Changes made to public comments at Homewood meetings

New procedures for Homewood residents wishing to address their village board will apply after an ordinance was approved at the Oct. 10 meeting.
 
Residents will be limited to three minutes for comments, which can be extended if the chair deems it necessary. Persons making comments must be “respectful and avoid obscene or insulting statements, the impugning of motives and disruptive or repetitive statements,” the ordinance says. 
 
Board members may question commenters after they are finished speaking.
 
The public comment portion of any meeting will be limited to 30 minutes for any matter not listed on that day’s agenda. 
 
Village Manager Jim Marino told the H-F Chronicle that the Illinois Attorney General has told municipalities that boards and committees need to adopt rules for public comment. 
 
“This is why it is being done now,” Marino said. “All municipalities must do this.”
 
Village Attorney Chris Cummings, who drafted the ordinance, said the new rules were an update only meant to reflect of the state’s open meetings laws. Previously, Homewood had no official rules for comments at meetings in the village code.
 
"Although the village of Homewood always has provided for public comment at Village Board meetings, this is the first time it has adopted a policy making it official," Cummings said.
 
Town and school boards often update or enact public comment guidelines in an attempt to rein in the number or length of comments made at meetings. This hasn’t been an issue in Homewood, where residents are invited to speak at least twice during each village board session.
 
The Chicago City Council attempted to limit public comments to committee meetings last year but Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane Joan Larsen ruled in December that that was a violation of state statute.
 
The ordinance also provides new rules for recording meetings. As policy, the village aims to “cooperate with representatives of the media and with other members of the public who wish to record public meetings by tape, film or other means, provided said recording does not disrupt the meeting.” 
 
The village may designate a specific physical area for recording equipment or “take other steps” to make sure recording doesn’t disrupt a meeting. 
 
The new ordinance also allows the village to prevent anyone from recording any audience member who doesn’t wish to be recorded. Code also allows the village to limit or prevent any recording that may disrupt a meeting.
 
In addition, closed meetings can’t be recorded outside of the existing rules in the Illinois Open Meetings Act. 

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