Nov 15, 2023 - Politics

Cleveland City Council considers tightening public comment rules

Illustration of Cleveland City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Only two years after a citizen-led campaign pressured Cleveland City Council into allowing public comment at its Monday evening meetings for the first time in history, the council is considering restrictions to public comment.

Driving the news: At a standing-room-only caucus Monday, the council discussed limiting public remarks to matters actively under consideration by the body.

Context: The discussion comes on the heels of consecutive weeks of pro-Palestine supporters flooding council chambers and calling out Mayor Justin Bibb and Council President Blaine Griffin for their pro-Israel stances.

  • Plus: Last month, Griffin cut off the mics of two commenters, one of whom was reading a list of contributions from the Council Leadership Fund, a PAC Griffin controls, to sitting council members.

The latest: Council members did not vote Monday, but they may decide to tighten the rules by month's end. Griffin said he wants to ensure "safe, productive meeting[s] with decorum."

The other side: Councilwoman Rebecca Maurer strongly opposed the rule changes and said restricting comments would not affect questions of safety.

  • "[Changing the rules] looks like this council running scared from residents who are coming to speak forcefully before us on issues that matter to them," she said. "I think it's honestly disrespectful to our residents to be having this discussion after weeks of booked-out public comment."

Meanwhile, Andrew Geronimo, director of the First Amendment Clinic at Case's law school, attended Monday's meeting and said he was disappointed in the discussion.

  • "There was a lot of talk in the room about respect. We've been trying to tell council — you can't just regulate speech based on the viewpoint of whether it's respectful or not," he told Cleveland Scene. "You can't ban criticism of yourself as a government official and allow praise."

Go deeper: The Israel-Hamas conflict hits city halls

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