the time of receipt and the order in which public comment forms were received.
      • (C) The Presiding Officer shall recognize and introduce members of the public in the order in which their public comment forms were received by the Clerk of Council, with city of Cleveland residents first recognized and introduced and non-residents of the city of Cleveland subsequently recognized and introduced. People addressing Council must limit their comment to the subject indicated on the public comment form submitted to the Clerk of Council. Those who timely submitted their public comment form to the Clerk of Council but are unable to address Council during the public comment period due to an expiration of the public comment period will have first priority to address Council at the next Regular Council meeting.
      • (D) People addressing Council shall maintain the order of the meeting, and shall not engage in any conduct that disrupts, disturbs, or otherwise impedes Council’s ability to conduct its business. The Presiding Officer maintains discretion to preserve the order and decorum of the Council meeting during the public comment period, so long as that discretion is exercised without regard to the particular viewpoint being expressed. The Presiding Officer will give one warning to the person addressing Council if the Presiding Officer determines that the person addressing Council is not following the requirements of this Subsection. If the requirements of this Subsection continue to be violated after one warning, the Presiding Officer may terminate the violator’s opportunity to comment for the remainder of the meeting. Violators may still express their opinion in a written submission to Council.
      • (E) Individuals may make comment at City Council meetings once every thirty (30) days. In the event an individual files a public comment form with the Clerk of Council to comment at a Council meeting within fewer than 30 days from their prior comment at a Council meeting, that individual will be recognized but not introduced.
    • (2) Public Comment at Committee meetings and Committee hearings. Members of the public are encouraged to comment on matters relevant to the Committee purpose during meetings and hearings of the various Committees of Council.
      • (A) Any person who wants to address a Committee must complete a public comment form and file it with the Clerk of Council. The public comment form must be accessible to the public both online and in hard copy and will request the name, address, and organization (if applicable) of the person addressing the Committee and the subject of the comment. A person may file their public comment form starting one week before they wish to address the Committee until the scheduled start of the Committee meeting or hearing. Any material or information to be distributed to the Committee must be submitted with the public comment form. The Clerk of Council shall indicate the time of receipt and the order in which public comment forms are received.
      • (B) People who wish to address a Committee agenda item may do so for up to three (3) minutes. The comment time limit may be changed for an individual Committee meeting or hearing at the discretion of the Chair as long as the length of time for public comment is uniform for all members of the public for a particular agenda item.
      • (C) People wishing to comment on a Committee agenda item must limit their comment to addressing the agenda item indicated on the public comment form submitted to the Clerk of Council. The Chair may group comments at various times during the Committee meeting or hearing based on the agenda item and will recognize comments in the order the public comment forms were received by the Clerk of Council.
      • (D) The Chair may determine whether those addressing agenda items will comment before or after Committee members have had the opportunity to discuss the agenda item.
      • (E) People addressing a Committee shall maintain the order of the meeting, and shall not engage in any conduct that disrupts, disturbs, or otherwise impedes the Committee’s ability to conduct its business. The Chair maintains discretion to preserve the order and decorum of the Committee meeting, so long as that discretion is exercised without regard to the particular viewpoint being expressed. The Chair will give one warning to the person addressing the Committee if the Chair determines that the person addressing the Committee is not following the requirements of this Subsection. If the requirements of this Subsection continue to be violated after one warning, the Chair may terminate the violator’s opportunity to comment for the remainder of the meeting. Violators may still express their opinion in a written submission to the Committee.
  • (b) Council shall not make any rule eliminating the provision for public comment at Council meetings or Committee meetings and hearings as set forth in Section (a). Council may vary the specific requirements set forth in Sections (a)(1) or (a)(2) by issuing Council rules approved by Council.

Section 2. That this section shall take effect and be in full force from and after the earliest period allowed by law.

This proposed ordinance was prepared by Jessica Trivisonno. For an explanation of the provisions and comparison to similar cities and public bodies, please read the explainer document. If you have any questions or suggestions please e-mail jess.trivisonno@gmail.com

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