Making Democracy Work

Observer Corps

Observing Government Meetings

Members of the League of Women Voters of Chicago occasionally observe meetings held by governmental bodies. We are not able to attend all meetings, but choose some according to our members' schedules. The following information contains reports of some of the decisions or discussions that the observer thinks might be of interest to others. No attempt is made to include all that transpired, and the selection of what to report is subjective.

Board of Elections

Chicago Board of Elections Website: Meeting videos and minutes are available:

Chicago Board of Elections Meeting June 13, 2017

Observed by: Susan M. Garza

Next meeting: June 27, 10:00 a.m.

Automatic registration is expected to be law soon. The governor is expected to sign it. Some details expected in a meeting on the 19th.

Talks are underway with Walgreens about using the space on Washington for judges' training. The board would like to use the space for the next two years.

Presentation was made last week to Equip for Equality regarding the goal of making all polling places accessible to all voters.

There will be a meeting today with the state board of elections.

Elected school board bill still has not been signed. If it is signed, the first elected school board would not be before 2023. Before implementation there would have to be an independent commission to create districts.

Attorney Contractor Agreement deferred to next board meeting.

Award of Contract for Invitation for Bid (IFB): Printing / Mailing of July 2017 Full Voter Canvass to JJ Collins. There were eight (8) bids. Some were disqualified. Presented JJ Collins for a one (1) year contract with a second year renewable option. First canvass mailing in early July, non-forwardable. Second mailing based on results of the first mailing. Contract approved.

Professional Services Agreement between the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago and Equip for Equality: Agreement approved. The agreement to end in December, 2019. Equip for Equality to provide services, such as, data collection, oversight of making polling places accessible, training poll workers. This is part of the settlement agreement with the Department of Justice regarding ADA compliance.

Meeting of May 23, 2017

Observer reports by Helene Gabelnick

It was reported that the Executive Director is reorganizing the office.

Two bills in the General Assembly HB 512 (Information about referenda is to be published 40 days before the election rather than 30 days before.) and SB 1933 (Automatic Voter Registration) should be supported. Action is expected before the end of the session.

Meeting of May 9, 2017

The mail canvas of registered voters will be sent on July 19. This document is not forwardable by USPS. The voters whose documents are returned because they cannot be delivered will be sent a second forwardable document.

A contract with Equip for Equality was approved. This provides for work on the settlement about ADA compliance.

Illinois Senate Bill 1933 (Automatic Voter Registration) has been passed by the Senate and is in the House. Governor Rauner vetoed a similar bill last year. Observer Report by Helene Gabelnick

Meeting of April 25, 2017

The mail canvas of registered voters will be done in August.

The Board made minor adjustments to two precinct boundaries in the 13th ward due to differences in numbers of registered voters.

Staff continue to work on polling place accessibility with Equip for Equality. See for details on the settlement with the Justice Department regarding compliance with Americans with Disabilities (ADA) guidelines.

It was reported that the Illinois Secretary of State will no longer be issuing the "Blue Pamphlet" with information for voters on proposed Constitutional Amendments.

City Council

Chicago City Council, December 14, 2016

Observer Notes by Rochelle Riffer

Items taken up by the City Council on December 14, 2016 include:

Airbnb. After a lawsuit filed by some homeowners, the implementation of rules regulating Airbnb rentals in Chicago will be delayed until February. This will allow the City to tweak some of the rules, particularly the requirement that a host sign a statement that they "understand" the ordinance and keep records of rentals for three years.

Tobacco. Aldermen approved a partial rollback of a 2013 ordinance. Menthol cigarettes, candy flavored cigars and other similar tobacco products will now be allowed within 500 feet of grade schools. The minimum age to buy tobacco products remains 21 years old. The vote was 31-14. Aldermen supporting the modification asserted this was a compromise to help small businesses who felt their trade suffered in the original provision. They argued that grade school students would not be mistaken for 21 year olds. The ban on flavored tobacco sales near high schools will remain in place. Opponent Ald. Raymond Lopez (15) said "I think our goal should be to keep cigarettes as far away from children as possible."

Legal Fund. Mayor Emanuel's plan to set up a $1.3 million legal fund to aid immigrants facing deportation was approved. The money comes from unclaimed funds set aside for the property tax rebate. Three aldermen voted against the plan. Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41) preferred the City expand the property tax rebate program, saying "But we're taking money from taxpayers."

Settlements. $9 million in settlements were approved for two police shooting lawsuits and another lawsuit filed by a group of women claiming discrimination in the Fire Department's hiring requirements for physical strength tests.

Alderman Indicted. Ald. Willie Cochran (20) was indicted by the U.S. Attorney on charges of wire fraud, extortion and bribery. The charges included theft of thousands of dollars intended for a ward charity that Cochran allegedly used for gambling and a daughter's college tuition. Ald. Cochran sat in his seat at the City Council meeting as news of the indictment came out. As many aldermen were speaking to congratulate the champion Chicago Cubs he remained in the chamber. After approximately one hour Ald. Cochran exited, followed by reporters. The Alderman said he had no comment on the indictment.

Board of Education

May 24, 2017, Chicago Board of Education Meeting


1)Forest Claypool, Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools, provided an update of the previous week in Springfield--the Day of Action. He described the two systems of inequality--color and income and hopes there will be a funding formula someday that is not based on income and skin color. He asked the Board to vote on three changes in graduation requirements:

  • Develop a post-secondary plan. This would be satisfied by:

College acceptance letter received and returned - Military acceptance/enlistment letter - Acceptance into a job program (ie, coding boot camp) - Acceptance into a trades preapprenticeship/apprenticeship - Acceptance into a "Gap-Year" program - Current job/job offer letter

  • Science standards to prepare for success in STEM fields:

Under the proposed requirements, students must receive one credit each in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. If approved by the Board, this graduation requirement will go into effect for the Class of 2022 (students entering high school in 2018).

  • Financial education for all CPS students

The proposed policy will ensure all students receive an education in financial literacy that equips them with the knowledge and skills to make empowered financial decisions. Some key areas will be banking, credit, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy. Financial Education will be a pass/fail graduation requirement that will apply to the Class of 2021, (students entering in SY 17-18). For more information see,

2) Ronald DeNard, Senior Vice-President of Finance for CPS, asked the Board to approve a request for the following measures:

Grant Anticipation Loan. The State of Illinois owes 467 million dollars to pay pension payments. There is an expectation that eventually money would be paid back to CPS. Increase the Board's authority for the working capital reimbursement bond. They need to size the bond that will bring cash into the operating account.

  • *There was a question of what if these measures were not approved. DeNard replied that CPS would be in dire circumstances. "This bridges us until July. Both loans are critical. Otherwise we will run out of money."

3)Frank Clark, President, announced that the next meeting will be Wednesday, June 28 at 10:30 at the Loop Office. Registration opens June 26.

4)During the public participation section, many parents made impassioned pleas for their schools' overcrowding, safety, cleanliness, and bullying.

5)Michael Brunson, Recording Secretary from the Chicago Teachers Union spoke about two issues:

No confidence vote on the referendum on Forrest Claypool (14,500 said no; 150 said yes. Intolerable conditions in the schools. CTU promotes a bill to bring more money in. He said that something needs to be done now. "Things are escalating."

Guidelines for Observers

Be sure to wear a LWV button. A written report should be sent to the League office and will be posted on our website (see form on last page). Attending a meeting with several other Leaguers can be advantageous, making our presence known and noticeable.

Chicago City Council

Chicago City Council meetings are open to the public. Meetings typically begin at 10 a.m. in the Council Chambers located on the second floor at City Hall. The first hour usually is spent honoring various employees and members of the public. It might be worthwhile to view a City Council meeting on line to get a feel for how things are done. View the calendar at

The public also is invited to committee meetings. The schedules are also listed on the online calendar. These can prove to be of interest because that's where the actual business is done. Committee meetings often have few public attendees.

