March 6, 2017 11:45 am

The importance of thinking locally

2017-01-21 11.39.35 (1)Since the election, ACLU staff have heard one question more than any other: what can I do to protect fundamental freedoms threatened by policies from Washington? Our collective answer largely has been the same – stay informed, stay connected to groups like the ACLU and stay active.

People are paying attention and making their voices heard. We hear reports every week about events being planned and executed across the state. People have been gathering and protesting each week in Bloomington-Normal and Evanston, using their voices to affect change in Peoria and Springfield. We see the wave of activism spreading from Rockford to Carbondale, touching everywhere in between.

It is critical to recall that many of the issues we are facing at the state and federal level also are playing out at the local level. And, because there are so many of these issues happening locally throughout the state, we rely on members and activists to get involved and stay vigilant.

And, there is so much happening at the local level that deserves your attention.

Many communities are considering resolutions or ordinances that designate the municipality as a “welcoming city.” Oak Park adopted one of the best such resolutions earlier this year. And, in the western part of Illinois, nearly 100 residents showed up at Galena’s City Council meeting just last week to support an effort to advance a welcoming city resolution.

Perhaps this is something that you and others in your local community can initiate. Even if you never get to a successful local vote, it sparks discussion and debate about important and critical issues.

Another local activity is to find out what role your municipal police force will play in immigration enforcement. Local matters here as well. Last month, at a League of Women’s Voters forum in Naperville, the community’s police chief made clear that his officers do not assist ICE in immigration enforcement actions. If your community does not have a current policy, they might feel compelled to adopt a non-participation program based on a group of residents raising the question.

Local activity also is going to matter is in the area of protecting students who are transgender, and their ability to use the appropriate restroom and locker room – consistent with their gender identity. This will be a key issue in the school board elections in at least two suburban school districts – U46 and D211 – in the ballot set for Tuesday, April 4th. If you live in these school districts – or any other – find out what the candidates think about these issues; a few votes will decide local school board races.

We all need to stay tuned to the policies coming from Washington and Springfield. Often, however, the most direct action we can take is on the local level. We must not miss that opportunity to speak out and be heard. There are many people in your community waiting to hear from you about these issues – keep speaking out!

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