| by Abigail Hart

Illinois’ Open Meetings Act states that “people have a right to be informed as to the conduct of their [government’s] business.” Also included in the Open Meetings Act is the provision that “Any person shall be permitted an opportunity to address public officials under the rules established and recorded by the public body.” Taxpayers’ ability to know what their government is doing and have an active role in how they are being governed is the foundation for our government systems and clearly what open meetings acts try to codify.

Last year, a court ruled that Chicago finally had to lift the city’s ban on the public’s ability to comment during full City Council meetings. In Chicago’s apparent kneejerk reaction against any good government reform, the city initially fought the court trying to give citizens a voice in their government but later acquiesced and put in place extremely limiting rules for public comment.

Now, each month at every full City Council meeting, only 10 people are allowed to speak for three minutes each before aldermen spend hours giving speeches and declarations about any topic they choose.

Chicago could be a leader in giving taxpayers a legitimate voice in their city government and show cities nationwide how to install good government reforms.

Across the country, many cities have more robust public comment laws, while some cities have even more limiting restrictions. How many other large cities operate and restrict public comment in City Council meetings is described below: