Lexington Council to review new proposed restrictions on public comment at meetings

Lexington, KY – On Tuesday, the General Government and Planning Committee will review new proposed restrictions on public comments during Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government meetings. These proposed changes by the Urban County Council’s Public Input Subcommittee aim to streamline the public input process but have sparked concerns over potential First Amendment violations.

Context and recent events

The proposed restrictions come at a contentious time. Lex4Palestine, a local advocacy group, has been urging the council to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, aligning with an internationally recognized movement.

During a March 7 council meeting, UK student Alyssa Rigney played an audio recording of an active Air Force service member self-immolating outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., in protest against the genocide in Gaza.

Alyssa Rigney plays an audio recording on her phone at the March 7 Urban County Council meeting. (LexTV screenshot)

Proposed Changes

The new policy proposes that public comment periods be strictly for spoken comments, banning multimedia presentations such as playing audio or video from personal devices into the microphone. This move is ostensibly intended to streamline meetings and reduce the burden on staff to vet multimedia content before sessions. However, it also limits the methods through which residents can communicate pressing issues.

Richard Young, Executive Director of CivicLex, confirmed that while the organization did assist with some previous recommendations for the subcommittee, the restriction on multimedia presentations was not part of the group’s original recommendations.

Community outreach and implementation

The subcommittee plans to implement a “comprehensive” marketing and education campaign to inform residents about the new processes.

On Tuesday, the committee will have the option to vote on whether to bring the restrictions to the full council for approval. The balance between meeting efficiency and protecting civil rights remains a critical concern.

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Paul Oliva is the Lexington Times Editor Emeritus. He grew up in Lexington.