Month: April 2013

An Elegant Solution, But First…

When Trustee-elect Mike Rogers suddenly decided to resign the trustee seat he was appointed to fill by the outgoing Mayor Henderson Yarbrough after winning a seat of his own in the April 9 Consolidated Election, thus allowing Yarbrough to make an appointment that Mayor-elect Edwenna Perkins believed was hers to fill, there was a rash of outrage from Maywoodians (and former Maywoodians) of all hues and professional backgrounds and political ideologies.

For the most part, though (and we might as well be honest), the fallout has been a tale of two villages, if you will. Yarbrough-wood and Anti-Yarbrough-wood. Yes, this is a rough simplification of a complex reality. Yes, there are many, many Maywoodians (most perhaps, especially those Yarbrough-woodians and Anti-Yarbrough-woodians with positions and titles) who don’t believe themselves to be members of either camp and would tell you in a second that they’re only on the side of the ‘people’ (whatever that ambiguous term means). And trust me, it gets even more confusing than that.

I should note that the two distinctions — Yarbough-wood and Anti-Yarbrough-wood — symbolize more than the divide separating those who support the outgoing Mayor and those who don’t. They also represent two distinct perspectives held by many Maywoodians and may be roughly divided between those who believe that the Yarbrough administration is largely responsible for Maywood’s present woes (the Anti’s) and those who believe that Maywood’s present woes, insofar as they exist, are a) not as bad as the Anti-Yarbrough-woodians make them out to be, b) are not unique to the past 8 years of Yarbrough’s administration and c) unfairly overshadow the progress that has been made in the past 8 years.

I’m going to advocate for what seems the most sensible solution for resolving the apparent dilemma that tonight’s Special Meeting will likely reflect. But first, some clarification (by way of a fictionalized chat).

The following is an imagined (yet representative) conversation between an Anti-Yarbrough-woodian and a Yarbrough-woodian regarding the recent resignation of Mike Rogers. Note that this conversation includes only the best arguments I’ve heard presented by both sides.

Anti-Yarbrough-woodian: ‘This is just another example of Maywood’s dysfunction. Only in Maywood would the people’s voice not be heard with regard to such a critical appointment as Village trustee. It is unacceptable for this appointment to take place a) before public comment is held, and b) without the public knowing who exactly the Mayor intends to appoint before the meeting takes place. The people spoke in April, but we’re still getting ignored.’

Yarbrough-woodian: ‘First of all, where were you during all of the other board meetings? What is going on with regard to this appointment is simply standard procedure. It is not illegal. Everything that is happening is within the law. It is fully within the Mayor’s right to appoint whomever he desires, as long as the board approves. So what’s the big deal? As usual, you people are majoring in a minor. All you people do is get angry and highlight the negative about every thing we do, without promoting or attending anything positive.’

I’m going to go through these arguments point-by-point, revealing their respective merits and flaws (as far as I can tell).

My conclusion: The Village’s handling of the Rogers resignation is not uniquely bad, nor is it much worse relative to the actions of other municipalities (in fact, it’s pretty standard protocol). But this doesn’t mean that Maywood’s handling of tonight’s [probable] appointment is not problematic or that some people’s outrage is unjustified.

Exhibit A:

While I can’t confidently respond to the Anti-Yarbrough-woodian’s comments about the Rogers resignation being representative of Maywood’s general dysfunction (this is a value statement that I won’t get into), I can say that Maywood isn’t unique with regard to how it’s handling the Rogers resignation. In fact, to be quite honest, it’s pretty tame compared to other cases I’ve come across.

For instance, just last year a judge blocked a Mayor in Dixmoor from appointing a trustee. According to the Chicago Tribune, Mayor Keevin Gimmett, “swore in an ally without the board’s consent [..] Grimmett tried to appoint Henry Murphy on Dec. 12 even though his appointment wasn’t placed on the Village Board’s agenda and the public wasn’t given notice, according to the complaint and officials. When the board voted down the appointment, Grimmett nominated Aleetha Evans, whose name also was not on any agenda.”

