The day is finally here: After passing legislation allowing public comment, city council posted the signup form this week. Residents who wish to speak can sign up for a three-minute speaking slot beginning Wed., Sept. 29 at noon for the Monday, Oct. 4 meeting.
As The Land reported back in March when the push for public comment really got rolling, except for the period from 1924-1932, when the city was under a city manager form of government without an elected mayor, Cleveland City Council has never given residents an opportunity to speak, according to city archivist Chuck Mocsiran. (This explainer from Cleveland Documenters explains it all.)
The push for public comment started years ago, but began to gain traction this year as the mayoral race heated up. One of the comments reporters at The Land hear most frequently, whether it’s through our on-the-ground reporting, our Ask The Land program, or community surveys, is that Clevelanders want more transparency and accountability in local government. Activists feel allowing public comment is a key part of that.
In January, the group Clevelanders for Public Comment sent a letter to city council president Kevin Kelley asking him to sign onto legislation allowing public comment at council meetings. Kelley didn’t directly respond at first, but after the media started paying attention and it became a political talking point, he signed on — and even claimed he “got it done” at the first mayoral primary debate.
Ultimately, activists didn’t get everything they wanted out of this legislation. For example, they asked council to create a transparent, public process for comment at committee meetings, which is where legislation is debated and discussed. Currently, residents who wish to speak at committee meetings must appeal to committee chairpeople, who can deny their request. The signup process is not listed on the council website, and as Documenters noted, in practice, citizens almost never provide comment at committee meetings.
City council leaders such as Kelley have long defended the way committee meetings are held, arguing that there is already ample opportunity for public comment at ward meetings, block club meetings, and through local community development corporations.
Public comment sign-up starts Wednesday, Sept 29 at noon and closes at 2 pm on Monday, Oct. 4 for next week’s council meeting. Early registrations are not accepted. Click this link for more info: https://clevelandcitycouncil.org/news-resources/public-comment.
Sign up for Cleveland City Council updates here: https://cityofcleveland.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx
Lee Chilcote is editor of The Land.
Keep our local journalism accessible to all
Reader support is crucial as we continue to shed light on underreported neighborhoods in Cleveland.
Will you become a monthly member to help us continue to produce news by, for, and with the community?