Additional Reports: Public Access Improvements

The Daily Chronicle today published an article by Benji Feldheim regarding recent complaints over the City Council meeting minutes and subsequent actions by citizens and the city to improve public access to them.

Mr. Feldheim did a good job. The story is accurate and IMO almost annoyingly objective. 😉 My aims here are only to provide a bit more of the back story and a wrap-up of citizens’ actions for whatever use they might be to others who are contemplating similar ventures.

The context is rooted in the anger at the 3rd Ward travesty. The energy generated by that anger was ultimately directed into positive action. Here’s a timeline:

  • Victor Wogen is elected Third Ward Alderman; he denies involvement in production and distribution of campaign mailer smearing the incumbent
  • Wogen admits to adding postage to the smear mailer but denies reading the oversized postcard
  • Citizens express outrage here, here and here
  • More citizens express outrage here and here
  • OK, you get the idea about the outrage
  • Another of Wogen’s campaign tactics is revealed
  • Meanwhile, the City Clerk’s relationship with Wogen and involvement with the FOIA request that contributed “dirt” to the smear mailer are scrutinized
  • Citizens for Wogen Resignation group starts out strong with public statements at the April 23 City Council meeting and a petition demanding Wogen’s resignation
  • After meeting with Victor and Kathy Wogen, Citizens for Wogen Resignation delivers their petition privately instead of publically upon his installment in office May 14
  • Citizen speaks out against dirty campaign tactics at the May 14 meeting
  • More citizens speak out against the dirty campaign its effects on trust at the May 29 meeting
  • Another citizen speaks out at the June 11 meeting, same subject as above
  • Concerns about lateness, incompleteness and possible bias in Council meeting minutes arise from the City Clerk’s treatment of citizens’ comments
  • The newbie “minutes activists” realize that access to meeting minutes is as much an issue as the contents of minutes–and that access can be addressed independently of the next election of a city clerk
  • City clerk invites anyone with a gripe to come to her office and see what the job is about; two take her up on the invite
  • Group letter to the City Manager, cc’d to the City Council, suggest ideas for improvement of public access and request that they be made a City Council agenda item
  • City staff and Council immediately take up the issue at the next Committee of the Whole meeting, which action is well-received
  • Amid all the public and group actions were many individual behind-the-scenes efforts; for example, I kept my alderman up-to-date on developments, one former alderman got involved (not Kapitan) and at least one 3rd Warder met with the mayor. Also the City Clerk heard from the Illinois Attorney General’s office as a result of a complaint during this period.

    By the way, this isn’t the end of the story. Watch CityBarbs for more details on “good government” activities this fall as they become available from organizers.