Statement: Public Participation – Standing by our Principles when Controversy Arises

Yesterday, the Council met in a special meeting to discuss the Southside Plan. In response to protesters who disrupted the meeting to advocate for a ceasefire in Gaza, the Council recessed and resumed the meeting only allowing public comment on Zoom. Defined as special meeting, there was also not an opportunity for 10 public commenters on non-agenda items at the beginning of the meeting, as currently provided for in our procedures.
The Council voted to approve the Southside Plan to substantially increase student housing on the south side of campus. I am glad to have voted for amendments to the proposed Southside Plan for additional labor standards and removing non-recreational uses from being considered open-space and to have demanded a commitment from the Mayor to push the university to stop master leasing new buildings which takes these properties off our tax rolls. However,  I regret I voted to participate in a meeting that excluded the public participating fully. Not meeting in public and not allowing non-agenda comment following the rules of decorum denies everyone a chance to address their representatives on a whole array of topics. I am pleased that the Mayor has agreed that if a special meeting needs to be called under these circumstances, we will still take public comment that meets our rules of decorum on non-agenda items even if not legally required.
The procedures of our meeting yesterday may have been lawful but they cannot be the way we move forward. I will not vote for another motion to waive our rules for public comment on non-agenda matters or to allow the public to not participate following our rules of decorum throughout the meeting.