Champaign County ACLU Steering Committee

Thursday, January 5, 2012

In attendance: Bill Brown, Steve Portnoy, Diana Lenik, Stuart Laird, Barbara Kessel, Carol Inskeep, Carol Spindel, Faruq Nelson, Carol Leff, Esther Patt, Ed Yohnka, ACLU Illinois.

1.    Approval of minutes of November and December 2011 meetings, as well as June 2011

2.    Treasurer’s report—the Treasurer reported a balance of $3591.25 at year’s end (2011), with $1985 raised at the Fall Gathering.

3.    Ed Yohnka, ACLU of Illinois Director of Communications and Public Policy

Ed Yohnka reported on a new direction and emphasis in the ACLU outreach, designed to create a broad but coherent “targets of intolerance” appeal to people who may agree with key elements of the ACLU mission but are not members.  His starting point was the proposition that “the courts are no longer our friends” and that more battles would be fought in legislatures where mobilizing broader public support would be of central importance.  Hence identifying constituencies concerned with rights issues would be more important.  He noted that the collar counties of Chicago, for example, will have many more supporters on specific issues that the size of the ACLU membership base would indicate by itself. This new national approach will be reflected in interaction with ACLU Illinois branches over the coming year, with the expectation that the process of agenda setting and outreach would reach fruition in time to be prepared for aftermath of the fall 2012 elections.  There will be a day-long session with chapter representatives this April 14 at the I-Hotel.  A big kick-off event is planned for later this year, (Saturday November 17), to set a new civil liberties agenda.  Ed also described the popularity of Chicago’s volunteer nights in mobilizing younger people who might not actually “join” formal organizations.

4.    Announcements & Communications

a)    There were no Law School Chapter & Student Chapter reports.

b)    Immigration Forum update—A meeting the following Saturday (January 7?) was planned to discuss next steps.  A question that received comment and discussion was that of the role that local governments could play in a federal policy area of this nature. Public officials at the local level may be enforcement agents in immigration, and may have latitude in how enforcement is undertaken, but can’t set policy

c)    Champaign police chief “conversation with the candidates” report –Diana Lenik, who helped devise the questions for the public forum, reported on the productive public interaction with the candidates, and gave her sense of which seemed best prepared.

5.    Old Business

a)    Rights of Demonstrators event planned for late February in conjunction with the local Occupy movement, and the GEO.

b)    Speaker (Standish Willis), topic, and date for annual meeting were discussed. We are shooting for April 1 if possible, and if not, the 15th.  The plan is to try to arrange a brunch at Milo’s as in recent years.  Willis,  whose legal practice deals among other issues with police brutality and misconduct, also organizes and works more generally to combat police violence in the community, will speak on confession under torture.

c)    Committees for awards and nominations

Two committees were established—one for nominations of next year’s steering committee and one for awards. Carol Inskeep, Carol Spindel and Carol Leff are the nominations committee.  The awards process will be discussed and decided by the full steering committee.

6.    New Business

a)    Master Gardener background checks—there was extensive discussion of the fact that the local Master Gardeners program involves a criminal background check (NB—this appears to be a national requirement).  The discussion brought the fact that the Master Gardeners do sometimes work with school children, but it still wasn’t clear why the full program could require such a check.  Ed Yohnka expressed willingness to write a letter inquiring about the policy lying behind that requirement.

7.    Adjournment at 9:17.