When looking for ways that we can make the change we want to see, it’s important to think local. When we see bad news at a national or global scale, it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing we can do or the problems are too big to take on. But at the local level, even a few people can have a big impact. Local elections are decided by just a handful of votes, politicians are moved by a handful of letters, and we can change minds by talking to our neighbors. By planting the seeds of a better world in our own community, we build momentum for the changes we want to see. Local change is the path to building national power.
July began the new fiscal year for the Niles-Maine District Library, and the discussions of budgets are ongoing. In 2021 newly elected library board members and Board President Drblik proposed and passed drastic budget cuts, and for 2022-2023 Joe Makula’s error-ridden proposed budget would cut another 14% from a library already spread thin. Throughout this year’s budget discussions the library management, staff, and executive director have pleaded for increased staffing. Currently the library is working under a year-long hiring freeze and has lost over 30% of the trained staff. Makula, Schoenfeldt, and Drblik want to make this level of understaffing permanent, by cutting the open positions out of the budget. Trustees Keane, Olsen, and Rozanski proposed an alternate budget, with sufficient funds for hiring needed staff, a well-deserved cost of living increase for current staff, and restoring program and book budgets. The difference between the proposed budgets is only about $17 per resident, but the impact on the programming and services available to the community would be significant. Still, Makula and his cohorts are not willing to budge.
There is another meeting this Wednesday– Niles-Maine District Library Board Meeting – 6:30 PM July 20, 2022, 6960 Oakton Street. If you are able to make a public comment this is an opportunity to show support and help defend our community’s valuable resource and hardworking library staff against these draconian budget cuts.
Community Relations Commission
For months, community members sent letters and made public comments requesting that commissioner Carolyn Drblik be held accountable for the harm she has done in her role as President of the Niles-Maine District Library board of trustees. She refused to respond and was finally removed from the Village of Niles’ Community Relations Commission. While new commissioners have been named, it’s mid-July and there has still not been a single meeting of the Community Relations Commission in 2022, despite the requirement that they meet at least once quarterly. We’ve also still never been able to engage with this commission regarding the Village’s response to antisemitic propaganda that was distributed throughout the community. An organizer asked questions on behalf of residents we’ve been hearing from, wanting to know about Village policies on how employees should respond to acts of hate, and whether Village staff and elected officials receive training to help them identify acts of hate and discrimination. The Village Manager asked that she make FOIA requests instead. We are watching to see if the Community Relations Commission will begin following through on their stated mission and do the work that commissioners and Village staff can do to make this community more welcoming and just for all.
Neighbors United Against Hate
A Neighbors United Against Hate campaign page has been added to our website, so you can easily download and print window signs for your and your neighbors’ homes and businesses https://www.nilescoalition.org/neighbors-united-against-hate/
Solidarity with the youth of Park Ridge
On July 1st an off-duty Chicago Police Sergeant pushed his knee into a Park Ridge teen’s back to hold him down. A Niles Coalition organizer delivered a statement to the City Council at their July 5th meeting, expressing our solidarity with the youth of Park Ridge and listing three recommendations:
Create a task force led by experts in prosocial transformative justice to help the community heal from this traumatic event while addressing the victims of this violence and the person who caused it.
Shift funds towards a systemic solution as recommended by this transformative justice task force.
Commend the brave bystanders who intervened. Encourage this behavior by making available bystander intervention training available for everybody in Park Ridge.
Please continue to reach out to us with your ideas, and keep sharing information about local efforts so we can support the work folks are doing to create the community that we strive for.
Thanks for reading!