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Fort Collins City Council considering changes to public comment process after meeting disruptions

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Posted at 8:30 PM, Mar 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-20 11:47:59-04

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The city of Fort Collins is considering several changes to the process of public comment during city council meetings. The proposals were drafted by Fort Collins city staff after a meeting on March 5, 2024, was cut short after several protesters shouted for a ceasefire in Gaza and three glued their hands to a wall in the chamber.

The three key proposals presented to the council by staff aimed to alter the process by which residents can speak during public comment periods of city meetings. The first was to limit public comment to only one hour at the beginning of council meetings, with the option of adding more time after agenda items if needed.

The second was to allow the mayor or a majority of the council to relocate meetings or move them online if an in-person meeting is or could be disrupted. The third and most controversial of the proposals was to authorize the council to allow only comments related to items scheduled on the meeting’s agenda in the future if it chose to.

The council voted to advance an ordinance for a second reading without the portion to allow only comments related to agenda items. A decision on the other proposals was postponed until April.

During Monday’s special meeting for the proposals, more than 90 people signed up for public comment. The vast majority were strongly opposed to the proposed changes, arguing they were an affront on freedom of speech and undermining of the values of democracy.

Fort Collins City Council considering changes to public comment process after meeting disruptions

The Fort Collins City Council is not alone in grappling with the process of public comment in recent years. Several Colorado cities have changed their processes since the COVID-19 pandemic, and others have specifically responded to the growing calls for local resolutions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Last week, the Aurora City Council voted to take the issue off the table completely by precluding the body from weighing in on international events through resolutions at all going forward.

“We’re not the United Nations. We’re not Congress,” said Councilmember Curtis Gardner at the time. “And, I don’t feel it’s our role to make performative statements on world events.”

Other cities, however, have taken the opposite approach and have leaned into national and international debates. A report from Reuters earlier this year found at least 70 cities that have adopted resolutions related to Israel and Gaza, with most calling for a ceasefire.

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