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Mount Pleasant residents by village ordinance are allowed to participate in the discussion of agenda items, but since the 2013 election of Village President Mark Gleason, citizens are only allowed to speak during the public comment portion of board meetings, and trustees are not allowed to answer back.

Over the past year, residents have occasionally – usually during the public comment period – brought up the change, citing ordinance 2-43 (5) (d) and are asking why they’re no longer allowed to participate. The ordinance reads:

After the village board’s discussion of any agenda item, any speaker recognized by the
chair may address the village board. Speakers addressing the village board shall state
their name and address before addressing the village board. A speaker addressing the
village board shall try to limit their remarks to three minutes. It shall be the prerogative of
the chair to allow additional time if circumstances warrant.

At the board meeting Monday Trustee Don Schulz raised the subject as a question about the lack of resident participation, but Gleason reasserted that how he runs the meeting is his prerogative and the subject is not up for discussion. (Click here to listen to the exchange at the 2:09:42 mark.)

We did reach out to Gleason, but he had not returned our call as of Wednesday evening.

Part of the issue is that most village committees and commissions meet during the day, and if residents work first shift, they can’t attend. Village board meetings, then, are the only way for citizens to interact in person with trustees as topics are being debated and discussed.

Trustee John Hewitt told Racine County Eye that Gleason has set a precedent to better keep meetings under control. He admitted that with most committee meetings held during the day when residents are at work, board meetings are the only time citizens can actively participate in village government. Still, he’s okay with the way things are going.

“If there was public pressure we would revisit this and have a discussion,” he said. “Maybe Mark has taken liberties with how meetings should be conducted, and he has bent his rule from time-to-time, but overall I don’t have an issue with tighter board meetings.”

Do you care about this change to the way village board meetings are run? Why or why not?

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5 replies on “Is Resident Participation Necessary for Good Governance?”

  1. Katie – I think I should have better defined the public comment period from the ability to participate in the discussion of an agenda item. Sorry! So … public comment at every village board meeting I’ve ever attended in the villages of MP, Calie and Sturtevant are the same – no answering by trustees. BUT … in MP, the ordinance clearly states that during the course of the meeting, after trustees have done their thing with an agenda item, citizens can comment, ask questions, etc. as long as they adhere to proper decorum.

    While board meetings under previous leaders may have been a little more loosey goosey, at least residents had the opportunity to be part of the process. I think there can be a balance, which is what I think should be the goal instead of shutting residents out of the process.

    1. I see… So there is an initial public comment time prior to getting into agenda items (non-agenda comments) and them MP ordinance allow follow up public discussion after agenda items, correct? Hell yes, this should be allowed. And yes, time limits, decorum, of course. But it seems to me that when a board is discussing an issue amongst themselves, back and forth, ideas, questions, etc., wouldn’t you want direct, immediate input from your constituents? It’s the precise time the board is forming opinions in order to make decisions and the people they represent should be part of that dialogue. you don’t hold public forums or general meetings for every agenda topic. So why not engage those people who take the time to be at meetings and participate in the process? I don’t want to show up at meetings and sit and play with my phone. I want to participate. Respectfully.

  2. This sounds like the Caledonia procedure. And in Caledonia you could only speak to something not on the agenda (which never made sense, since people show up based on the agenda items!) If elected officials do not want to engage in dialogue during a meeting, require listed accessible emails and phone numbers and how about an ordinance mandate of a maximum 24 hr reply by any official. How about a public comment/question period both before and after the meeting? How about we engage the public in a constructive dialogue instead of making them feel their presence is unwanted (as I have experienced first hand). Time limits-yes. Require written submittal of statement or question so officials can follow up if time runs out. Hello, people-you are elected by the people you shun, you stifle! Sometimes when you read the ordinance, you wonder if they wanted to add “resident must genuflect”. Another note of importance: Comments and concerns are “on the record” during these meetings. Phone calls and emails are not. It’s important people are provided a structured way to have their issues documented.

Comments are closed.