Exhibit B:

There is also the case of Lisle, which more closely approximates Maywood’s case, but, still, is rather worse. According to a January 7, 2013, posting on the Lisle Patch’s “Lisle Watchdog” blog, the Village held a meeting to make an appointment to the town’s Planning & Zone Commission, but on the agenda, there was no mention of the appointment, nor was there any mention of the name of the person who was to be appointed.

The article went on to mention that the omission, “[F]ollows similar action by the Lisle Board just last month. In another apparent violation of the [Illinois] Open Meeting[s] Act, the meeting agenda and packet information for the Dec 17, 2012 meeting omitted the name of the person to be appointed as Trustee. At the Dec 17, 2012 meeting the Board of Trustees took final action an[d] voted to appoint Brad Hettich as Trustee with no notice to the public. Not suprisingly, there was no public comment in favor or against his appointment.”

Although the name of the person Yarbrough intends to appoint (if he intends to make an appointment at all) is not on the agenda, at least the agenda was issued 48 hours in advance of the Special Meeting. Moreover, the Dixmoor case was particularly egregious, considering the Mayor made his appointment without even notifying his own board of trustees, let alone the public.

Exhibit C:

And then there’s this big elephant in the room. Technically speaking, the Board may convene to appoint someone to fill the trustee vacancy without the public present. It’s within the rules (apparently). According to Section 2(a) of The Illinois Open Meetings Act, “All meetings of public bodies shall be open to the public unless excepted in subsection (c) and closed in accordance with Section 2(a).” Part 3 of subsection (c) gives municipalities the authority to close meetings in the event of, “The selection of a person to fill a public office, as defined in this Act, including a vacancy in a public office, when the public body is given power to appoint under law or ordinance […].”

“[C]losed in accordance with Section 2(a),” is clarified by page 3 of The Citizen Advocacy Center’s guide to the Open Meetings Act, which notes: “Public bodies may hold closed meetings provided that they state a legally sufficient reason in an open session for holding a closed session. A majority of a quorum present during an open session must also vote to close the meeting. While the Act allows public bodies to convene in closed sessions, public bodies are not required to go into closed session.” Translation: Don’t get too up in arms if the Board votes to do precisely this at tonight’s meeting. Apparently, it’s legal. In fact, I would be more surprised if the aforementioned scenario didn’t occur and the Board opted to vote on the appointment in front of the public’s very eyes. The point is that this stuff isn’t unique to Maywood.

Exhibit D:

I presented some of your concerns to both the Illinois Attorney General’s Acting Public Access Counselor (the go-to person if you have questions regarding the Open Meetings Act) and Maywood’s Assistant Village Clerk, Leonor Sanchez. With regard to the fact that the trustee appointment is listed before public comments on the agenda, the Counselor said, “Each village or public body has [its] own rules regarding public speaking.” The legally pertinent issue is whether or not persons are allowed to speak — not necessarily where in the agenda those public comments fall. Sanchez reinforced the Counselor’s assertion. “Our agenda is by ordinance. This agenda actually has been followed for at least 4 years,” she said. At the time of publication, my request for documentation of this ordinance was still unfulfilled (understandable, considering the short time frame in which I’d made the request).

As to the fact that the name of the Mayor’s intended appointee was not included in the agenda, Sanchez said, “There are some requirements that the state statute provides for, but in terms of the name of the person […] that’s not something the statute requires.” And from what I’ve researched on the statute, she seems to be correct.

Exhibit E:

It’s interesting how each side tends to force unrealistic qualities on the other. Just as the Anti-Yarbrough-woodians exaggerate and inflate, or simply mis-characterize, the Village’s corruption; the Yarbrough-woodians often mis-characterize the motivations and the motives not only of the Anti-Yarbrough-woodians, but of most citizens who simply complain. It’s typical of Yarbrough-woodians to dismiss citizen complaints with the assumption that lack of past involvement in Village affairs automatically invalidates their concerns.

