During the pandemic, all public meetings went remote on Zoom, proving the capabilities of municipalities to quickly accommodate access for local communities. In May of 2021 the Village of Niles reverted back to in-person board meetings only, no remote participation at all for community members. That privilege was apparently reserved exclusively for trustees. In a 2022 memo for the 5 Year Capital Improvement Plan a general comment was recorded:
Comment-Public Engagement: Since we have proven that Zoom can be a tool for residents to engage in public meetings, we need to offer this
Still to this date there is no remote participation allowed for Village of Niles community members for public board meetings. There are a myriad of valid reasons that people cannot make in-person meetings and that should not exclude them from having their voices heard in a public forum. In fact, their voices are the ones that should be prioritized!
The board has been generally unresponsive to community voices. The latest example being the zero response to the public outcry over the privatization of our crossing guards.
Elders of our community are decrying this lack of engagement. Any community member who attends the Village of Niles board meetings will recognize frequent public commenter Louella Preston. She is a former trustee of the Village of Niles board and always has some gentle advice for the current administration.
Rosemary Palicki is another former trustee who came out in defense of the Niles-Maine Public Library and sometimes weighs in at Village of Niles board meetings. At the recent board meeting on November 14, 2023, Both Louella Preston and Rosemary Palicki implored the board to vote no on agenda item (Item 12.l) to cancel the December board meeting. Ms. Palicki even encouraged a town hall to facilitate broader public engagement. Instead, the board offered no discussion when voting to cancel the December meeting anyway.
Ms. Palicki followed up in public comment admonishing the board that she found it “…very, not only disappointing, but insulting…” that not a single trustee offered the common courtesy of a response to the public feedback. She herself forewarned this when she departed her position of trustee in 2015:
“If you hear that everyone on the board always agrees and never has a question or never raises opposition, start worrying and demand better of them.”
The board president (“mayor”) has consolidated power for a rubber-stamp board to serve at his whims and that is a dire situation for Niles.
What’s the solution? For that, continue reading…
CAMPAIGN UPDATE: #SAVENILESLIBRARY
Our original goal of the #SaveNilesLibrary campaign was to shift power back into the hands of the library and away from neoliberals seeking to defund it. For some that meant looking towards the 2023 election but it became clear to Niles Coalition organizers that the cause was more systemic. Certainly the new board didn’t inspire us to finalize, or sunset, this campaign just yet.
When we last sent out a Dispatch in October, we wrote about how the Niles-Maine District Library board needed to do the right thing and raise the annual tax levy enough to give the library a fighting chance to rebuild after the devastating attacks by the previous board.
A lot has happened since then and we are thrilled to update you that the Niles-Maine District Library Union has a ratified contract AND a proper tax levy!
The library staff worked tirelessly and so many community members wrote letters of support, attended rallies and protests, spoke out in person, and in solidarity made it possible for the library union’s bargaining team to win a fair contract.
With a contract in place the union has tools to defend against future attacks, and for this fiscal year, a levy to help build back up! This is as close as the #SaveNilesLibrary campaign can come to achieving the original goal so it’s time to officially sunset this project. We will follow up with a postmortem of the lessons we learned from this struggle because it will be important for the next fight. Libraries will continue to struggle and that is true across the country unfortunately.
For now, it’s time to celebrate; congratulate the workers and yourselves! Thank you!
Speaking of the continued struggle…
Fight for public schools
We know public institutions are in the crosshairs by centrist and right-wing neoliberals. During our #SaveNilesLibrary campaign we heard disparaging comments towards other taxing districts that include schools and parks. We’ve even noticed it at recent Niles-Maine District Library board meetings by members of the public and by library board trustees suggesting people try to cut funding to local schools. The solution is not to undermine other forms of public support but to work in solidarity because these struggles are interrelated. Keep your eyes and ears open in your public schools.
One great resource to do that is the Illinois Families for Public Schools. They were instrumental in helping to expire the “Invest in Kids” program. This program was essentially a private school voucher scheme to benefit private companies and private schools with public tax dollars diverted away from public schools. Another win to keep public funds benefiting the public, but we can’t wait for another neoliberal attack. We need to be ready for it by building left power!
Automated license plate readers (ALPR) chatter
Folks in surrounding communities like Glenview have been noticing cameras going up to spy on the public. These are leased from private companies profiting off the criminalization of community members. We’ve been monitoring the situation ever since Niles installed these things as well. See StopALRs.com for more info.
Genocide in Niles
Living life during a genocide is a surreal experience. Some take solace in the distance from the tragedy but international struggles are national and local. The USA is sending billions to help bomb Gaza with local companies cashing in. Recently the youth movement organization Dissenters, blocked the entrance to Woodward Inc. in Niles demanding a #freePalestine and an end to the siege! As Fannie Lou Hamer said: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
Thanks for making it this far! What is the solution to our democracy troubles in Niles? It’s more complicated than simply finding better candidates or voting more. For Skokie it was electoral reform. As we reported in November 2022, the Skokie Alliance for Electoral Reform won all three of their referendums for a more fair election process. The final vote to implement these reforms is actually happening Monday December 4th at Skokie Village Hall! Please also check out Trustee James Johnson’s run for Village Clerk at jamesforskokie.com. Congrats to Skokie and good luck!
What can we do in Niles? 🤔