DuPage board member calls for restrictions on public comments after resident's 'Mexican' comment

  • Elizabeth Chaplin

    Elizabeth Chaplin

 
 
Updated 12/9/2019 5:40 PM

Some DuPage County Board members want to put restrictions on public comments at meetings after a resident blamed a zoning problem on a "Mexican" family that moved into her neighborhood.

Board members on Tuesday are expected to talk about whether individuals speaking during public comment should "refrain from repetitious, profane, discriminatory or irrelevant comments."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Board member Elizabeth Chaplin said she wanted the issue placed on the agenda because a woman last month complained that her "Mexican" neighbors have diesel trucks and equipment in front of their house and "a lot of people" living in their basement.

"It was so offensive and so unnecessary," Chaplin said Monday.

The Downers Grove Democrat said the resident may have a legitimate zoning concern but lost all credibility when she started stereotyping Hispanics.

"There's no place in the board room for those types of comments," she said.

Residents are given at least three minutes at the start of a meeting to address the board. Most of the remarks are civil and respectful.

Chaplin says she's fine with residents publicly criticizing the board and county policies. But she says she doesn't want anyone disparaging minorities.

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"We cannot stop free speech," Chaplin said. "But I think we can absolutely say, 'When you're making a public comment, refrain from these things.'"

And if speakers are being offensive or disrespectful, Chaplin said they should be cut off.

"I don't want our public comment podium to be used as a bully pulpit to speak out against minorities," she said.

Chaplin got support from six other board members to put the "public comment discussion" on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting. They are Dawn DeSart, an Aurora Democrat; Pete DiCianni, an Elmhurst Republican; Mary FitzGerald Ozog, a Glen Ellyn Democrat; Julie Renehan, a Hinsdale Democrat; Sheila Rutledge, a West Chicago Democrat; and Addison Democrat Ashley Selmon.

The discussion about public comment comes a month after the board voted unanimously to update the county government's mission statement where it describes DuPage's communities to include the phrase "where all are welcomed, accepted and valued."

That move was a response to an Oct. 26 case in which a multiracial group of 18 diners was asked to switch seats because two white customers did not want to sit next to them at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Naperville.

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