Petition Gaining Support in Opposition to Council's Public Speaking Rules

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Documents petitioning Charlottesville City Council's rules for public speaking at its meetings Documents petitioning Charlottesville City Council's rules for public speaking at its meetings
JoAnn Robertson JoAnn Robertson

A growing group of people want to see Charlottesville City Council change some of its public comment procedures.

A petition by Citizens Charlottesville was created in September after community members came forward to show their disapproval to changes councilors made to public comment rules back in February. Participants are circulating petition in-person, as well as online.

Hundreds have joined in the effort, urging the city to take action.

JoAnn Robertson started the petition, and says she wants the community to be able to use its freedom of speech.

"We live in one the best places in the world and we take so much for granted, and that to me is frightening,” she said.

The controversial rules created a lottery system requiring those who want to speak during "matters by the public" section at the start of each Charlottesville City Council meeting to register online or by phone. That system then randomly selects up to 12 speakers to address councilors.

However, anyone can speak to the council at the very end of the meeting, with no sign up necessary.

The rules also discourage councilors from responding directly to the questioner.

Citizens Charlottesville plans to present the petition to councilors on Monday, December 5. Members say they are also prepared to get more signatures, if needed, in order to get Charlottesville City Council’s attention.

Councilor Kristen Szakos tells NBC29 that City Council has already revisited the policy after hearing concerns from the Human Rights Commission. However, she says they are willing to revisit the procedures again once a year has passed in February.

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