Covered by Documenter Alicia Moreland (live-tweets)
Laying down the law
Cleveland City Council members gathered to discuss possible changes to public comment.
Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin kicked off the meeting by reminding people that although everyone was welcome to attend, this meeting would not be used for community feedback.
Griffin said he is concerned about how contentious and disruptive public comment has been during the last few City Council meetings. That includes repeated protests from residents in the wake of Israel’s war on Gaza, though some council members expressed concerns about non-Cleveland residents giving public comment.
Griffin shared a draft of the proposed public comment changes with everyone in the meeting. One example: Public comment would be limited to “one item currently under consideration by City Council.” That was defined as an item that has been introduced, is pending or being discussed by all or part of council.
Proposed rules could also limit comments that are “frivolous, repetitive or harassing in nature.” Those terms were not defined in the draft.
Although the First Amendment applies to public comment, speech may be restricted, according to Rachel Nigro Scalish, a lawyer representing City Council. Unlike a street corner where free speech isn’t supposed to be restricted, the government can choose to limit public comment because it is not a true public forum.
Public comment pushback
Council members Rebecca Maurer, Ward 12, and Brian Kazy, Ward 16, opposed new restrictions on public comment. Maurer shared concerns that the changes to public comment seem punitive. Kazy suggested moving public comment to the end of City Council meetings.
Griffin and Ward 1 Council Member Joe Jones cited safety concerns and decorum as reasons for revisiting the rules of public comment.
Maurer challenged them by saying that the changes make it seem as though City Council is afraid of residents and what they have to say.
Council didn’t vote on the new rules.
Read the live-tweet thread from Documenter Alicia Moreland:
Council is considering new rules limiting public commenters to city business. Public comment sessions have become a flashpoint at Monday night meetings.