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).
Cleveland City Council will reportedly vote next week on a rules change that will permit public comment at council meetings, a council spokeswoman has confirmed. If the vote comes to pass, it would be consistent with what council president Kevin Kelley announced last month.
"I've been working with staff on finalizing what the procedure would look like for public comment," he said at the committee of the whole meeting July 14
. "There is a high likelihood, unless something goes way off the rails, that we will be amending our council rules at our August meeting and then going live in September."
But Sunday evening, the grassroots coalition Clevelanders for Public Comment sent an open letter to Kelley seeking to determine the status of the amendment, fearful that plans may have changed, that something may have gone off the rails after all.
"At the July 14th...meeting, you explained that the plan was for Council to hold a final Rules Committee meeting on public comment and then adopt the rule at the August 18 council meeting," the letter read (attached below). "To date, Council has not scheduled a Rules Committee meeting or circulated proposed language for council members to consider."
Nora Kelley, one of the organizers and spokespeople for the Public Comment group, told Scene that they sent the letter, and copied it to every member of city council, after hearing from members that they had not yet seen a draft of the amendment.
Clevelanders for Public Comment regarded the initial proposed rules change as deficient because it failed to establish a sign-up process for committee meetings and would have only allowed comments that pertained to issues on the meeting agenda. (Part of why Clevelanders for Public Comment preferred an ordinance, as opposed to a rules change, was because a new process would be codified in law and not subject to suspension at the whims of future councils. A majority of council members
supported an ordinance as well.)
Nora Kelley told Scene it's crucial that Kevin Kelley doesn't kick the can further down the road.
"We feel really strongly that in the midst of the American Rescue Plan funds being considered by council and the Progressive Field renovations, there could be no more urgent time for public comment," she said. "From a timing perspective, we really feel that this has to happen now."
A spokeswoman for Kelley's mayoral campaign referred us to City Council. A spokeswoman for council wrote in an email that plans had not changed: What's going before council next week will be precisely what Kelley announced in July, a rules change to allow public comment.
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