Recently, Chicago opened its doors to Chicagoans and residents can speak their minds and make suggestions to the aldermen. The public now can make comments in the council meetings.
If you thought that Chicago previously had a channel through which the voters and taxpayers could share their opinion, it’s kindhearted but no there wasn’t. In the old days, Mayor Richard Daley could shut off the microphone if any aldermen tried to make a dissenting opinion.
This practice continued for decades until last December when a Cook County Circuit judge ruled that speakers had the right to speak and denying them permission to do so violated the Open Meetings Act. The lawsuit that was filed by political activists was filed by Judge Diane Joan Larsen. The city was given a chance to create its own rules and this is why the city clock was installed; to give 30 minutes in each meeting to members of the public to speak. Each speaker was to get 3 minutes and therefore this meant that 10 speakers could sign during the meeting.
Allowing public speakers in council meetings could be said to be one of the largest strides Chicago has made in allowing individuals there democratic rights. Many people described it as being beautiful and remarkable. Wallace Bradley, a former gang member that got pardoned said that it was a great opportunity since if members couldn’t speak to the aldermen, then there was no way they could get anything.
Public speakers at the meetings speak at a small speaker which is connected to a sound system. At the dais, one could see Mayor Rahm talking with other officials and you could see aldermen walking around.
However, there are those who have said that Chicago is a large city and 30 minutes of speaking time isn’t enough to let people speak and share their thoughts of what could be improved or what ought to be changed. Ironically, it was noted that the council meetings take more time to honor things like parishes, retirees, Boy Scout troops, the elderly, sport teams or the dead but it took only 30 minutes to listen to the people who contributed to making Chicago what it was.
Chicago today faces a myriad of challenges and these move has been praised as forward thinking and progressive. Among the challenges the country faces includes; high violence and crime rates, an underfunded public school system, high debt, high taxes, discrimination based on race and unemployment among young people.
An opportunity offered to the public to address the mayor and aldermen is a step in the right direction of seeking ways to address those challenges. Many organizations and social groups in Chicago have already started encouraging there members to go to these council meetings and share their thoughts. Normally, there is a large crowd and so far, the thirty minutes is not enough and there are many speakers who wanted to speak that are denied this opportunity.
As we go into the future, we hope that they will allocate more time allowing more Chicagoans to speak.