After taking a beating in the court of public opinion over the past few weeks for his wildly unpopular "sit down and shut up" anti-protester ordinances, Mayor Rahm Emanuel went on a charm offensive yesterday, with the administration hosting private briefings for aldermen and select journalists (off the record, of course!).
In these private meetings, the administration rolled out revised versions of the anti-protester bills that Emanuel first proposed just before the holidays.
Left out of the Mayor's charmed gatherings, of course, were those who would be most affected by the changes. The confabs violated at least the spirit, if not the letter, of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
Speaking with a senior print journalist late yesterday afternoon - let's call him "Greg" - the impression he gave me was of a wholesale re-write of the mayor's earlier proposals, leaving out most, but not all, of the odious provisions that had caused the mayor to get so much flack.
But of course, Mayor Transparency gave nothing to the journalists in writing. And it was only well into the evening that, through a friendly alderman, that I finally got a copy of the latest version of Rahm's proposals.
And they stunk. Almost as much as the earlier versions.
"Greg" warned me that the much-discussed "resisting arrest" ordinance revisions were to remain intact. This was where fines were going to zoom from a minimum/maximum of $25-200 up to $200-$1000. Chicago, you may recall, has a unique interpretation of what constitutes "resisting arrest," where even non-violent civil disobedience, such as going limp, can be interpreted as "resisting." So a provision designed to ensnare non-violent protesters in hefty fines remains intact in Rahm's "new and improved" proposals.
And what about the Mayor's cherished no-bid contracts and deputizing of other "law enforcement" personnel (not limited to police forces in other jurisdictions, and conceivably including rent-a-cops)? Well, the version of the ordinance changes that I received made no mention of either this or the resisting arrest provision, but Andrew Greiner's blog on NBC 5 said the briefers told him that these controversial proposals remain in the Mayor's "new and improved" proposals.
Punishing Protest Organizers
The new version of the proposed ordinances that I did receive deals with the current parade permit ordinance, Section 10-8-330, and the addition of two new sections, -332 and -334.
One of the most outrageous of Rahm's proposals remains intact: Every march application would require "a description of any recording equipment, sound amplification equipment, banners, signs, or other attention-getting devices to be used in connection with the parade." So march organizers would have to accurately vet every sign, banner, bullhorn - months in advance - or be subject to fines under the new ordinance.
The minimum fine in the new proposal would "only" quadruple, from $50 to $200, as opposed to increasing 20-fold in Rahm's original proposal. The maximum fine would remain at $1000, with a possible 10 days jail time as well.
All of the odious anti-"public assembly" provisions remain in the new version of the ordinance, so once again, Occupy Chicago meetings, union pickets and other sidewalk activities could be punishable if Rahm's revised ordinance proposals go through.
Many of the proposed changes in the permit ordinance were subtle, and so it was little wonder that few picked up on them at first. For example, while the wording of the current 10-8-330 and proposed 10-8-330 were very similar, the simple addition of the word "or" in the new version would cause virtually every march in the downtown area to be designated a "large parade," with a host of insurance requirements and other restrictions added in as a result.
Currently, if a street march is in the downtown area and it causes more than $20,000 in city services, then it is a "large parade" requiring organizers to get $1,000,000 insurance coverage for the City. Under the first version of Rahm's proposed changes, and the revised version dropped yesterday, a "large parade" is anything in the downtown area or something elsewhere that costs $20,000 in city services.
In their haste to re-write Rahm's new ordinances, his people indicate in one section that "No permit shall be issued until the parade organizer provides proof of the insurance." Elsewhere, the latest proposed ordinance says that "At least one week prior to the scheduled parade, the parade organizer shall furnish to the commissioner documents demonstrating compliance with the insurance requirement."
Another subtle, but significant change that remains in Rahm's revised proposal is that while the current version of the ordinance allows for the nixing of a permit application if there are not "a sufficient number of peace officers and traffic control aides," the new version changes this to allowing a rejection based on if there are not "a sufficient number of on-duty police officers, or other city employees authorized to regulate traffic."
It may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but this clause played an important role in the suit the City filed against us in their unsuccessful attempt to reject our permit for a march in Pilsen on the sixth anniversary of the Iraq War in 2009. Under the proposed new language, the City might very well have been able to get that march banned.
A final note in the bad news department. Both the current and proposed version of the ordinance give broad authority to the Commissioner of Transportation to "promulgate rules and regulations to implement this section." Given Rahm's belligerence against protesters and hostility to the Left in general which he infamously labeled as "f---ing retarded" this clause is unfettered license for him to sneak a lot of BS in the back door without the formality of a City Council vote.
There are some minor concessions in the newest version of the bill: street protests could still last 2 hours and 15 minutes, rather than simply 2 hours, and the ridiculous requirement of one parade marshal per 100 participants has been dropped.
But the main gist of Rahm's "new and improved" ordinance proposals is nearly as bad as the ones he rolled out in December. And, of course, aside from the no-bid contracts and police deputizing provisions, it would all be permanent.
Even though Rahm's "new and improved" ordinance proposals make only the most minor of concessions, the fact that he felt compelled to go through this elaborate public relations exercise shows that we're getting to him.
Now is the time to push even harder to get these proposals dumped once and for all.
Here's what you can do:
1. Call your Alderman - again. Find their contact information here.
2. Flood the two City Council committee meetings next Tuesday, Jan. 17:
a) 10 AM in the City Council Chambers, 2nd floor of 121 N. LaSalle Street
b) 1 PM in Room 201A, 121 N. LaSalle Street.
3. Flood the City Council Meeting where Rahm will try to bulldoze this stuff throug -Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2nd floor of 121 N. LaSalle Street. The meeting starts at 10 AM, but in order to have a chance of getting in, I'd suggest you get there at 8 AM or earlier.
To see a copy of the new version of Rahm's proposed parade permit ordinance, go here.