For one, empty board meetings aren’t unique to Maywood! As the Citizen Advocacy Center’s guide to the Illinois Open Meetings Act states, “While a handful of concerned citizens may attend local government meetings, often times, the primary attendees are journalists.” That’s a statewide guide, so those observations can’t be solely applicable to Maywood. When citizens complain, the task of elected officials are to deal with the complaints alone, taking them at face value (are they valid, are they reasonable, are they fair?) — not to scrutinize the average board meeting attendance of the citizen complaining.

What’s more, elected officials shouldn’t worry when citizens complain or seek ‘redress’ of grievances — they should worry when citizens stop complaining. An angry citizenry generally implies an awoken citizenry. And an awoken citizenry is just as vital to the social development of a community as is the availability of jobs.

Exhibit F:

So, it turns out that, despite many people’s obvious frustration regarding the Village’s handling of this trustee appointment, the Village doesn’t seem to be doing anything out of the ordinary. But I wouldn’t be offended if, in your opinion [you Anti-Yarbrough-woodians], the judgment is still out. For one, you have every right to distrust the Yarbrough-woodians, because (and let’s be honest, here), at every turn they seem to preempt justified citizen outrage behind the veil of ‘legality,’ not bothering to consider that people do a lot of bad things that are perfectly legal. To say nothing of the many instances of apparent illegality that have frequently turned up in connection with them. And what’s more, when forced to confront these issues of illegality (see here, here, here, here, and here), they find ways to escape through all kinds of trapdoor excuses — people are being too negative, they’re picking on Maywood again, it’s another case of the powerless hating on those with power, they’re airing dirty laundry, etc., etc., etc.

But we need to go beyond the strict legality of this trustee appointment issue for another reason. Mike Rogers’s resignation and Mayor Yarbrough’s appointment comes less than a month after elections, which makes the possibility that someone who didn’t even run for the office of trustee might nonetheless be appointed trustee all the more egregious. The crux of the matter is that both sides are right — the Yarbrough-woodians say that the uproar over this minor issue is uncalled for, which would be correct. The Anti-Yarbrough-woodians say that the uproar is justified, because, yet again, the Yarbrough-woodians are up to their usual petty tactics majorly corrupting minor things, such as a trustee appointment that should be rather routine.

But minor issues take the fun out of political gamesmanship. And let’s face it, democracy done right is boring. That’s why I doubt Mr. Yarbrough and his allies on the Board will do what is so obviously correct that it blinds the fool. Nevertheless, I’ll advocate for the impossibility, because hope lost is better than nothing gained.

For the sake of unity, for the sake of the ‘people,’ for the sake of ‘Moving Maywood Forward’ — all those ambiguously good ideals that both Mayor Yarbrough and Mayor-elect Perkins frequently proclaim — the two should agree to implement the very straightforward, no-nonsense, democratic, elegantly simply, very fair plan advocated by the Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NoMCO) and appoint the “next-highest-vote-receiving candidates for Village Trustee to the vacant seats created by our most recent local elections.”

A very minor issue, indeed, but a great moment in Maywood will result from it. Let this Village see what good looks like in reality, not just in words.

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Taking Note: What Do You Think?

Below is a (very fuzzy) screen shot of part of the agenda from tonight’s Special Meeting of the Board of Trustees (7pm at 200 S. 5th Ave.). In reaction to noticing that the appointment to fill the trustee seat vacated by Rogers and Flowers will come before public comment is heard, the editorial board decided that, instead of elaborating on our own sudden reaction to this development, we would allow the public to speak.

Do you think that it is appropriate for this appointment to come before public hearings are held? If yes, please comment. If no, please comment. We will also be administering this informal, snap survey on Facebook, where it may be easier to reply. Once your opinions are aggregated, we will summarize them on this site before the meeting. Please comment either on Facebook or on under this posting before 5pm tomorrow. To view the complete agenda on PDF file, click here.

Special Board Meeting Agenda

Swords Into Ploughshares: Two Mothers Transform Their Pain into Plants

“And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks”         (Isaiah 2:4).

