Sam Allard / Scene
Ward 15 Councilwoman Jenny Spencer speaks in favor of adding a public comment period at Cleveland City Council meetings, (4/12/21).
Ward 1 Cleveland City Councilman Joe Jones and Ward 9 Councilman Kevin Conwell have joined seven of their colleagues as supporters and co-sponsors of forthcoming legislation that would institute a regular 30-minute public comment period at City Council meetings.
The legislation, crafted by Cleveland resident Jessica Trivisonno and pursued by a coalition of organizers and activists across town, now appears to have majority support from the city legislature. With its new co-sponsors, the ordinance also enjoys more balanced support from representatives on both the west and east sides of the city.
Jones and Conwell join Kerry McCormack (Ward 3), Basheer Jones (Ward 7), Mike Polensek (Ward 8), Jasmin Santana (Ward 14), Jenny Spencer (Ward 15), Brian Kazy (Ward 16), and Charles Slife (Ward 17), all of whom appeared at a press conference last week promoting the legislation.
Councilwoman Jenny Spencer characterized public comment as a partial antidote to low civic engagement in Cleveland. "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," she said. "We can implement public comment, and we should implement public comment."
Trivisonno's ordinance was modeled after legislation in peer cities. (Cleveland is an extreme outlier in its persistent refusal
to allow residents to speak at public meetings.) It would create a 30-minute comment period at Monday evening council meetings and at committee hearings, where comment is theoretically already allowed, but where there exists no formal process for signing up.
Under the new law, those wishing to comment may sign up in advance via a form that would be available online and in hard copy. Each commenter would be permitted to speak for a maximum of three minutes until the 30-minute allotment expired. As proposed, those who sign up but are unable to speak due to time constraints would be given priority at the following meeting.
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