Iroquois Co. (ECWd) -
With malfeasance and corruption infecting our local governments across this country we find those elected to service have forgotten the fact we are a Constitutional Republic. Our form of government protects certain rights We The People have.
Our First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. Those are all protected rights we possess under our Constitution and when we fail to understand those basic rights and flip them upside down, we are in trouble as a society.
What does this have to do with Iroquois County?
They seem to have forgotten our Constitutional right to petition our government. They have adopted a public comment policy that is not compliant with the Open Meetings act but more importantly failed to acknowledge the people's rights.
From their policy:
- Citizens making public comments shall respect the privilege and refrain from the use of inappropriate language, innuendos, or other offensive actions or gestures.
The public has a Right, not a privilege to speak to their elected officials. This is the most fundamental right We The People have and it's high time they learn this. In addition, the Open Meetings act could not be any clearer on this matter.
- 5 ILCS 120 Sec. 2.06. Minutes; right to speak
Note that it makes no mention that speaking is a privilege. When we allow our public officials to take the position they are providing us a privilege to address them, we have lost our country.
From their policy:
- The chairman may deny a citizen’s request to speak if the individual has addressed the Board on the same subject within the past two months.
- The public comment time is not a question and answer session and Board members are not obligated to respond to any comments or questions. Citizens who wish to speak with individual Board members are encouraged to directly contact Board members before or after an open meeting to discuss Board issues.
Any attempt to restrict how many times a person wishes to address their government on a matter of importance to them is a violation of our 1st Amendment. If I believe a stop sign is needed at my intersection then I have every right to bring that position to the public officials at every meeting in hopes of convincing them to act accordingly. They can not restrict my efforts to change their minds, meeting after meeting, year after year!
As far as the public comment time not being a question and answer session, they are correct as far as it relates to the Open Meetings Act. However, they are required to provide a time at every regular and special meeting, separate from the Open Meetings Act requirement, to permit employees and citizens to ask questions of the board. The legislative intent was to get answers and although they may not be required to answer them on the spot, they are required to get them answers.
- 55 ILCS 5/2-1001 - At each regular and special meeting which is open to the public, members of the public and employees of the county shall be afforded time, subject to reasonable constraints, to comment to or ask questions of the board.
May we suggest the entire County Board and their legal counsel, the State's Attorney, review some 1st amendment case law and get better informed that the people have rights, not privileges, when it comes to holding their local officials accountable.