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The [Thursday] Papers

"Chicago's Board of Education on Wednesday passed a spending plan totaling about $6.6 billion that drew criticism from nearly every corner," the Tribune reports.

It's almost as if Rahm Emanuel delights in pissing everybody off.

But the board's vote - unanimous, of course - was a fait accompli. The stunner of the day - though we should no longer be surprised - was the way the Chicago Board of Education, no doubt under the direction of Emanuel, managed to resemble the Pyongyang Board of Education.

"[W]hen some people tried to get inside for the meeting, many were told they couldn't enter because they hadn't signed up ahead of time - and there wouldn't be an overflow room as in previous months," the Sun-Times reports.

This, of course, is bollocks on the part of CPS.


It's as if plans for protesters to fill the chambers weren't publicized. Or, rather, as if they were and the board wanted to keep some people out. So they privatized a public meeting.


CPS preaches parental involvement, but only the right kind of involvement, which is to say, acquiesence to the administration. The non-involved kind of involvement.


"A new requirement that participants sign up online to attend the monthly Chicago Board of Education meeting drew complaints Wednesday and claims the district is violating the Open Meetings Act," the Tribune reports.

"Ronald Jackson, a regular at CPS board meetings, said he had signed up before the meeting but was turned away by security guards who couldn't find his name on a list. Jackson asked to see the district's legal department. Eventually, he was allowed into the meeting.

"Jackson said many others who tried to attend the meeting Wednesday where CPS was voting on its budget for fiscal year 2014 ended up leaving after being denied entry."


"A day later, there are still questions swirling about whether Chicago's school district improperly barred people from Wednesday's school board meeting," WBEZ reports.

"Curtis Lawrence is a veteran reporter and teaches journalism at Columbia College. He and another professor, Suzanne McBride, had trouble getting into the meeting, as did their 11 graduate students.

"'We were being told that everyone had to register online in advance,' said Lawrence. 'Our students from Columbia College eventually got in, we got press passes. But my concern as a journalist and just as a Chicago citizen is what about the school parent who doesn't have a computer at home and decides they want to come and participate in the process about their kid's education? They can't.'"

But it's even more pernicious than that. This is what happens when you register in advance:

"Just got a call from CPS Board of Education asking me specifically what I plan to say at Wednesday's board meeting," Liz Brown posted on Facebook last week. "Seriously they have nothing better to do? I responded I enjoy the element of surprise."


Meanwhile, Natalie Bauer, the communications director for state attorney general Lisa Madigan, told WBEZ that "per the Open Meetings Act, no one should be turned away for failure to register in advance if they want to attend a meeting - if there is space in the room."

I'd like to turn the attorney general's attention to Exhibit A: This photo by WBEZ's Linda Lutton.

IMAG1820 WEB_0.jpg

Of course, you can believe what you see with your own eyes or you can believe Baghdad Becky Carroll, who told the Trib:

"Our goal is to ensure the safety and accommodate the needs of all attending our monthly Board of Education meetings. That is why we are requesting, but not requiring, that members of the public planning to attend these meetings to register in advance so we can best prepare to accommodate all visitors on those days. Any member of the public who wishes to attend the Board meeting can do so without registering in advance given that there is adequate space in Board chambers and its overflow room."

That, my friends, is world-class, grade-A poop.


There are other ways the board contains public participation.

One favorite is to drag out the preliminaries until some folks have to, say, go to work or attend to other life duties. (Which is one reason why Ald. Bob Fioretti, among others, thinks the board should meet in the evening.)


Another is to manipulate the sign-up sheet.


Another is to drag out the actual vote that will make the news; the fewer folks left in chambers, the more it looks like there isn't much opposition.


Of course, only the little people wait in line.


But what's the point when the meetings are just for show and all the real work has already been done behind the scenes?


The Beachwood Tip Line: Your tip will be taken in the order it is received.


Posted on August 29, 2013

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