[Cross-posted in HuffingtonPost.com/Chicago]
After years of attending Chicago Board of Education monthly meetings, on December 14, 2011 I felt like I left one where the community was actually heard, by the public and by the board. During the “public participation” segment of the meeting, a lone voice stopped the business-as-usual.
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Adourthus McDowell, a Chicago Public School parent and member of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, began the takeover by rising from his chair and interrupting a presentation by Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard on a new $660 million capital construction plan.
Using a ‘mic check’ technique borrowed from Occupy Wall Street protesters, McDowell read from a prepared text in short bursts so comrades planted around the room could repeat his words and thereby amplify them for the crowd.
The action continued. Parents, educators, and community activists repeated Mr. McDowell’s speech and were escorted out of the room one-by-one.
Vice President Sharkey holds Board of Education meeting in Board’s absence.
Some local bloggers and politicians have become highly critical of the “mic check” tactic, where public meetings and events are upstaged by the voice of those who feel voiceless. On its face, it does appear to be rude and counterproductive.
This would be true if these public meetings really were about providing community input. I’ve attended hundreds of public meetings, both as an activist and as a reporter. Board of Education “public participation” segments are two hours where taxpayers are allowed two minutes each to describe decades of neglect or outright sabotage of their school communities, as bemused members of the Board of Education play on their Blackberries.