Live Stream Video: For each City Council meeting, the Office of the City Clerk provides live streaming video, including captions, on our Council News Central page. To watch live click here.

For more information on attending a Chicago City Council meeting, or to reserve seating, contact the Chicago City Council Sergeant-at-Arms at 312-744-6800 or via email at Many organizations reserve blocks of seat in advance, and at times all seats will be reserved. Additional seating is available in the balcony, which is not optimal for viewing. If more than one person is going, it might be worthwhile to reserve seats in the name of LWV Chicago. You must have a seat; they do not allow standing.

Questions? Contact Rochelle Riffer, .

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

MWRD General Meetings usually are held at 10:30 a.m. at 100 E. Erie on the first and third Thursdays of each month. Schedule could change during the summer.

You will need to show ID and sign in, and go through security before entering. They offer an agenda - short and long forms.  Take the long form. Go online at and print out the names of the commissioners. 

Procedurally the Board can ask to have items removed from the Consent Calendar (Agenda), which they can deal with individually. Once discussion is complete, the item is either returned to the Consent Calendar or tabled for another part of the meeting. Once all items requesting discussion are dealt with, the Consent Calendar is voted on as a whole.

The meetings generally last a little more than an hour, and can be followed by a special report by one of the commissioners. During the break, it's not unusual for some of the commissioners to come to the visitor's seats and introduce themselves. Of all the government organizations with open meetings, MWRD is the most welcoming and friendly.

Questions? Contact Pat Graunke, or Diane Edmundson, .

Chicago Board of Education

The Chicago Board of Education holds its monthly Board meeting on the fourth Wednesday of every month, unless otherwise noted. November and December meetings are held on the third Wednesday respectively.

Unless otherwise noted, Chicago Board of Education meetings are held in the Board room, 42 W. Madison Street, Chicago, Illinois, Garden Level. Members of the public are welcome but you must register to observe. Go online at to check for the correct date of the meeting and the time to register.  You must register on line and do it as early as they allow.  Slots fill up quickly. Advance registration will be open the Monday preceding the Board meeting at 10:30 a.m. and close Tuesday at 5:00 p.m., or until all slots are filled.  

You also can sign up to speak. There is a 60 speaker limit at two minutes each, and those from the same organization are asked to stand as a group and select one speaker.

Upon arrival you will receive a number, an agenda, and a list of those speaking and their subjects. Observers will be placed in an overflow room with giant TV screens and admitted to the board room as space becomes available. Those with lower numbers are admitted first, so it pays to arrive at least an hour before the board meeting, which starts at 10:30. The meeting lasts at least two and half hours between the opening presentations and the public comment period. This is followed by executive session, after which the board reconvenes for public votes on items discussed in executive session and other action.

Questions? Contact Rae Sokolow,

Chicago Board of Elections

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners meets at 9 a.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, in the Board's 8th Floor offices at 69 W. Washington St., Chicago. Visitors are welcome. There is opportunity for public comment (5 minute maximum) during the meeting. Signup to speak when you arrive.

Questions? Contact Helene Gabelnick,

Health and Human Services

The Board of Directors of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS) meets on the last Friday of each month at 9:00 A.M. at 1900 W. Polk Street, in the Second Floor Conference Room, Chicago, Illinois.

For more information, contact Diane Edmundson,

League of Women Voters of Chicago - Observer Report

Please send completed report to MWRD and HHS reports also should be sent to Diane Edmundson,

Observed by: _____________________________________________________& ____________________________________________________

Date: _________________________________ Meeting Length:_____________________________________

Meeting Name : (Example City Council, MWRD Board, Board of Education, Board of Elections or committees)

I. What is the Headline? _____________________________________________________

II. Significant Decisions Made:

III. Significant Topics Discussed and/or Referred to Committee (please specify which committee):

IV. Unexpected Votes, Events, Testimony or Items to Watch for in the Future:

V. Any Other Comments or Observations: