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April 21, 2019

4/1/2019 11:48:00 AM
Council Bans Prose at Citizen Comment
By Dirk Cumulo

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.”



Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, April 4, 2019
Comment by: Jean SmilingCoyote

Thanks for this cool story, April Fool's or not! I am reminded of the time a few years ago when I read in a different newspaper about a proposed hog CAFO in Spoon River country. The locals and many others were opposed and outraged, knowing the harm it would do. At first I thought of sending a letter to the editor, saying that if Edgar Lee Masters knew about this, he'd turn over in his grave. Then I decided to write that letter using the same poetic form he used in his "Spoon River Anthology." I sent it also to several other interested parties. My poem was never published, and no recipient responded - but I thought it was good and shared it with some others once, who also appreciated it. I don't think it had any effect on the final decision about the CAFO, which fortunately was "NO".

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