ZAP! Vitale, Ruiz & Co. continue strangling democracy at Chicago Board of Education meetings by restricting sign in to speak at Board of Education meetings

At 8:32 a.m. on the morning of December 9, 2013, the message went up at the Home Page of the nation's third largest school system: "All advance registration slots filled." What the message meant was that Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale and Vice President Jesse Ruiz had set a new record in stifling democracy in Chicago. Anyone who wanted to speak at the December 18 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education had to squeeze in to register within literally a half hour, or the message was TFL (for "Too _______ Late!"). Democracy had 32 minutes or it was, typical for Chicago, suffocated by people whose smiles are pasted on like those of the plutocrats they represent.

Three of the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education are seen above during the June 26, 2013 meeting of the Board. A month earlier, they had voted unanimously to close 49 of the city's real public schools, while continuing to open selective and often corrupt charter schools in their places. The hypocrisy of the members of the Chicago Board of Education includes their regular speeches across the city about their concern for public schools, or their love of Chicago. Above, left to right, Jesse Ruiz (a corporate lawyer and vice president of the Board), David Vitale (a millionaire banker and president of the Board), and Andrea "Andy" Zopp, who maintains her reputation as two-face while talking about her concerns for Chicago's black community (she is CEO of the Chicago Urban League) while voting for every policy that is undermining the community's real public schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Of course, a millionaire banker (who often closes his eyes when critics point to the facts about the mismanagement and biases in Board policies) and a millionaire lawyer (who never stops reminding people of his roots in the Barrio, blah blah blah) never use the "F" word (in public at least) and are more mature than their boss, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who prides himself on his ability to spout sophomoric spewings.

With NSA-like technical zest, the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education end the year 2013 having choked off most public criticisms of their policies, especially discriminating against the poor. After all, if you have a computer at home (as I do) and access to the Internet from home (as my family does), then you can rush online when the sign up time begins at 8:00 a.m. and get registered (as I did) within the narrow window. You become one of the Special Sixty. The Special Sixty are those who are able to squeeze into the sign-in window that was established by the Board in January 2013.

In January 2013, the Board announced that it was going to make things "easier" for people who want to speak to the Board. But in order to speak, the peasants have to register to speak on line at 8:00 in the morning on the Monday before the Monday before the Board meeting.

And because the Board limits each speaker to two minutes and the total time for "public participation" is two hours, only 60 people are allowed to "register" for the official slots for speaking.

Of course, if you don't own a computer, you can go to a public library and get on a computer and register to speak. But because Mayor Rahm Emanuel cut back library hours as one of the first acts of his administration, the libraries won't open until ten o'clock or noon. So, if you tried to go from your home in one of the working class communities of Chicago and got to the library at opening time and got to a computer when you arrived, you were "Out of f______ luck"! Your fault for not having a computer and internet at home, like all of the members of the Chicago Board of Education do.

The Board meeting will not begin until 10:30 on December 18, 2013. But as I write this as of 8:47 a.m. on December 9, 2013, it's too late if you wanted to sign up to say something at the public meeting of the Board of Education of the nation's third largest city.

The rules for speakers at the school board were not always that way. Before 2013, anyone who wished to speak at the Board would be allowed to sign up on the morning of the meeting, and there was no cap on the total number of speakers.

The result of the traditional policy prior to 2013 was that during months when a major issue was in front of the Board, more than 100 people would queue up and sign up to speak. Usually, the Board would extend the time, since its members, prior to the appointment of the current Board by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in May 2011, at least pretended to want to hear what the "public" had to say. Often the meetings would hear from fewer than 60 people, on some days from more than 100 people. But the meetings, required by law to be public, at least were open to the public.

The seven current members of the Chicago Board of Education are often observed reading their personal digital assistants, instead of listening to the speakers. Although the Board members often smile and encourage charter school supporters, they can often be caught snarling as critics outline their lies, half truths, and hypocrisies. Some are prickly, responding to critics during the meetings. Some try to sustain their "community credibility" as their votes continue to undermine any claim to be working on behalf of the average Chicago family.

And on December 18, 2013, the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education will complete the first year of their current policy of strangling democracy in the nation's third largest city.

Everyone was eligible to speak at the December 18, 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education.

Everyone, that is, who could get to a computer and the Internet before 8:32 a.m., when the robot clicked "OFF!" and registration to speak at the Board ended. For the 12th month since the new policy began. ?


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

2 + 2 =