Village Board crafting new Public Comment policy

Podgorski will compile survey results and present a draft for discussion

by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (January 22, 2018) – At the January 16 Committee of the Whole meeting, Village Administrator Dan Podgorski summarized the process the Board has been involved in regarding a Public Comment policy. Several months ago he had provided Board members with a sample Public Comment policy and asked for feedback. “It was not really intended to be a draft,” Podgorski explained in his report to the Board, “…but rather just kind of a starting place for us to begin deliberations.”

Not having received much feedback from Board members over the next several weeks, Podgorski’s next step was to survey the Board in November, asking specific questions about Public Comment. When the surveys were returned last week, he summarized the results of the five “most critical” questions:

  1. Do you prefer a time limit be imposed on individuals wishing to address the Village Board? (Current Public Comment practice limits each speaker to five minutes.)
    • Yes, 1 minute
    • Yes, 3 minutes (4 Board members chose this answer)
    • Yes, 5 minutes (3 Board members chose this answer)
    • No time limit
    • Other, please explain

  2. Should there be an overall time limit on the Public Comment section of the agenda regardless of the number of individuals wishing to speak?
    • Yes, 15 minutes (1)
    • Yes, 30 minutes (3)
    • Let the public comment as long as they like (3)

  3. Where should the Public Comment section of the meeting be placed on the agenda?
    • Keep it toward the end (5)
    • Move it to the beginning
    • Place it somewhere else
    • Depends on whether it’s the Committee of the Whole meeting or the regular Board meeting (2)

  4. How should the Board answer questions asked during Public Comment?
    • Always provide an answer during the meeting, no matter the question
    • Attempt to answer a question during Public Comment if possible (7)
    • Automatically defer questions until an appropriate time after the meeting

  5. Should the Board consider publicly posting all questions and answers from Public Comment?
    • No, providing an answer to the questioner is sufficient (4)
    • Yes, we should provide answers to every question for all to see (3)
    • Consider publicly posting answers if several residents are present and essentially asking the same question

Discussion

Trustee Jerry Zeldenrust expressed appreciation for the process of examining the Public Comment policy and found some of the options “intriguing,” particularly the idea of requiring people to submit their questions in advance. Zeldenrust could see the advantage of giving the Board members advance notice so they could come to the meeting prepared with their answers.

Trustee Maureen Grady-Perovich acknowledged the benefits of being able to “do our homework” about an issue prior to a meeting, but in the interest of open communication, she prefers not to force the public to have their topics “pre-authorized” before a meeting. “Sometimes in meetings like this,” said Grady-Perovich, “people have thoughts during the meeting that they might want to bring forward as the topic gets discussed. I wouldn’t want to limit that.”

Grady-Perovich was one of the two Board members who prefer to have Public Comment placed on the agenda where it makes the most sense for open communication. At Committee of the Whole meetings, where new ideas are being presented and discussed, she would like Public Comment to be near the end of the agenda, so people can comment on the discussion they heard during the meeting. At a regular Board meeting, however, Grady-Perovich prefers that Public Comment happen at the beginning of the meeting, so that residents can express opinions about a matter before their Trustees vote.

Zeldenrust also encouraged residents not to wait until Board meetings to express their opinions to Board members: “If it’s an issue that’s pressing, that’s on your heart…we all have emails and telephones. You don’t have to wait for this meeting to make a comment.”

Next steps

Podgorski will use the sample Public Comment policy as a starting point, and he will modify it to reflect the input he’s received so far. He will prepare a draft policy for discussion at the February 6 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Village Board meetings and Committee of the Whole meetings take place at the Municipal Court Complex (the police station) at 2710 170th Street on the first and third Tuesdays of the month.

Lansing residents may express opinions about Public Comment or any other municipal issues by contacting their representatives directly:

 

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3 thoughts on “Village Board crafting new Public Comment policy”

  1. I’ve updated the text above to make it more clear that people can email their Trustees directly from this article. Each Trustee’s name is a link that will open up an email properly addressed.

    Lisa, thanks for providing the link to the Trustee bios as well!

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