Here's the good news: Tracy and I (and our supporters) have already changed some conversations in our community. Incumbent politicians now use words like "transparency" and "diversity." The administration is setting up standard public protocols for committee appointments, and the Board (however constituted) will now vote on whether to reappoint committee volunteers, rather than allowing their terms to roll over automatically for years and decades. The staff and some Trustees are trying to standardize volunteer applications so that residents are not yelling into the void of the President's absolute powers. With any luck, the village will eventually get around to fixing the inaccuracies in our code of laws, and making sure it aligns with state and federal laws.
I'm proud to say that we -- Tracy and I and our supporters -- made almost all of this happen in the last year or two, by diligently corresponding with village officials, and asking for clarifications about their systems. Cara Faris, local democratic hero, even did an open records request to figure out what happened on the Plan Commission. She received partial records.
Not exactly good news: Since Tracy and I decided to run for Board and Board president in order to make sure these abuses were corrected, we should be happy about this progress. But we have cause to worry: Does this effort at village hall portend lasting and substantive change? We can't really be sure, unless we win the election. Every time we have done some free legal research for them or asked about problems, we've been met with the same basic response (paraphrased, as the nice version):
We are changing the way we do things to make them more legal, but we aren't admitting we broke the law, or holding anyone accountable for it, or expressing gratitude, or apologizing.
I guess that's in case of eventual litigation. But it's obviously also gaslighting. And it's hurtful to those who were wronged, that bad actions have not been recognized and reconciled. And most important, it's painful to imagine that they may be cleaning up their records, rather than truly cleaning house. Going through the motions of compliance isn't the same as taking a fully-loaded cost accounting of what's transpired, to ensure it does not continue to transpire again in the future.
So, for the sake of the historical record, here is an incomplete transcript of our correspondence with the village to fix open meeting requirement problems, code violations, committee abuses, antiquated technology, and undemocratic behaviors. If anyone quoted or cited here feels these excerpts are misleading, or thinks they are being misquoted, please do comment here or send me an email, and I will amend as appropriate.
We could archive many more of these infractions, but you get the point. In closing, I'd like to say that this is a useful little academic book. The Myth of Bureaucratic Neutrality is about how bureaucracies which lack legal and ethical oversight are not unbiased, neutral bodies. Their leaders may claim neutrality. They may claim to be guardians of compromise and pledge to balance interests. But they will fail, because they haven't checked the biases and privileges and inequalities that they bring into the room. That's why we need ethical and legal oversight. Residents -- even those running for office to change it -- shouldn't have to do that work for them. Democracy requires that we do better.