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July 20, 2024

“Opinions” Not Allowed at Urbana City Council Meetings –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On November 19, 2020

Urbana, IL. (ECWd) –

Reprinted with permission from please visit their website for more information on the Champaign-Urbana area.

The November 16th Urbana City Council meeting brought greater insight into the heavy-handed and poorly defined public speaking rules imposed last month.  Apparently, the rules created by Mayor Diane Marlin which disallow “negative comments”, as well as “abusive”, “harassing”, and “defamatory” language, also make it a violation to express “opinions”.

When Urbana resident Tracy Chong tried to speak about problems with Urbana’s police complaint process, Council member Bill Colbrook (who serves as Police Chief for Parkland College) interrupted her and said that she was “out of order”.  The Chair, Dennis Roberts, responded by telling Chong, “let’s try not to be too opinionated and try to stick to facts, please.”

Just 10 seconds later, after Ms. Chong had attempted to continue speaking, Mayor Marlin interrupted her, exclaiming:

“Mr. Chair, these are opinions.  These are opinions, they are not facts.”  

Ms. Chong was not allowed to finish her statement and Dennis Roberts moved on to the next speaker.  Before doing so, Roberts delivered the following message to Ms. Chong:

“Tracy, you’re doing a little bit better, I think we appreciate your civility.  Perhaps the content is not exactly perfect, but thank you for trying.”

A one minute video of the incident can be seen here:

The Illinois Open Meetings Act (OMA) allows for any person to address public officials at any meeting of a public body.  Check CU cannot find any provision in the OMA that would allow a public body to disallow members of the public from expressing “opinions” at public meetings.

Such a rule would seem to make public input at City meetings either impossible, or pointless.  If a speaker is limited to utterances of only established facts, then members of the public cannot say that they think a particular ordinance or decision by the City would be good or bad, because that would be an expression of the speaker’s opinion.

It also appears that Urbana’s new rules are being applied in a discriminatory fashion.  At the same meeting that Ms. Chong was cutoff, every speaker other than Chong also expressed opinions on various ordinances or issues being good or bad, but they were allowed to speak.

-Christopher Hansen, Urbana

The entire public input session from the November 16th, 2020 Urbana City Council meeting can be seen here:

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    Posted at 12:50h, 19 November Reply

    So I could or could not attend a Urbana city meeting and call some of the members and Mayor possibly all of them that there is video proof of them being complete arrogant, divisive, negative, elected officials that may want to reconsider there next election run for office. They are an embarrassment to the fine city and citizens of Urbana? That is my opinion from reading and viewing information pertaining to their behavior..

  • PK
    Posted at 13:21h, 19 November Reply

    That guy concluded the interruptions of her well-formed commentary with condescension toward her and the public.

    • PK
      Posted at 14:16h, 19 November Reply

      Watch out! A focus group tasked to review the recording could validate opinions of wrongdoing on the part of certain members of Urbana city counsel during public comment…in my opinion, with ease!

  • Michael Hagberg
    Posted at 18:42h, 19 November Reply

    I think she needs to file an OMA complaint with the Attorney General’s office.

    Let the AG issue a ruling compelling the City to obey the law.

  • John K
    Posted at 20:20h, 19 November Reply

    Years ago a Springfield City Council Meeting commenter veered off into a discussion of “pink fuzzy handcuffs” … . The chair stopped the commenting. Do you think this was right or wrong?

  • Dave
    Posted at 12:20h, 20 November Reply

    Sounds like a policy taken from Stalin

  • Nancy Moss
    Posted at 22:14h, 22 November Reply

    How arrogant and condescending they are. Stunning.

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