If you’re interested in your local government, a group that helps people like you has some advice.
When citizens become interested in their local government, sometimes the local government isn’t interested in them.
Maryam Judar, executive director of the Citizens Advocacy Center in Elmhurst, says her group helps people who want to be heard and run into trouble, whether it’s with city council, county board or school board.
“So, it might be that their board is refusing to allow a couple of comments, or they might make it a practice of escorting meeting attendees out for no legitimate reason other than to silence their critics. It might be that they’re having difficulty accessing public records,” says Judar.
“I certainly encourage people to remain civil to respect their elected officials, and I certainly expect elected officials in turn to remain civil and respect public participants and to remember that it’s not about the personalities of the people. It’s about the issues.”
Judar says governments should post documents online.
“A government body that has little to hide or is unconcerned about releasing records that belong to the public will do so and will make it easier upon themselves by making those public records easily accessible on the web, thereby reducing the need for the submission of FOIA requests of that public body,” she says.
Judar encourages activists who want to raise a fuss at the next council meeting to stick to the issues and facts, and don’t assume something is true just because somebody said it in an email.
She adds that many of the Citizens Advocacy Center former clients find themselves running for public office and winning.
For more information on the Citizen Advocacy Center call 630-833-4080 or visit www.citizenadvocacycenter.org.