Hello friends, it’s time once again for our monthly newsletter we call the DISPATCH! Here are quick snippets of some of what’s going down around our community.
D219 Black Student Union Support
On January 10th, anti-racist orgs, parents, and other community members packed the Niles West/North D219 school board room to implore the board to heed the voices of the Black Student Union. These were the demands:
- Mandatory hate speech training for all staff in the district, so they know how to prevent and respond to hate speech incidents, so they can start healthy conversations, and so they stop reading and using slurs in the classrooms. Students would be part of the training.
- A mandatory hate speech unit or course for freshmen where students learn the etymology of harmful language.
- Address the problem of racial discrimination exercised by security and lunch staff or not adequately addressed by security and lunch staff.
- A concrete plan for recruiting Black staff.
- A concrete plan for retaining Black staff.
- The addition of a second equity officer so that one can be dedicated to supporting staff and the other can focus on student support.
- Ensure Black history is taught throughout the year and goes beyond slavery or well known civil rights heroes.
Video of that meeting can be viewed here with reporting by The Daily Northwestern: Niles parents protest anti-Black racism at D219 meeting. Change is long overdue and there is no excuse for this to be such an issue still!
Public Speaking Workshop
The Niles Coalition is proud to present a Public Speaking Workshop! This is a two-hour interactive class to help you be a better public speaker. Whether it is for public comments, meetings (hint, hint), presentations, interviews, etc. Together we will discuss and practice various tips and techniques to help you clearly and concisely get your message across. All are welcome. We look forward to seeing you there!
Date: Saturday February 4th, 2023
Location: Niles-Maine District Library
6960 W Oakton St, Niles, IL 60714
Meeting Room A
Presenter: Pam Wolff – Pam is a Niles community member and an organizer in the Niles Coalition. She has decades of experience in performing and speaking before audiences and is excited to be able to teach this class.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2023
Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. After an extensive campaign of surveillance and harassment by the US government, they finally assassinated Dr. King at the age of 39. That assassination continues to this day as many people who oppose his views now try to co-opt them posthumously. Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail (video) is a particularly important tool for fighting racism and is as relevant now as the day he wrote it.
CAMPAIGN UPDATE: #SAVENILESLIBRARY
The Niles Coalition has repeatedly made these demands of the Niles-Maine District Library board.
- Swear in Umair Qadeer
- End the malicious hiring freeze
- Expedite a contract with the Niles-Maine District Library AFSCME31 union
- Trustees Drblik, Schoenfeldt, and Makula must resign immediately
Well we’re happy to report that Umair Qadeer was finally sworn in and that enabled the board to finally set about ending the hiring freeze. Board President Carolyn Drblick along with her cronies Suzanne Schoenfeldt & Joe Makula tried every underhanded trick in the book to stop them but they were easily outmaneuvered and THE HIRING FREEZE IS GONE!
Joe Makula also lost his lawsuit trying to remove another trustee from the board. Read about that here: Judge rejects Niles Library trustee’s legal attempt to unseat another trustee: ‘Brought shame to our board and library’
Now it’s time to support our library’s staff who toiled under this hostile regime for so long, and get our library back!
In the past two years we have learned a lot through engaging in social justice issues in Niles. We have a number of projects on the backburner as we try to build up our capacity. Some things we’re looking at currently are:
- LGBTQIA+ pride efforts
- anti-Black racism
- worker oppression in the Village of Niles
- youth criminalization
- police and big data surveillance
- economic injustice through TIFs
Thanks for staying with us because us is all we have.
Hello neighbors, it’s time once again for our monthly newsletter we call the DISPATCH! Here are some quick snippets of what’s going down in Niles.
Lincolnwood Library Solidarity Update
The community came together at the latest Lincolnwood Library board meeting to say NO to book bans and anti-LGBTQIA+ bigotry. Niles Coalition organizers showed up and stood together in unity at the podium for a public comment. Organizer Pam Wolff said:
“When you ban or hide or move a book or an activity for LGBTQIA content, you are sending a message to our community that LGBTQIA people don’t matter, aren’t wanted, don’t belong. And when you call us controversial, you send the message that we are lesser, not valued, inhuman.”
