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7 Cleveland City Council Members Back Public Comments At Meetings

Michelle Jackson of Clevelanders for Public Comment addresses reporters from the steps of city hall Monday, along with seven city council members. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
Michelle Jackson of Clevelanders for Public Comment addresses news media from the steps of city hall along with seven city council members.

A resident-led campaign to allow public comments at Cleveland City Council meetings picked up endorsements Monday from seven council members.

The effort’s supporters have drafted legislation to allow for 30 minutes of public comment at council’s weekly regular meetings. The legislation also would formalize a process for comment at committee meetings – which is already permitted, but is not a regular occurrence.  

Clevelanders for Public Comment and other advocates for the measure gathered Monday afternoon on the steps of city hall to present the proposal to the media, pitching the idea as a way reinvigorate participation in local government.

“While public comment is not a cure-all, it will contribute to a culture of citizen involvement and engagement, and it will help to build trust between elected leaders and residents,” Ward 15 Councilwoman Jenny Spencer said.

In addition to Spencer, the council members backing the proposal are: Kerry McCormack (Ward 3), Basheer Jones (Ward 7), Mike Polensek (Ward 8), Jasmin Santana (Ward 14), Brian Kazy (Ward 16) and Charles Slife (Ward 17).  

Under the proposed legislation, members of the public would have up to three minutes each, within a 30-minute window, to address city council at its regular Monday night meetings. Commenters would have to file a form ahead of time.

The same process would be in place for committee meetings, although the committee chair would be able to set the time limit for the comment period.

Slife told ideastream the legislation would not be introduced this week, but is coming soon.

“We should be giving an opportunity for residents to talk,” he said, “not just even to city council, but also to the mayor, whoever it is, and the city administration, who are in attendance at all council meetings.”

Council President Kevin Kelley last week said he was “very open” to the idea of public comment, but first it would have to go through a process of study and committee hearings.

“I’m not going to be on council next year,” said Kelley, who is running for mayor rather than reelection in Ward 13. “And it’s going to be for the next council to really live with the consequences of this. So I want to make sure that I’m doing this thoughtfully and coming up with a good decision.”

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.