On an early September evening, about a dozen neighbors gathered in the backyard of Phil and Christina Buck on Cleveland’s west side for a meet-and-greet with City Council president and mayoral candidate Kevin Kelley. The candidate, dressed casually in a short-sleeve shirt and leaning forward in his lawn chair, listened intently as an Ohio City resident complained about absentee landlords.
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Cleveland City Council is set to vote Wednesday, August 18th on a rules change allowing the Clerk of Council to establish rules and procedures for public comment at its meetings. The vote follows months of public debate and wrangling about the need for public comment, intensified by pressure from advocacy groups amidst the elections. All 17 council seats are up for grabs this fall, and council president Kevin Kelley is running for mayor.
For years, advocacy groups have requested public comment at Cleveland City Council meetings and a more straight-forward process for commenting at Council committee meetings. City Council seems closer to adopting public comment than ever before, but we need to keep paying attention and pushing them to adopt a public comment policy that is inclusive, transparent, and fair.
At gatherings of Cleveland City Council, members of the public are not allowed to address the council. A group called Citizens for Public Comment is trying to change that in the run-up to the 2021 elections, hoping to foster public participation in decision making at a time when the mayoral race, and all 17 council seats, are up for grabs.