A Cook County judge, on Dec. 20, ruled that the Chicago City Council violated the Open Meetings Act ( OMA ) by not having any forum for public comment in its monthly meetings.
The partial ruling by Judge Diane Larsen comes after a lawsuit from two gay activists, Andy Thayer and Rick Garcia, who were unable to enter the May and June meetings, though they were nearly at the front of the line for the gallery. Thayer and Garcia similarly decried the lack of public comment at Council meetings; Thayer intended to protest a $15.8 TIF ordinance.
The Council will have to establish and record rules allowing public comment at meetings; its attorneys will report on their progress and timeframe in court on Jan. 3. The matter of spectator access to the Council chambers was not addressed in the ruling.
"While this is just round #1 in this suit, it is a crucial victory not only for affordable housing advocates, but for everyone in this City who has a beef with City Hall," said Thayer in a Dec. 21 statement. "Over the past few years we've seen the City Council pass a series of deeply unpopular measures, from phony reforms that don't really reform the police, to a whole series of increased taxes targeting mostly poor and moderate income people, increasing the chasm between the rich and the rest of us. Mayor Emanuel and the Aldermen are able to ram through these regressive measures in part because they concoct their Council meetings in way where no visible opposition is allowed."