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Cleveland City Council Approves Public Comment Rule Change

a photo of Cleveland City Hall
Matt Richmond
Ideastream Public Media
A spokesperson said last week they expect the rule change to be in place by the full council meeting Sept. 20.

Updated: 4:05 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021

Public comment will soon be incorporated into Cleveland City Council meetings. Amendments to council rules allowing people to speak passed Wednesday afternoon.

The two rule changes add public comment to the order of business for meetings and allow anyone to speak, regardless of whether they’re a resident of Cleveland. An additional change requires rule changes like those allowing public comment to be approved by the entire council before implementation.

“It really makes the council members also accountable for these rules in a more direct way, and I think we should be directly involved in approving them,” said Ward 15 Councilwoman Jenny Spencer.

That amendment was brought up as a result of feedback on the rule change from Clevelanders for Public Comment, whose members spoke during a committee meeting earlier in the day.

Public comments will not be limited to current agenda items, but anyone who wants to speak will have to register ahead of the meeting. Under the new rule, the first 10 registered speakers will be allotted three minutes each. The council will also accept written comments.

But the proposal still faced criticism. Many who spoke said they would rather see it implemented as an ordinance, as opposed to a council rule. The rule does not require comment during committee meetings, leaving the decision up to council chairs.

“From the beginning, Clevelanders for Public Comment was advised by council leadership that the real policy making happens in committee,” said Michelle B. Jackson. “One would logically assume, then, that an authentic rule change, versus a campaign talking point, would prioritize public comment at committee meetings.”

An email from council's spokesperson said the second rule change means a delay to the start of public comment until after the full council meeting on September 20.

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