Public comment guidelines OK’d by trustees

By Kari Williams

Newly elected Grantwood Village Trustee Will Larson was the only trustee who opposed new public comment guidelines at the board’s meeting last week.

Larson said at the April 17 meeting he was concerned about the new comment guidelines allowing residents to speak only once.

“I’d like to at least move that we allow, if time permits … (and) as long as everybody else has gotten a chance to speak, to come back to them, just so we try and keep an open dialogue with the village as much as possible,” he said.

Additional changes to public comment include a two-minute time limit for individual comments and a requirement that comments “pertain to village business.”

Chairman Mark Kienstra said the board could consider allowing more than one opportunity for residents to speak, but doing so was not seen as a “best practice” in policies trustees reviewed to create the village’s guidelines for public comment.

The Village Board reviewed guidelines used by the County Council, the Lindbergh Board of Education and the Crestwood Board of Aldermen.

“If we can find some other example of where that works, nearby political subdivisions, we can certainly take a look at that and we can certainly keep things open,” he said.

Officials reviewed the aforementioned political subdivisions’ policies because, according to Kienstra, they are considered to have good public comment policies.

Kienstra said the board needed to add structure to its public comment period.

“I think the goal of the public comment section at the meeting is so that every resident can have their voice heard and so that trustees can hear that voice very clearly and directly,” he said.

The public comment period was removed from the board meeting agenda last month to avoid a “campaign stump,” former Chairwoman Cathy Forand told the Call.

She said the board was able to remove the public comment period because it was not required under village ordinances.

“We (took off public comment) because we felt it was the appropriate thing to do before the meeting …,” Forand said. “Something had to be done, and I felt that was the right thing to do…”

What was approved was not an ordinance, but a list of rules adopted by a majority vote, she said.

“Basically, it’s the same thing that we’ve been doing all along, it’s just that it’s kind of sad we had to take our practice and spell it out so specifically …,” said Forand, who was defeated in her re-election bid in the April 3 election.

The board adopted the public comment guidelines with a 3-1 vote. Trustee Walter Rust abstained.