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In its continuing attempt to limit citizen comment, City Council has banned all narratives, requests and comments that are written in prose. “We’ve had enough inartful negativity and whining,” said Mayor Omar Beauregard “O. Beau” Read in a press conference today. “If you want Council to listen to you, you’d better come up with something more than a narrative.”
He noted that he was making the announcement on April 1, the beginning of Poetry Month.
“Evanston has always been known as a City of the Arts,” said Tenth Ward Alderman Lenore R. Poe, who accompanied the Mayor at the press conference. “We feel it is no burden on free speech to ask our residents to be a little creative in their comments.”
Ms. Poe and Mr. Read outlined some of the new rules: Comments can be in free or metered verse and must be no longer than a Petrarchan sonnet or, at most, a Shakespearean soliloquy. Residents who write in traditional verse will be given priority over more modern forms of poetry and spoken word. “So when it’s almost time for Citizen Comment to end, I can say, ‘Rap it up,’” the mayor quipped.
About 700 protestors attended the press conference, held on the steps of the Library, not far from three bookstores. Some held signs saying such things as “No time for rhyme,” and “I’m no poet, and I know it.”
The mayor tried to calm the outrage by pointing out his predecessors had used much more stringent tactics to quell what they called “pesky citizen comment.” At one point, he reminded them, citizens were given only a minute to speak, timed by the City Clerk playing a recording of Chopin’s Minute Waltz.
Asked when the Council might return to plain narrative during public comment, Ms. Poe cried, “Nevermore!.”
But residents were having none of it. Twins Jesse and Jessie Geisel, who have been known to finish each other’s sentences when they present their cases before Council, called out, “We do not like this, you should know. We do not like this, Mayor Beau.”
The exasperated mayor warned, “If you keep up this petulance, citizen comment will have to be in haiku.”