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July 20, 2024

Bloomington – a survey of public comment policies –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On July 7, 2015

Bloomington, IL. (ECWd) –
I recently conducted a survey of cities similar in size to Bloomington, IL., including cities in Illinois with a population of between 58,000 and 108,000 residents. Bloomington has 76,610 according to the 2010 census, and falls in the middle range of this survey. So this is a good sample of various municipalities.
The public comment rules below indicate what was written and established in their posted city codes, and what is annotated in the meeting agendas. Please notice the complete absence of the restriction(s) currently employed by Bloomington, Normal, and McLean County.
Of the 12 municipalities surveyed, eight had a three minute per speaker time limit, three had a five minute per speaker time limit, and one had no time limit.
Five municipalities had public comments at general comment time and at each agenda item, and none (other than Bloomington) asked for advanced notice of any kind.
Only two municipalities stated any total comment time limits, Decatur (15 min)(with additional agenda comment time) and Evanston (45 min).
Although not noted below, only one municipality restricted comment subjects, and it was stated as no “political candidate advocacy” during public comment time.
Elgin – 3 min. – sign up prior to meeting
Waukegan – 3 min.
Cicero – 3 min.
Champaign (City) – 5 min. (on a topic) AND 5 min. during open comment session
Decatur – 3 min. – 15 min. time limit (general comments) AND 3 min. agenda item comments
Arlington Heights – 3 min. (general comments) AND 3 min. at agenda item
Evanston – 3 min./15 min. total if 5 or fewer speakers – if > 5 speakers, then 45 min. total
Schaumburg – 3 min. – may modify rules to PROMOTE participation
Bolingbrook – 3 min.
Palatine – No time limit – Anyone on agenda item AND general comments
Skokie – 5 min.
Des Plaines – 5 min. non-agenda AND 5 min. agenda item
Mclean County and the City of Normal were not surveyed as they did not fall within the municipality population similar to Bloomington, and even if they were, they would be considered outliers, and are in violation of the Open Meetings Act with the stated restrictions imposed that are not designed to enhance public participation.
Now to the June 22, 2015 Bloomington City Council Meeting:
At approximately  the 55:44 mark in the below video, Mayor Renner talked about public comment and went on for more than 4 1/2 minutes about everything that did not pertain to the statutory requirement of having public comment time during all public meetings. Not once did he acknowledge the citizens have a RIGHT to speak at all open public meetings in Illinois. Listening to him, one would get the impression he is somehow advocating for public comment, which is simply not the case.
At 1 hour and 15 minutes, the city attorney explained how he came to the proposed ordinance – it was tabled. All I heard were excuses of why it was too hard to comply with state law, while claiming these new rules would be helpful and not hinder public comments.
At 1:06:45, the council discusses the proposed ordinance, and it is quite obvious the Mayor was attempting to force its passage.
At 1:28:50, Alderwoman Hauman stated that she did some research on cities similar in size to Bloomington and that “it runs the gammut” of between 3 and 5 minutes. She failed to state that none of them have any further restrictions nor a requirement to provide any advanced notice. As I showed above, only 2 of the 12 municipalities I surveyed had any overall public comment time limits – one was 15 minutes (with additional agenda item comment time) and one was 45 minutes.
Bloomington’s proposed public comment ordinance can be found on pages 196 thru 202 of this board packet.

I suggest that the City of Bloomington adopt a new public comment policy that consist of  a 3 or 5 minute time limit per person, with a 30, 45 or 60 minute overall time limit – 30 minutes should be the minimum for a city the size of Bloomington. No other rules are needed.

BloomingtonMaorRennerScratchingHead (WinCE)

Renner scratching head over public comment rules


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