Politics is still local

If you think school finance meetings are boring, take a look at this one.  This is what democracy looks like.

First, everybody onto the bus.

bus-with-sign busses-waiting1

At the meeting, each school gets two minutes if they want to speak to the finance committee.  Seven or eight schools have already made their presentations. This school’s needs are explained by a Chicago alderman. At the end of the alderman’s presentation, everyone supporting the school is asked to stand and there is prolonged spontaneous cheering, probably not part of the original two-minute deal.

Then the state rep tries to speak, and is drowned out by boos.   Finally they let him speak, sort of, but he is again interrupted by the same group that booed him initially.  The woman standing up is yelling, “They didn’t tell us we had to bring our state representative.”

Their part in the meeting finished, everyone gets back on the bus, and the buses drive off into the sunset.

back-to-the-bus busses-leave

Of course this represents a lot more than just a finance meeting.  What is at stake is competition for scarce resources. The backdrop for the competition is the desertion of the city centers by the tax base in the 60’s followed by the deterioration of the infrastructure of the city and now the first-tier suburbs. Somewhere in the mix is racial and ethnic politics.  There is as yet no comfortable language for speaking about this publicly, although you might see something if you look hard enough in the endnotes of 300-page municipal reports. What does speak volumes is the possibility of not being re-elected; even school administrators are at risk if they do nothing.

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