Normal Mayor Chris Koos probably wishes the Illinois attorney general’s office had waited just a few more days to respond to a months-old request for an opinion about the town’s rules governing public comment at council meetings.

At Koos’ request (and maybe at the urging of his opponent, Marc Tiritilli, in next month’s election), the town council already was prepared to adopt a new policy relaxing those rules at its meeting Monday night. Now, the question is whether the easing goes far enough.

The council is set to eliminate a provision that allows individuals to appear before the council only once every 45 days. The new AG opinion that arrived Thursday confirms that rule is too restrictive. New rules up for adoption Monday also would double the total amount of meeting time allocated to public comment to 20 minutes and give any single speaker up to three minutes, instead of two.

Those are all good changes. But the AG isn’t too keen on another provision the proposed rule revisions would keep in place — the one that says public comments must be germane to an item on the meeting agenda. Better to give citizens three minutes of latitude. Already remarks sometimes glide into a gray area. Better to let the clock run out than subjectively rule a person’s comments are not appropriate.

To be fair, Koos and his counterpart in Bloomington, Tari Renner, generally (and fittingly) take an accommodative approach on public comments as they wield the gavel at council sessions. But rules are needed to avoid misuse and outright abuse of the public platform and councils' time. We’ve seen some of that in Bloomington where the rules are less limiting.

Still, the AG’s office will be troubled if Normal also retains its requirement that citizens give the city manager’s office two hours advance notice that they want to speak. That seems unnecessarily constricting. Bloomington requires only that they check in five minutes before the meeting begins.

Normal’s council can align its public comments policy with the AG’s opinion in one fell swoop Monday night. It should take the opportunity.

That delayed sentencing

Court-watchers are trying to divine what the lengthy delay in the sentencing of former McLean County Board chairman Matt Sorensen on federal wire fraud charges might mean.

Sorensen originally was scheduled to be sentenced two weeks ago, four months after he pleaded guilty. Sentencing is now set for Sept. 12. Speculation is that U.S. attorneys are expecting him to be a cooperative witness in their case against his co-defendant, Navdeep Arora.

Arora has a court date next month. If prosecutors do, in fact, have Sorensen waiting in the wings as a witness, they might be better able to nudge Arora toward a plea agreement. Both men are accused of conspiring to defraud a consulting firm in connection with work Sorensen did as a State Farm employee.

When Sorensen entered his guilty plea, prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of between 21 and 27 months. The maximum sentence is 20 years.

Looking forward

You can almost taste the anticipation of Illinois State basketball fans seeing the University of Illinois team having to find its way to Redbird Arena for a National Invitation Tournament quarterfinal game next week.

It would be only the second time a U of I basketball team has traveled to Normal to play ISU. The other time was 97 years ago. The Illini won, 31-21.

Both teams, of course, must first win their games Monday night to make the Redbird-Illini match happen. We hope it does. Redbird Arena should be filled to the brim. Last time that happened was seven years ago.

Vogel, of rural Bloomington, can be reached at vogelgraph@yahoo.com.


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