You can see the whole video of the meeting here and read more from Caroline Kubzansky at the Chicago Tribune. Stay tuned to Library Defense who organized the response and of course we will report back any updates as well.
Anti-Black Racism at D219
Even after the student-led protest last February, Niles West & Niles North High Schools still have yet to reckon with anti-Black racism in schools. The Black Student Union mobilized an action at the recent D219 school board meeting to raise awareness. They brought two simple proposals to the D219 school board. The first is better recruitment and retention of Black staff. The second is anti-racism training for all students and staff. Several Black students gave testimony to their personal experiences with racism. Supportive students, parents, and community members packed the board room bearing witness to the powerful comments. Enough is enough, it’s time to listen to Black students!
Read more from Sophia Lannoye at Niles West News.
CAMPAIGN UPDATE: #SAVENILESLIBRARY
Our local senators and representatives worked to get legislation amended and sent to the governor for his signature. This will ensure that the Secretary of State’s office can finally appoint a qualified 7th trustee to our stymied Niles-Maine District library board. After the Governor signs the bill, Umair Qadeer will be appointed.
Meanwhile, the campaign for the April 2023 election has begun. The Reclaim Our Library slate of pro-library candidates includes Becky Keane, Umair Qadeer, Jason Trunco, and Roberto Botello.
The Save Niles-Maine District Library PAC has asked us to share these steps you can take now to support pro-library candidates:
- Go to savenileslibrary.org and click on “Get Involved” to volunteer for things like putting up a yard sign or canvassing.
- Every donation, even a few dollars, makes a difference. If you can, please click on “Donate,” to support signs, events, and flyers for the campaign.
- “Like” the Facebook page for the PAC and encourage your friends to like the page by sharing to your personal Facebook feed.
In our area there are several local food pantries, including through Niles Township and Maine Township. There’s also a small pantry right in the vestibule of the Niles-Maine District Library, so when you’re packing up your library materials to return to the library you can also bring non-perishable foods to easily donate!
Attacks on LBGTQIA+ people across Illinois continue to rise due to right-wing agitation. Locally we see this at the Lincolnwood Library, and on our very streets in Niles. We’ve received several alarming reports of pride display vandalism. This harassment has no place in our community and we are discussing solutions. LBGTQIA+ people deserve to feel safe and proud here in Niles, let’s make that happen! Please reach out with any ideas, input, and additional reports.
Niles is Under BigData Surveillance
Niles is allowing the installation of “automatic license plate reader” (ALPR) surveillance cameras around Niles. These cameras are owned by billionaire-backed private capital and are problematic in so many ways. To learn more, we are co-hosting an ALPR 101 educational webinar event with experts in this technology.
- V Thompkins of Black Nashville Assembly
- Cinthya Rodriguez of Mijente
- José of Electronic Frontier Foundation
Please register at this link and bring your questions to this informative event!! <bit.ly/alpr101>
Thanks for joining the struggle. Together we can build the community we all deserve.
::Community organizations like Niles Coalition fight for social justice. Meanwhile, right-wing forces are encroaching upon our communities. They are spreading misinformation in the guise of “zombie” newspapers. While many saw right through this and voted accordingly in the most recent election, these papers are agitating local bigots. When the Lincolnwood library was under attack, we showed up. In October they came out in bigger numbers. This is a trend we are watching and steeling ourselves to fight. Library solidarity!
::Closer to home we saw a pride flag stolen and vandalized in one of our neighborhoods in Niles. Neighbors have expressed support, and returned the damaged flag after it was found. We will continue to make it clear that we’re united against those sorts of attacks on members of the community.
::We’re happy to report that the Skokie Alliance for Electoral Reform won ALL THREE of their referenda in the recent election! We were early supporters of this effort and were proud to endorse this fight back in April 2022. The out-of-touch Skokie Caucus Party threw everything they had at them to maintain their firm grip of control. They were no match for the diligent organizers of Skokie Alliance for Electoral Reform. Congrats to those AMAZING people!
::CAMPAIGN UPDATE: #SAVENILESLIBRARY::
::Since day zero of our #SaveNilesLibrary campaign we knew the next library board election would be a crucial fight. A lot of our work went towards creating a supportive environment to uplift appropriate candidates. A new political action committee (PAC) has been formed called the Committee to Save Niles-Maine District Library. We know and support these folks who will support the candidates necessary to #SaveNilesLibrary!