Porter and Duncan Tend to the MOMS Garden
Duncan and Porter tend to the MOMS garden in nearby Bellwood.

Bellwood —

It’s one thing for gun zombies like Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association (NRA), to dumbly recommend more guns as a remedy for gun violence. As mind-numbing as proposed solutions such as these may appear, they may actually have their merits. There may, indeed, be some academic proof (however lazily concocted) to help validate such ‘eye-for-an-eye’ zealotry. There may, indeed, be some asymmetric validity to certain ‘solutions’ that advocate meeting force with the threat of even greater force; violence with violence more ‘appropriately’ applied.

So goes the arguments: If only that crazed kid in Sandy Hook had run into an armed teacher or principal; if only that insane kid in Aurora, Colorado bumped into an armed patron in the parking lot on his way to cinematically slaughter countless innocent, but alas, unarmed movie patrons.

However, it’s another thing to recommend countering violence with violence when the smoke has settled and the calm intrudes. It is physically impossible to arm oneself against loss and grief. What policy proposals should political and economic elites recommend for dealing with a nation of bereaved parents who can’t sleep at night? The greatest violence in an act of gun violence isn’t the immediate homicide(s) or injury(ies) resulting from it.

When Phyllis Duncan’s 21-year old son, Dodavah, was shot and killed in Elgin nearly ten years ago, the day after Mother’s Day, she gradually became victimized by the greater violence. “My son died on a Tuesday and I was back to work on a Thursday,” she said. Depression sank in. She began to mistake anxiety attacks for heart attacks. She said that her job wasn’t prepared to handle her special circumstance. It wasn’t until she gathered the energy to focus on the process of grieving correctly that she began to transform herself from a victim into a survivor.

We rely on experts to administer a lot of basic necessities — food, water, shelter, democracy even. Ms. Duncan, host of the Maywood Show on Comcast channel 19, realized, however, that to overcome the emotional and psychological trauma of her son’s death, she had to rely on herself and her family. She may relate to M’du Hlongwa, a poor squatter in Durban, South Africa, who put the matter emphatically: “I want to say clearly that I am the Professor of my suffering.”

And so, when Ms. Duncan realized that there were pitiably few ‘expert’ organizations or government agencies designed to deal with her suffering, she took the matter into her own hands. In 2006, she started Mothers of Murdered Sons (MOMS), a support group that, despite the name, assists mothers and fathers in grieving over the loss of their children. Since its founding, MOMS has expanded its outreach to include dozens of parents all across the Proviso-Leyden Township community who have lost children; not only to gun violence, but to a host of different causes.

“We want to just celebrate and let people know we are not just victims but victors. [We’re focused on] keeping our sons’ and daughters’ names strong […] Nobody can put a label on the loss of a child,” she said. In 2009, the Village of Bellwood, in partnership with the American Association of Blacks in Energy, donated a parcel of land between Washington and Mannheim to Duncan’s organization. Every May, the group  descends on the land to cultivate native plants and exchange memories.

Phyllis Duncan and Germaine Porter, MOMS’s Advisory Board President and head of Outreach, are the event’s anchors. Since they started pruning and tilling and digging several years ago, the two have benefited from the largesse of a variety of businesses, organizations and individuals. Home Depot donated $100 worth of flowers and bushes this year, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinckle donated some native plants last year.

Duncan and Porter Pose During a Break from Tending to Garden
Duncan and Porter pose during a break from tending to garden.

This May, Duncan and Porter, who also lost her son, Kenneth Porter, Jr., to gun violence and has been a vital presence in the organization for nearly 8 years, were focused on restoring the garden to its earlier luster. “We’ve had two floods here in Bellwood for the past four years […] so we’re replenishing the plants,” said Duncan. That’s an apt metaphor to describe their grieving process. “Me and Germaine could be in the store and we would just be flooded with grief [that] people [who haven’t experienced it, don’t] understand. We still have those days when we’re overwhelmed […].”

