Quick Hit Wednesday July 13th, 2011, 5:15pm

People's City Council Meeting Makes Inroads, Now What's Next?

If there ever was an undeniably groundbreaking yet unifying movement for the city of Chicago’s citizens, the People’s City Council meeting last Thursday could take the cake.

Orchestrated, in part, by the Grassroots Collaborative, the meeting saw more than 1,600 Chicagoans, 19 aldermen and some 20 community organizations come together for an hour and a half of pure solidarity in an effort to take on Chicago’s woes and better the lives of the city's residents. The energized crowd pratically filled every seat at the UIC Forum.

“There is an organized base of these people who really care about the issues,” the Grassroots Collaborative’s Amisha Patel said of the meeting's attendees.

Each aldermen spoke for 90 seconds during the meeting, pledging to stand with the people who are working toward affordable housing, strong schools, and public safety while also calling for a fiscally-sound local government that can help attain those goals. The aldermen, except for Tom Tunney (44th Ward) who left the meeting early, took time to sign a pledge to “prioritize families, neighborhoods, and communities over an agenda that prioritizes banks, corporations, and financiers,” to “find 2012 budget revenue solutions that do not burden working families, and that makes banks and corporations pay their fair share,” and to “enact fundamental TIF reform that leads to strong public schools, parks, libraries, affordable housing, and city services,” according to organizers. The group counts aldermen Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), Richard Munoz (22nd Ward), Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) and Joe Moore (49th Ward) among their most ardent supporters.

In a particularly moving moment, Patel said, Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th Ward) got on stage as SEIU’s (which sponsors this site) Lenda Mason, who served as one of three moderators, spoke and fist-pumped with her hand-in-hand. New aldermen in the city council coupled with a new mayor helped incite the coalition to come together at this moment in time in hopes of reaching their goals. “It’s a new moment in the city. A political moment of how to bring our communities together,” said Patel.

The group has heard from 10 other aldermen who have expressed interest in participating in the People’s City Council as well. Moving forward, the coalition of groups are planning a de-briefing on what their next steps will be, which will include a meeting within the next four months that will take place just as the city will be in the thick of 2012 budget talks. Their biggest challenge, Patel says, will be to grow and keep a cohesive coalition of that size and magnitude united on issues. “Is there enough trust among community groups and unions to work together and [learn] how to negotiate people’s interest and keep clear on the focus," Patel asked. "Our target is long-term in changing the narrative.”

Photo courtesy of Grassroots Collaborative.

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