Joliet is considering limits on comments people can make at meetings of the city council and other city commissions and boards.
The new rules would include limits on the amount of time devoted to public comments at meetings, removing any guarantee that a person can speak if others have used up the allotted time. The public would still have an hour to speak at regular city council meetings.
But the time for public comment at pre-council meetings, which are considered workshop meetings ahead of the regular meeting, would be limited to 30 minutes.
The limits are being proposed as the Joliet Plan Commission is about to hold a public hearing on a proposal from NorthPoint Properties to develop 103 acres for warehouses. A bigger NorthPoint plan to develop 2,000 acres in Elwood drew hundreds of people, as a plan commission hearing there was moved to a school gym and stretched over three nights to accommodate dozens of people speaking against the plan. The new rules on public comment would not be in place before the Oct. 17 plan commission hearing on NorthPoint’s plan for Joliet, City Attorney Martin Shanahan said.
Shanahan said the rule changes on public comment were not prompted by the NorthPoint plan and have been in the works for nearly a year.
“Issues have been identified. This is a way to address them,” Shanahan said.
Issues identified in a staff summary of the proposal include: the potential of groups to “stall city business by dominating the public speaking portion of the meeting,” outbursts such as applause from people attending meetings, and people approaching the podium to speak without being recognized.
The new rules would require people to sign up to speak before the meeting.
Also, the public comment section at the end of meetings would be eliminated. All public comments would be made at the start of meetings or during public hearings on meeting agendas.
The new rules also would give presiding officers the authority to recess meetings if public comment or behavior is deemed disruptive.