One moment the floods, another moment perennials.

Corrections: April 29, 2013

In the April 27, 2013 posting, “A Community at a Standstill: Search and Rescue Efforts for Bryeon Hunter Continue,” we misnamed the son of Germaine Porter. His name is Kenneth Porter, Jr., not Kevin Porter, Jr. That article has since been emended.

In the April 27, 2013 posting, “Clearing the Way: Residents from West Suburbs Join to Clean Path,” we misspelled the name of a former candidate for trustee. Her name is JoAnn Murphy, no JoAnne Murphy. That article has since been emended.

In the April 28, 2013, posting, “Maywood Village Trustee Mike Rogers Resigns, Outgoing Mayor Yarbrough to Fill Vacant Seat Amid Controversy,” we realized after scrutinizing the title and reading some readers’ reactions, that the title is perhaps too ambiguously worded, thus leading some readers to assume that Mr. Yarbrough intends to appoint himself to “fill” the vacancy. This is unambiguously not true, as far as we know. We have no conclusive evidence on whom Mr. Yarbrough will appoint. What is conclusive is that Mr. Rogers resigned and that Mr. Yarbrough has the power to appoint someone to fill his vacancy.

NoMCO Open Letter: Text Format

April 27th, 2013

re: NoMCO’s recommendation to Mayor Henderson Yarbrough and Mayor-elect Edwenna Perkins for the appointment of next-highest-vote-receiving candidates for Village Trustee to the vacant seats created by our most recent local elections.

Greetings Mayor Yarbrough and Mayor-elect Perkins.

The Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NoMCO) begin by thanking you for faithfully carrying out the duties of your respective offices. We also congratulate you both for running fine campaigns. We at NoMCO trust that each you have outdone and will outdo all your predecessors by raising new bars for personal and corporate excellence, integrity, and sacrificial civil service, not only here in the Village of Maywood, but also for all Chicagoland.

With the recent local election outcome, each of you is certainly aware that at least two Village Trustee seats have become vacated: one seat to be vacated by Mayor-elect Perkins, a second by the conveniently timed resignation of Trustee-elect Rogers, and perhaps a third vacancy created by the strategic resignation of yet another Trustee. Regardless of which mayor appoints the replacements to fill these vacancies, it is the strenuous recommendation of NoMCO and its members that the Village Board appoint to the vacated seats the next-highest-vote-receiving candidates for Village Trustee according to the official results of this most recent election.

We urge you to consider the powerful messages communicated to your constituents. First, wouldn’t each of you demonstrate your unbiased and non-partisan concern for the will of Maywood voters? Of course, because it makes absolute common sense that in this representative government context elected and even appointed leaders should enjoy the favor of the people they represent. We submit to you: this favor is best indicated by official vote totals. Second, the appointment of next-highest-vote-receiving candidates simply evidences your appreciation for fair play and integrity. The appointment of any other persons only invites from your broader constituency suspicion, distrust, and antagonism. Moreover, a failure to act according to the will of voters will only further exacerbate the widely perceived state of corruption within our village government as well as the widely suspected “smoke and mirrors” modus operandi for governance. Third and perhaps most importantly, please consider the striking message which both the current and incoming Mayors will send throughout the community by actions perceived to be so void of personal and political agendas. Your clarion broadcast will be: “It is no longer business-as-usual in Maywood.” You will humbly declare, “We are YOUR elected Mayors!” Last but not least, you and all citizens will finally be able to proclaim (and without a snicker nor with fingers crossed), “Maywood IS on the move.” Why? Because SHE WILL BE ON THE MOVE FORWARD, and this time, WITH A NEW AND BETTER DIRECTION!”

In the spirit of fairness to all candidates and with respect for the will of Maywood’s voters, NoMCO urges you to appoint the next-highest-vote-receiving candidates for Village Trustee into the vacated Village Trustee seats. Thank you, and may God bless Maywood!


