Guest Essay: Open Meetings Act aids citizen involvement
Updated: August 6, 2012 6:09AM
Rumors have recently come about and certain individuals who will not be named — who aren’t even worth wasting newspaper ink to even mention — are starting figurative fires in Morton Grove.
These people and the entire populous of the village of Morton Grove need a short lesson in how local municipal governmental agencies or a “public body” actually functions.
There are two types of meetings: regular or “open” session meetings for the public to attend and see and hear about what’s happening in town; and “closed” session meetings, which are not open to the public, but minutes are taken and these are recorded for possible future use for possible litigation, if necessary, and later destroyed when decided upon by that public body at a later date.
Everything is described in detail in the Illinois Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120) with specifics on what topics are discussed in closed session and how open meetings are published and held for the local residents.
Personnel, real estate, litigation and labor negotiations (unions) are the most talked-about items in closed session. Public officials have explained how vital and important it is to not leak and disseminate any information from closed session meetings for several reasons.
A closed session is a tool to discuss hiring, disciplinary action, firing or other issues with personnel, as well as discuss the probability of a developer or business coming to town and other real estate topics. If real estate and development are discussed within a community before the necessary applications, permits and licenses are applied for, other municipalities can persuade, snag or steal a developer or business owner with a unique concept or proposal to do business in their town.
Litigation matters, contracts and issues with labor or the work force of a municipality or governmental agency, when applicable, are also discussed behind closed doors.
A community’s citizenship must band together during the current hard times we are all facing, and we need to come together and utilize our individual strengths to bring about positive change. This is why you are seeing more people becoming involved in financial task forces at all levels of local government entities recently.
Fellow residents of this village need to become more involved if they see an issue they want answers to or want their questions answered.
Once an idea or concept becomes public, residents of local communities are enabled through the use of regular meetings, special meetings, workshops and other communication tools with their local elected officials to bring about change through new and fresh ideas, civility in public discourse, respective discussion, open communication and/or open dialogue.
Rumors are just that, and facts are facts. Remember these old sayings: “Don’t believe anything you hear and half of what you see,” and “numbers talk and people lie.”
In Australia, people say: “It coulda been worse, mate; it coulda been me,” and “no matter how bad it gets, it only gets better.”
Eric M. Poders is a Morton Grove resident.