We’ve given our SaveNilesLibrary.org web address to the PAC. So now when you visit that url it will go directly to their site where you can learn more about supported candidates, donate much-needed funds, and volunteer!
Candidates endorsed by the PAC will officially announce their campaign for the library board TONIGHT! Come meet the candidates, hear about their vision, and show your support for the campaign.
Where:Niles-Maine District Library
When:Monday, November 14, 6:30pm
::In October some of our organizers attended the library’s Not So Haunted Open House. We passed out these fliers to spread awareness of this threat to Niles-Maine District Library. We had a blast connecting with hundreds of other attendees who share a love of the library.
::Niles Coalition organizers attended the recent Community Relations Commission (CRC) meeting. We asked that the Commission as well as all other committees in the Village make their meetings more accessible. We suggested a number of improvements. There is ongoing confusion among the commissioners whether the Village will allow the CRC to be what its mission suggests it should be.
::The mayor announced another new political party with a slate of candidates running for the Village of Niles Board of Trustees. We haven’t heard about their platform yet. In neighboring Park Ridge, the League of Women Voters conducted a study on why so few people run for office in the Park Ridge City Council: Rarely Running . If you’re considering running for local office and would like help connecting with like-minded folks please reach out to us at https://www.nilescoalition.org/contact/
::Thank you for all your support. Whether it’s fighting to save our public institutions (like the Niles-Maine District Library) or defending the existence of our own community members, we know there is a rich history of successful solutions of the past and present. We are hoping our experiment here in Niles will create the community we all deserve.
Using your Niles-Maine District Library account you can access many many online research services for free!. Chicago Tribune is no exception. It is frustrating to click on a link to a Chicago Tribune article only to get stopped by a paywall. While it is a great local news source for Niles worth the price of a subscription, not everybody can afford it. No worries because Niles-Maine Distcrivt Library patrons can access it for free!
Use the Chicago Tribune online resource available on the library’s website or use this link right here:
You may see a screen that looks something like this:
Enter your library card number in the box and click the “Login” button.
Do a search for the title of the article and it will pull ups the result for you!
We’re refreshing our monthly email newsletter, which is now entitled “Dispatch”. This will include updates regarding our campaigns and other social justice concerns in our community. Our team of organizers and allies chat regularly and this is one way we can bring some of that into the broader community. But we’ll keep it short!
::CAMPAIGN UPDATE: #SAVENILESLIBRARY::
If you couldn’t make it our #SaveNilesLibrary rally & budget hearing, we caught that all on video and posted to our Youtube.
So many great speakers and public commenters came out to the Niles-Maine District Library including State Senators Ram Villivalam & Laura Murphy! Unfortunately the anti-library trustees steamrolled an austerity budget over the professional staff-proposed budget that pro-library trustees supported.
Library workers are the heart and soul of our library, this is cruel. We will continue to fight alongside library union AFSCME Council 31 for our library and our community!
Makula vs Jesse White
In our last email, we celebrated the State Librarian’s appointment of Umair Quadeer to the long-vacant library board position. But just hours before the board meeting where swearing-in could have taken place, we all learned that Trustee Joe Makula used a private attorney to sue Jesse White and had requested a temporary restraining order against the swearing-in. We mobilized a quick protest and would like to thank all our community members and allies for showing up against this injustice. Illinois statute requires that a district library board be made up of 7 trustees not 6, and Makula, Drblik and Schoenfeldt are doing everything they can to obstruct normal library operations. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
Trustee Suzanne Schoenfeldt Makes Front Page
Local library supporters who are able to have been arriving early for Niles-Maine District Library board meetings to show support for the library and staff. This is one way we can make sure the anti-library trustees experience firsthand the angst they are causing. In September, after being confronted by a middle-schooler on her way into the library board meeting, Trustee Schoenfeldt had to hang her head in shame. A moment captured by a reporter for the Niles Herald-Spectator.
