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Article updated: 2/15/2013 8:04 PM

Island Lake changes public comment rules

By Bob Susnjara

Island Lake trustees have approved new rules on how the public may comment about issues at village board meetings.

Board members Thursday night voted 5-1 in favor of the new rules of procedure that, in part, say speakers who are "loud, threatening, personal or abusive" in their remarks during public time at a meeting could be barred from the village hall gallery.

Proponents have said the move will lead to more productive commentary, but some opponents contended it was an effort to censor the public.

Mayor Debbie Herrmann said she received several telephone calls and emails about the idea before Thursday's meeting. She said the exchanges she had were "very pleasant" and in the end the new way of handing public comment will benefit Island Lake.

"There was no anger," Herrmann said of the inquires she fielded. "Maybe it was a wake-up call some of our residents needed on how to behave in a meeting."

From now on, only one public comment segment will be part of village board meetings. Herrmann said the second comment period toward the end of meetings was redundant.

Speakers no longer will be limited to five minutes. There also will be a minimum of 30 minutes set aside for public comment.

Trustee Laurie Rabattini was the lone dissenter in the vote for the revised public comment regulations. Rabattini, a Herrmann political opponent, had criticized the mayor and village board colleagues for wanting to "asphyxiate" the public's voices and concerns.

Charles Amrich, a former village mayor who is challenging Herrmann for the post in the April 9 election, had contended the measure will stifle residents who want to speak out to elected officials.

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