Printer Friendly Version

Village Vision News

Mayor holds line on new public comment policy at village board meetings

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The new policy regarding the public comment portion of village board meetings came under criticism again at the July 1 Regular Meeting of the Mayor and Board of Trustees.

During the public comment time, which is now restricted to the beginning of each meeting, Forsyth resident and former trustee, Don Van Lyssel, read from a prepared statement.

In part, his statement read that the current “policy of restricting input on an agenda subject that may not be discussed for a considerable amount of time, and not knowing how that discussion will go, therefore putting one in a position of not being able to make appropriate/pertinent comments at the time of discussion, severely restricts my role as a concerned citizen.”

According to Village Attorney Jeff Jurgens, the purpose of the policy change is to be more efficient while allowing the public to continue to be part of the process. Mayor Marilyn Johnson has the discretion to allow public comments at any time during the meeting she deems appropriate.

Jurgens has said previously it is up to the board how it would like to proceed with its own meetings, but he added that having the public enter into the trustees’ discussions of agenda items is very unusual. In essence, public comment being allowed from start to finish of meetings makes for longer meetings, which Mayor Johnson does not believe is the most efficient way to do the people’s business.

The July 1 meeting was 10 minutes short of being three hours long.

“What I’m trying to accomplish is for our meetings to run smoother and not last for three hours,” she said. “This is a business meeting, and some people always want it to be a debate.” She added that the same two or three people are pushing the issue.

In the past, the policy was to allow for public comment on non-agenda items at the beginning of the meeting and again on agenda items as they came up during the meeting. The new policy requires that public comment be confined to the beginning of the meeting only, with those comments limited to three minutes.

Johnson stressed that it is not her desire to discourage public participation, noting that the board’s agenda is made available to the public the Friday prior to each board meeting. It should allow, she said, for plenty of time for public comments to be prepared by anyone interested in speaking at the next meeting.

Van Lyssel, who voiced his disagreement with the new policy at a June board meeting, went on to ask in his statement that the board reconsider “the current policy and that it be placed on a board agenda for future open discussion. I would request that board members express their opinions and then open it up for public input prior to voting.”

In something of an ironic twist, developer Steve Horve, who had missed the public comment section of the meeting, asked to be recognized as trustees discussed the possibility of re-establishing the hotel/motel tax. Horve’s request to speak during discussion of an agenda item goes against the new public comment policy.

Mayor Johnson pondered Horve’s request for several seconds before granting him time to speak. Following Horve’s comments, several other residents asked to speak on the same topic, including Van Lyssel, who briefly reiterated the point of his earlier statement that the new public comment policy should be reversed.

Allowing for further comment, outside of the public comment section of the meeting, only helped to prove Johnson’s point on the new policy, she said later.

Although the mayor expressed some frustration with the resistance to change from a few individuals, she indicated that she is determined to stay the course: “I’m going to try to stick to my guns. I’m going to work harder.”

^ Back to Top ^

Site by HomeSight, LLC