Okay. So I am putting out a minor micro-aggression against known local government employees and officials in Part 1. And yes, turning around and doing the same thing back is not always fair play either.
But what a summary of a series of experiences I have gone through over the years when I have asked to see a copy of an agenda or a set of meeting minutes . That was a general story line of what I get to experience, but do you really want to sit there and listen to me talk about how Midlothian Village Hall used to have multiple bulletin boards hanging opposite of the front window and they were covered with so much paper, push pins would sometimes have to be moved first to prevent other ones from popping out while trying to read a document posted underneath?
That’s what happened to the rules governing video recording public meetings in the Council Chambers. Buried under other documents so that only a portion peeked out from behind other stuff.
Bet you didn’t even know that under the Murawski Administration, the Public Access Counselor’s office compelled former Village Attorney John Daniel McGrath (“Dan” on public documents) to write up rules about it and then post it. Yup! And boy was he and Murawski supposedly pissed about the matter…but I actually have thought they weren’t “that” pissed. Murawski’s protest was funded with taxpayer dollars and resources from both sides and his buddy McGrath got another line item to add to his bill.
In fact, I’ve often wondered if some municipal lawyers hope I stumble upon something being done by a government official when it comes to agendas and minutes. It can be a cheap, easy and quick payload picked from the pockets of the taxpayer, put into the record-books almost any way they want to write out the outcome and then it’s back to Business As Usual because I am off to pick another place to drain the accounts of local municipal units.
The number of Freedom Of Information Act requests I’ve filled out over the years is nothing compared to the number I shouldn’t have had to ask for in the first place. “It’s too expensive to post agendas on the Internet” is but one of the rallying cries favored by those in localized and precise power but so is the assertion a larger ink and paper print run just isn’t in the budget.
And then there is that set of requests I never sent in. Now that data array is an interesting beast, because its not my place or role to compile a master list of sorts that points a finger towards all municipal units operating in some level of secrecy. Nor is it my place to discern the fullest scope of record-keeping a municipal unit should be keeping in place to pass along to those who inherit the collection.
That’s why agendas and minutes are so easy and simple to check in on, at least from a conscientious objector position. Our State laws here in Illinois make certain fundamentals of the keeping of these records pretty cut and dry. Boring, in fact. Print the date, time, location and identity of the group meeting on the document.
Now that’s where things start getting super creative. The latest significant variation from past habits of a municipal unit is but another strike at the pocketbooks of the taxpayer as a penalty for daring to want to print out a paper version of these two types of documents.
It’s like the outside of a handbill that has a detached insert that if lost, no one would ever know what performance the names on the outside were planning to give. We only need to remember the extremely enlarged logo of the municipal unit (at least 6 or 7 times the needed ink), a list of the names of people who are scheduled to performance that night in a nice, easy to read font size and then leaving the rest of the information in a more natural and common size and in big, bold letters, the individual identity of the producer and publisher (nothing like another written document for a portfolio).
But this change of past habit still carries with it the principle of hiding something in plain sight and calling everyone an idiot for not seeing what the creator intended for them to see. This same municipal unit factually posted a draft of a document to be discussed at a Public Hearing, but no one would have ever thought to click on the bolded and underlined text just thrown on the page. There was nothing attached saying “Look at me! I’m the stuff they want you to talk about! Come see what I’ve got.”
Instead it was more of a hind-sight “Truth or Dare” in which the dare was for someone to say this municipal unit didn’t properly post the document and they had prepared an insider-prank in case I was the one who decided to call them on it. I have a more extensively recorded and well-known track record when it comes to asking to see various pieces of paper and sure enough, at this Public Hearing, I called them out for not having it posted on the website. A few were so prepared, they even hinted at having copies of the receipts for publishing an announcement in the newspaper.
What a waste of oxygen in my book…but it was their show, not mine. I was just a participating member who was initially curious about what was already on the menu for the night’s discussion and quickly became a frustrated guest when I went to read all about it.
Then there are those municipal units of government that refuse to have an official website and prefer using a post office box and private email service providers to conduct all business, including distribution of agendas and meeting minutes. “Sorry everyone! There was a misunderstanding with the announcement all shows would be accessible to the public. Some meetings are just behind-the scenes discussions in preparation for the real performances in your various other municipal units.”
That’s our current water broker say to all of its customers. This is also a still lingering and still broken water deal initially brokered by a known white-collar criminal and of which the debt still hangs in the imbalance.
Agendas and meeting minutes are only as boring as the composer wants them to be and there are more effective ways to compel change from these authors regardless of pay (those who do not draw pay frequently will use that as justification to do even less than those with a salary or stipend) other than involving yet another municipal unit into the fray.
Hiding the identities of some while bolding and italicizing others is another one of those micro-aggressions the taxpayers end up paying for…and not just from the bank accounts under the control and governance of these local municipal units.
Why some are so afraid of a company being on public record for mowing a lawn or painting a pretty picture of what the future could look like if XYZ happens is not beyond comprehension in the most generic of senses. There are people who do not want to admit on public record they are interacting with a municipal unit…regardless of outright payday.
Maybe its fair that some will forever be upset I didn’t push transparency issues even harder in 2016. But I did catch on video two illegal meetings held one after another and that is something I did report to another authority. I also have a video of what appears to be an election-related fraud and while both are equally accessible in their video form, there are still many in power who would rather blame a demographic or two to blame for the lowering of property values, let alone bringing a “bad element” into a community.
One can be easily confronted and quelled using State statutes and a few well-placed, well-written letters.
The other? Which book applies at what point? What jurisdiction is supposed to look into this and at what cost? This isn’t a smash-and-grab moment on the books here, even though there was some anxious grabbing of paperwork being filled out by an untrained employee while the person responsible for doing the paperwork isn’t even giving the activities a cursory glance for much of the scene.
So where do thoughts like this tend to leave me as a composer of my own thoughts with objective of sharing?
Lost but found?