Editor’s note: This letter was originally published at
Dear Mayor Emanuel:
You didn’t see me today, but I was at City Hall for the Chicago City Council meeting. You couldn’t have seen me, because I was not allowed in – nor were any members of the general public. Maybe in your eyes this made the meeting run more smoothly. In my eyes, it was a travesty.
For as long as I can remember, I have heard those in your generation and older bemoaning how the young people in this country are uninformed and apathetic about politics, particularly at the local level. I am in the demographic that supposedly does not vote, does not know their elected representatives, does not read legislation, and certainly does not attend City Hall meetings.
Except that I do vote – in every election, big or small. I know my elected representatives by sight and by name. I read ordinances and other legislation that is up for a vote and contact my representatives with questions and concerns. And now, this week, I showed up at City Hall to sit in on some meetings. I never expected that when I wanted to engage in the political process this way – personally – I would be turned away.
You didn’t see me today, but you may have heard me. I was one of the people outside the City Council chambers chanting, “Let us in! Let us in! We vote no!”
Here’s the funny thing: I came to City Hall today to observe, not to protest. After contacting my alderman (Silverstein – 50th ward) and attending yesterday’s committee meeting, I learned details of the amendments made to your proposed ordinance changes. In the past 24 hours, I went from strongly objecting to your proposal to only having a few relatively minor concerns with the new ordinances. So while I do consider myself a member of Occupy Chicago and gladly joined up with them before the meeting, I wasn’t there to protest the ordinance changes. I assumed they would pass, and I was more or less okay with that.
Why did I show up? I was there to be involved in the process. To report on the meeting via social media for those who were concerned but could not attend in person.
For a mayor who champions “transparency,” it seems odd that the exact language of the proposed ordinances as they were to be voted on was not made easily accessible to the public. Your denial to let me and other members of the public witness the passing of these ordinances today also concerned and upset me. It changed me from a mere observer to an active protester, simply because I get a bad taste in my mouth when supposedly open meetings have no room for the people who will be affected by what is decided in them.
The people you kept out of that meeting were teachers and nurses, students and union workers, taxpayers and voters. They deserve better, and they will continue to demand it.
You probably weren’t aware, but we held a general assembly right outside the Council chambers after the ordinances passed. If you thought shutting us out of one meeting about a couple of ordinances would make us give up and go home, you were very, very wrong. We are committed more than ever to being seen and heard, and taking our rightful place in the democratic process.
Expect us. We are the people. We are united. The Occupation is not leaving.
- Rachel Allshiny -