Until recently, Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city at 2.7 million residents, was one of the last government entities in the country that didn’t permit time for residents to voice concerns to officials in a public session. Chicago residents could comment during council committee meetings but were barred from speaking up at general council meetings. While certainly a move in the right direction, it is ridiculous that it took until 2017, and a court ruling, to force Chicago’s council to allow public comments. And even then, council agreed to only 30 minutes in total, at the beginning of each monthly meeting.
Although Chicagoans now have 3 minutes per person to address their many concerns, that doesn’t necessarily mean their alderman are listening. At the first day of public comment on July 26, Aldermen were, to the frustration of their constituents, in and out of the room while people spoke, holding side meetings, and handling paperwork.
Charles Blain is the executive director of Restore Justice USA, a Houston-based criminal justice reform project. He also regularly writes on issues regarding the economic management of major cities.
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