Call to Action: Write Your Alderman to Increase Citizen Participation in Decisions Concerning Public Assets
By Adam Snow, May 6, 2009
Seven months ago I started an anthropological documentary about
democracy in Chicago. This has led me to discover many things about the
city (and the state) that have surprised me. The privatization
of the city's parking meters to a corporation that hither-to-for was
not in the parking business is just the latest in a series of deals
that were rubber stamped by the city council with little or no public
debate. (See How Much of Our City Is for Sale?)
Last week the Chicago Tribune ran an editorial announcing that undisclosed aldermen were considering an ordinance requiring a 30-day period of review for any proposed privatization of city assets, works, and so on. Since this editorial, I have contacted the office of the city clerk (the office that sets the city council's agenda on these matters) to find out where this proposal is in committee, who the sponsor is, and when it may come for a vote. So far, i have been told 'I will look into it and get back to you'.
In an effort to bring change and transparency to the democratic
processes of our city, I ask that you consider taking 5 minutes
to contact alderman about this proposed ordinance (Find your alderman here by selecting "Your Ward and Alderman.") I went to my
alderman's Web site and sent the following letter. Whether you choose to
write a letter/e-mail or call, I'd suggest changing the wording just a
little to reflect your own particular concerns.
that I am overstepping the boundaries of anthropologist and documentary
filmmaker in some regard, but the intent of the film (democracy in
Chicago) is not just to explain and interpret what is happening, but to
contribute to building the democratic capacities of all Chicagoans. I
can't make the film fast enough to intervene in some very serious
challenges that would handicap this capacity building, so I appeal
to you to help me more immediately by sending this --or a similar--
Dear Alderman XXXXXXXX,
In April 24th's Chicago Tribune there was an editorial indicating that the council is considering a thirty day period of review between proposed privatization of public assets and a vote on such proposals.
As someone who is concerned and angered at the city's rampant privatization of city assets (for various reasons), I ask you to support such an ordinance and to lobby your fellow aldermen to do likewise. Such a period of review would allow for a minimum of public review, but it is much better than what currently exists.
Additionally, I would ask that you consider leading a coalition of aldermen in creating dialogue on how we in Chicago can increase citizen participation in how decisions are made in the city. Perhaps it is time that wards embrace the idea of citizen assemblies so that the public may make informed decisions about what happens in our communities.
Please feel free to share your letters and any responses you receive as a Comment to this post.