The first-ever public meeting of the 11th Police District Council was held at the Legler Regional Library, 115 S. Pulaski Rd., on May 24. At the meeting, the three newly elected district council members were set to vote on each member’s roles and the council’s bylaws, yet confusion and tension erupted between attendees and among the council members.
Nearly 30 community members, mostly from Garfield Park and North Lawndale, attended the meeting, though it appeared not all attendees knew what the purpose of the meeting was. Later in the meeting, at least a couple of attendees expressed they were under the impression that this was a community meeting hosted by the 11th district council to discuss solutions following the May 16 shooting incident outside of the Legler Regional Library where two minors were shot. Both victims, ages 12 and 16, are recovering and a Brookfield man was arrested, as reported by the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark, our sister publication.
The meeting started with a call to order and determination of quorum, following Robert’s Rules of Order, a widely used protocol that public bodies use to conduct meetings.
Time for public comment followed, where several community members condemned violence happening outside the library, “a sanctuary” for children and teens in the community. Some called for a stronger police presence, while others asked for “community as a whole” solutions and investing in violence prevention programs.
The three district council members – Alees Edwards, Bryan Ramson and Jocelyn Woodards – then proceeded to discuss and vote on the bylaws of the 11th district council, leading to tensions among them and community members’ disapproval.
Ramson introduced a motion to ratify the third version of the bylaws, redacted among the members, to Edwards’ objection. Edwards said the chair responsibilities do not include being the sole spokesperson for the 11th district council, a responsibility she believes should be shared among all district councils.
“I am for equality so all three of us sharing the role,” Edwards said.
Edwards later told the Austin Weekly News that she has called for the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability for mediation, a request Ramson allegedly also made. As of this publication’s deadline, the Community Commission for Public Safety did not respond to Austin Weekly News’ request for comment.
According to Edwards, she requested mediation as Ramson and Woodards redacted the body’s bylaws in a way that does not equally distribute roles and responsibilities of each member. It is unclear what roles and responsibilities each district council member should have, as currently the Chicago Municipal Code (2-80-070) does not mention it. It only mentions that “District Council members on each District Council shall determine which member shall serve as Chair, which member shall serve on the Nominating Committee, and which member shall serve as Community Engagement Coordinator.”
Tensions between the members also erupted when Ramson introduced a motion to nominate himself as council chair and Woodards as the nominating committee member.
Several attendees interrupted the motions as they said their voices were not being heard while the council members were making decisions.
“Our kids are out there dying, you are fighting for power,” an attendee said.
Ramson said the district council members were not fighting about power.
“What we’re trying to do is determine the structure of a deliberative body,” he said, adding it is not about power but “representation.”
“I would like to have some discussion about the nominating committee member,” Edwards said. “It was written in the bylaws and added by Brian Ramson that the nominating person would be the backup spokesperson to prevent me from exercising my voice, and for that reason I am not seconding the motion.”
A couple of attendees said they support Edwards as they know her for her community activism, while others questioned how the district council members were elected.
“Who nominated you in the first place?” Torres Jackson, a Garfield Park resident, asked. “Who made you a man to sit in that spot?”
Ramson said for him to be in that spot, community members had to vote for him.
Ervin said district council members were elected after collecting signatures to be included in the ballot, following similar processes for elected officials. As previously reported by this publication, the race in the 11th ward became noncompetitive after the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners ruled to remove two of five initial candidates from the ballot following objections to two candidates.
Ultimately, and after several community members left the room due to their disagreement, Woodards and Ramson voted in favor for the motions for chair, nominating committee member and bylaws while Edwards refrained from voting. As a result, Edwards was voted as the council’s community engagement coordinator, Ramson was voted council chair and Woodard was voted nominating committee member.
“Now that the meeting is over, now we can have a conversation,” Ramson told the community members who had not left. “So not only do we not ratify the record until next meeting, which you can join and put your input in there, but I would actually really like to have this conversation.”
Several residents expressed their disagreement with how decisions were made.
“What I’m hearing is a lot of disagreement and you just rushing to end the meeting,” Jackson said to Ramson.
“Now, if you’re here for the community and you’re not gonna listen to the community, it’s a waste of everybody’s time,” another attendee said.
Cmdr. Ward said as it was the first meeting that the 11th district council held, they had to determine its structure, yet it doesn’t mean community members’ will not be listened to.
“I think that’s what the problem was,” she said. “It should have been explained exactly what was going on here because a lot of people are confused.”
She urged community members to continue to stay involved.
“Please come back because we have to work together,” Ward said. “The police, the community.”
After the meeting, some attendees told Austin Weekly News that community members and district councils are still navigating how the newly created body works.
“It’s a community process we gotta navigate,” Theodore J. Crawford, a community resident said. “We gotta get on the same page.”