Next Board Meeting
We attend every Niles-Maine District Library board meeting and encourage community members to join us! The next meeting is: Wednesday October 19th, 6PM protest outside, 6:30pm public comment. If you would like more information or assistance in participation please reach out to us at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or send a message at <https://www.nilescoalition.org/contact/>
Criminalization in Niles
Community members were arrested by Niles Police this month and publicized in news outlets and social media:
– A young student at the Niles Teen Center Fall Dance Party 2022 on October 8th made the mistake of bringing a knife and was charged with “aggravated assault” by Niles police. That is an alarming way to treat our youth.
– A few days later, a community member was arrested by Niles police after a police dog indicated the odor of narcotics. What police found instead was cannabis, cash, and guns. Ironically a few blocks away, Rise dispensary also sells cannabis with armed guards.
Turning a person into a disposable criminal is a process called “criminalization”. It subjects them to a punishment system that comes at a great toll to our community so we have many concerns.
Why criminalization is not the answer by Vera Institute for Justice
Profit-minded police exploit K-9 partners, The Salt Lake Tribune
A pretend newspaper full of attacks on transgender youth and public schools, branded as “North Cook News”, started showing up in Niles mailboxes. These have been mailed to homes throughout the Chicagoland area in the guise as a newspaper. It’s conservative propaganda peddling bigoted myths.
We’ve been hearing from community members who are considering running for local board positions on the April ballot. If you or someone you know is considering running and would like to connect with others please email us at <email@example.com> or send a message at <https://www.nilescoalition.org/contact/>
Thank you for your interest in the Niles-Maine District Library and social justice issues in and around the Niles community. We are finding many people with an appetite for creating progressive communities. It is crucial work for the sake of our future!
Hello dear community,
We are delighted to announce some major progress as a result of our relentless organizing efforts for change.
Our #SaveNilesLibrary campaign has just hit a major milestone that shifts the balance of power. And it’s all because of YOU! Our petition to ask State Librarian Jesse White to appoint a qualified Niles-Maine District Library board trustee was delivered! It was a great success that gathered more than five hundred signatures and many wonderful personal messages from supporters. The community made it clear that we wanted a qualified candidate and because of this…
The Illinois Secretary of State appointed Umair Qadeer to the Niles-Maine District Library board!
All year we have been pleading with Library Board President Carolyn Drblik to appoint a qualified candidate to the seat Olivia Hanusiak abandoned. When it was apparent the president was ignoring the community we got busy appealing to higher governing bodies and they listened!
Umair Qadeer was previously a Niles-Maine District Library board trustee but resigned due to an overlooked technicality regarding residency. Now that it’s no longer an issue we’re happy to see him continue serving as an advocate of the library (as one would expect any trustee to be). He will also be the only member of the board from the unincorporated Maine Township part of the library district and the only South Asian American on the board.
The swearing-in for this appointment is happening at the September 21st meeting just days before the upcoming budget hearing! Community members have continued to come out and make public comments; if you’re able to make it to the meeting it’s at 6:30pm, or if you’re unable to attend and would like to have your comment read at the meeting you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Join us for the #SaveNilesLibrary Budget Hearing Rally
We’re organizing a rally for Monday September 26 just before the budget hearing. Now that we have a majority of pro-library trustees willing to listen to the needs of the community please help us solidify a major win for our library so we can end the cruel hiring freeze and secure much-needed programs and hours of operation that our community deserves! Details here.
New Niles Community Relations Commission
Congrats and welcome to the new commissioners appointed to the Community Relations Commission! It’s now finally official as the first meeting of this expanded commission happened last week September 14th. This is the mission:
“The purpose of the Community Relations Commission shall be to foster and promote understanding, mutual respect, cooperation and positive relations between and among all residents of the Village of Niles regardless of race, color, sexual orientation, religion, gender, age, disability, national origin or ancestry to the end that a sense of shared community among residents is strengthened, the value of each individual is affirmed and the constitutional rights of all are realized. The commission shall promote adequate housing for all the community’s people, to create and/or maintain sound viable neighborhoods, to meet the needs for housing and to expand housing opportunities for all members of the community. The Commission will also assist in the development of public information and related communication programs to enhance the quality of life for all village residents.”
The Niles Coalition mobilized to raise concerns about Commissioner Carolyn Drblik’s participation in the attack on our Niles-Maine District Library. Clearly a conflict of interest in community relations. Thankfully, Carolyn Drblik is no longer a commissioner. We hope this new commission steps in to help make things right but it will still require engagement from our community. We’re following along and we hope you do too!
We have still not heard back from the Park Ridge city council regarding our pleas for healing in the community. Chicago Police Sergeant Michael Vitellaro was recently charged with two felony counts but we know the history of such approaches to community healing will not be sufficient. We are considering a coalition effort around this issue as we speak to more and more community stakeholders. Stay tuned!
Skokie Alliance for Electoral Reform
In April we endorsed the Skokie Alliance for Electoral Reform and they were just getting started to collect signatures. Their team of volunteers hit the streets all summer and successfully collected a whopping 12,000 signatures to get the referendums on the November 8th ballot. CONGRATULATIONS! The work isn’t over yet, now they have to get out the vote and continue the campaign to educate the community about why all three referendums are so important for democracy in Skokie. If you would like to volunteer in solidarity they would be happy to have you. Join them for the upcoming town hall event!
Libraries around the country have been under attack. Locally, an attempt at book-banning in Park Ridge this spring was shut down by the community. Recently the Downers Grove library was targeted for hosting a drag queen bingo event. Close to home in Lincolnwood this week we joined local commenters in support of the LGBTQIA+ community and the library to counter a book-banning attempt (during national Banned Books Week no less). It turns out to #SaveNilesLibrary we’re going to have to save them all!
Whew, thanks for reading, and thanks for your messages of support. We’re glad you’re here with us. Please reach out if you have any questions about Niles Coalition. See you at the library!
Join us for a #SaveNilesLibrary rally on the south lawn of the Niles-Maine District Library. We’ll gather at 5:45, and will head into the library together at 6:15 for the scheduled public hearing where community members can comment on the 2022-23 budget.
Now is the time to show your support for your library and insist on a budget that allows for proper staffing so that much-needed programs and hours of operation can be restored and the building can be safely maintained.
Please RSVP and spread the word!
This was a petition to ask State Librarian Jesse White to appoint a qualified trustee to fill the year-long vacancy on the Niles-Maine District Library board before any more damage is done.
To: State Librarian Jesse White
Your constituents in the Niles-Maine library district have been forced to watch three hostile trustees dismantle the library for over a year. Library board president Carolyn Drblik deadlocked the board by not filling a year-long trustee vacancy. None of the current trustees reside in the unincorporated Maine Township half of the district, where community members continue to be impacted by lack of representation.
The situation is dire: the library has lost one third of staff since May of 2021 and is down to 66 total full and part-time staff (the equivalent of 52.13 full time employees, or 52.13 FTE), for a library district size that the Illinois Library Association recommends be served by at least 74 FTE. Due to understaffing there were 30% fewer programs offered in July compared to the same time last year, and the library is only open 66 hours per week instead of the recommended 72+ hours per week. The community is suffering under this incomplete 6-trustee board. Staff morale is low and the union wrote a public letter asking: “Is their ultimate goal to close the library?”
Illinois statute originally relied on library boards to fill trustee vacancies “forthwith”, but in 2021 it became clear that a bloc of trustees could refuse to do so without any remedy for the community whose library suffered under a dysfunctional board, so the Illinois legislature unanimously voted to amend the statute. Now if a board refuses to fulfill the duty of appointing a new trustee to a vacant seat within 90 days, the State Librarian can appoint one in the subsequent 60 days. This means your office will have the ability to appoint a much-needed qualified and sincere trustee to the Niles-Maine District Library’s board on August 27th, and we ask that you do so.
The Niles-Maine District Library’s next regular board meeting is scheduled for September 21, 2022, just 5 days before the scheduled budget hearing for a tentative 2022-23 budget that, if passed, won’t fund the level of staffing that this library district of over 59,000 people need and deserve. We ask that you ensure the community will be represented by a full board of 7 trustees before the September meetings.
THANK YOU! Our petition to ask State Librarian Jesse White to appoint a qualified Niles-Maine District Library board trustee was delivered! Over five hundred signatures and many personal messages from supporters. The community wants a qualified candidate now! #SaveNilesLibrary