Respectfully,
John Yi, President
on behalf of the Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization

Commentary: NoMCO Responds to Mike Rogers Resignation

The following is an open letter submitted by NoMCO President John Yi on behalf of his organization. Full disclosure (and for the sake of transparency and honesty): the editor/publisher of this site, Michael Romain, is a new member of NoMCO. That said, however, the views and opinions of NoMCO do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Village Free Press editorial board:

Below are the vote counts for each candidate for trustee in this year’s consolidated elections. To verify this, please visit the Cook County Clerk’s site:

Suburban Cook County Election Results

April 09, 2013 Consolidated General Election

Trustee, Village of Maywood Township & Precinct Results

Registered Voters: 1,455,446
Ballots Cast: 275,616
Voter Turnout: 19%
Trustee, Village of Maywood 17 of 17 Precincts Reported
Download Spreadsheet View Results by Township Print
Vote For 3
Precincts Reporting Status Bar
% Votes
Michael A. Rogers (Maywood United Party)
17.87%
1,129
Melvin L. Lightford Sr. (Maywood United Party)
20.49%
1,295
Antonette Dorris (Maywood United Party)
16.71%
1,056
Marcius Scaggs (All in for Maywood)
16.54%
1,045
JoAnn Murphy (All in for Maywood)
15.84%
1,001
Cheryl A. Ealey-Cross (Independent)
12.55%
793

Maywood Village Trustee Mike Rogers Resigns, Outgoing Mayor Yarbrough to Fill Vacant Seat Amid Controversy

Maywood trustee Mike Rogers, appointed in February to temporarily fill the position vacated by former trustee Dominique Garret-Flowers, has resigned his appointed seat. Rogers’s decision has drawn the ire of some who consider the move an attempt by the outgoing Mayor Yarbrough and the Maywood United Party to consolidate power against incoming Mayor Edwenna Perkins.

The resignation comes less than a month before Rogers is to be sworn into the Trustee seat he won outright during the April 9 consolidated election. So now, what Mayor-elect Perkins believed to be two vacant trusteeships that she would fill at her discretion once she took the oath of office on May 21st, has now dwindled to one — her own.

“It does not look good for the Mayor to take it upon himself to appoint someone…that [decision] should go to the next mayor,” said Perkins. “Why not leave it to the next elected official even if it were not me […], because the people have spoken? They’ve made their decision. They voted.”

Mrs. Perkins believes that the Maywood United Party, the ticket on which Rogers ran, is in the process of building an intractable block of opposition to counter her mayoralty in the upcoming term. “The objective is to get a 5-2 vote, [so] I wouldn’t be able to get anything done […] that’s their objective […] This [the resignation] isn’t necessary right now.” Mayor Yarbrough couldn’t be reached for comments.

For his part, Mr. Rogers said the decision was personal and his alone, stating that the opposition to his resignation comes from a small  minority of residents “who are always angry [and] negative.” His hope, he said, “is that [Mayor Yarbrough] appoint somebody looking out for the best interests of the community and [who] has experience, a great resume and can run a municipal government.”

Trustee Ronald Rivers stated that the crux of the matter was whether Rogers’s decision was legal or not. “In politics and the way I look at life [I ask], ‘Is it legal? Is it right?’ If it’s illegal, you have all the right in the world to bring it up […] I sit in that position where I have to decide what is best for all my constituents and I take that very seriously. If you’re mad at the way the law is written you have to either get in where you fit in or sit down and shut up.”

Rivers believes that the outcry over the resignation is a cynical attempt to turn a personal decision into a political matter. “To me, it’s cynical politics. There was a rumble when [Rogers] was appointed. [But] that seat was part of a coalition two years ago. This is nitpicking I try to stay away from.”

The Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NoMCO), a group that endorsed Mr. Rogers, issued an open letter to both Mr. Yarbrough and Mrs. Perkins recommending that they automatically appoint, “the next-highest-vote-receiving candidates for Village Trustee to the vacant seats created by our most recent local elections.”

A public meeting will be held to vent this issue on Tuesday at 7pm inside of Village chambers, 200 S. 5th Avenue.