of Champaign County

    Steering Committee

Thursday, September 1, 2011

7:00 p.m.

Room 3405 Siebel Building

Present: Bill Brown, President, Esther Patt, Steve Portnoy, Bob Illyes, David Amerson and Catherine Page (the law school chapter of the ACLU), Carol Inskeep, Faruq Nelson, Carol Spindel, Carol Leff, Carol Inskeep, Marsha Woodbury, Shirley Stillinger, Diana Lenik, Richard Schnuer, Paul Debevec

Guest: Don Gerard, Mayor of Champaign

1.     The minutes of June meeting were not available for approval.

2.     Announcements & Communications

a)     Treasurer Steve Portnoy presented an update on the chapter finances; we hold a current balance of $2340.74.  Steve noted thatwe need to make that our spring balance is sufficient to pay the full annual meeting lunch bill before the checks for that lunch are cashed, and therefore that we need to carry a slightly larger balance than currently.

b)     Law School Chapterreport

Catherine Page gave an overview of the planned Law School Chapteractivities for the coming year, with precise dates for some of them still to be arranged. These include, among other plans:

The Know Your Rights Bar Crawl, which featured the distribution of a revised and improved laminated rights card, wallet size.

The co-sponsorship of event on the School to Prison Pipeline issue

Winter Break in Chicago, focus on careers in public interest law and networking with alums

Application for Dream Day funding for a spring forum on Changes in law since 9-11

We will put finalized events on the County ACLU website.

At the quad day, the law school chapter encouraged the UIUC student chapter leaders to stay in touch with the county steering committee.

c)     IL Division update - legislation, legal actions, Illinois Brief, other communications

Bill noted the following developments:

ACLU of Illinois Legal Director Harvey Grossman presenting ACLU case Terkel v. AT&T  before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Seattle/the issue: AT&T cooperation with the federal government in turning over citizen phone records without warrant or evidence of criminal activity.

The summary judgment (August 18 2011)  in the Catholic Charities case, upholding Illinois government’s authority to withhold funding from organizations that discriminate against LGBT citizens wishing to adopt (in this case, the Department of Children and Family Services termination of its contractual relationship with Catholic Charities to provide state-funded foster care and adoption services.

Mary Dixon asks for suggestions for high profile civil libertarians to sign a letter to the Illinois Attorney General supporting DNA testing in the case of a jailed prisoner.

Illinois ACLU Brief has articles on Victor Stone and our civil union efforts.


New Champaign Mayor Don Gerard joined us to discuss issues related to the Champaign police force.  Gerard discussed his general efforts to reach out to minority communities in Champaign, and a few specific issues with the police force, including use of (fairly expensive) jaywalking tickets to justify stopping citizens on the streets in north Champaign. He noted that the culture and orientation of the Champaign City Council may be somewhat more open on these issues now that the mayor is no longer closely associated with the police force by prior profession and family connections. As a consequence, racial profiling is on the agenda now for the city council in a way that it hadn’t been previously.

In the context of the search for a new police chief to replace retiring chief Finney, Gerard also discussed his hopes for a police chief who could build a new culture of community cooperation.  Richard Schnuer offered more specifics on the timeline and procedure, since it is the City Manager who actually conducts the search and hiring procedure.  We agreed to contact the office to express interest in participating in the public component of the job search.

Gerard had not studied the I-dot traffic stop data, but reiterated that new leadership might send different signals on this issue.  He added that it would be a mistake to view racial cooperation problems as merely a province of the police force, since there have been long-standing community divisions underlying the specific pattern of police-community relations. Steering committee members pointed out that the pattern seen in Urbana was that the traffic stop patterns didn’t fully coincide with where the crime was, and that minorities were stopped at and were subject to consent search requests at higher rates, but the percentage of case where contraband was found was decidedly higher among whites.

d)     Pride Fest report—Some of those who staffed our table at the August 20 Pridefest (Carol Leff, Bill Brown, Marsha Woodbury…) commented on a repeat of last year’s friendly successful event in general, and the visitors to our table in particular, including a number of new subscribers signing up for our listserv.  A PACE administrator left her card with us, and said she would welcome it if the Steering Committee wished to sit down with PACE on local issues of disability rights.

3.     Old Business

a)     Relationship with eCISSA – There will be a meeting in Champaign on September 14—some of the issues under consideration include a basic “Safe Schools” student curriculum for LGBT issues, and staff training (school administrators and teachers) in handling LGBT bullying issues

b)     Review of summer issues (Urbana traffic stop analysis & meetings)-- We briefly discussed this summer’s Urbana report

c)     Review of summer issues—update on Urbana “aggressive solicitation” ordinance, a revised version of which passed in early August.  After criticism at public meetings, the ordinance was modified to offer an alternative to monetary fines and to modify the language by deleting the word “panhandling.”

4.     New Business

a)     N-G letters re Civil Union ceremony discrimination—the issue discussed was the right of a public accommodation (in this case a Bed and Breakfast) to refuse business based on LGBT civil union celebrations.  The precedent set by the Illinois Supreme Court on a related issue was mentioned, a case in which the Christian landlord refused to rent to an unmarried couple on religious grounds.

b)     Market at the Square Sept 10th – volunteers, ideas

Dave Amerson, Carol Spindel, Bob Illyes and Carol Inskeep offered to staff the table 

c)     Fall Gathering – date (Nov 13?) & location –November 13 was accepted as the date for the fall gathering, and a possible venue suggested at the home of Jerry Wray and Dirk Mol. If this doesn’t work out, Bill will contact us to pull together alternatives to be decided on at the October meeting.

d)     Fall newsletter—not discussed

5.     Adjournment at 8:45

Next meeting: October 6th

Roger Baldwin Bill of Rights Celebration: September 24th-

Future meetings:

November 3rd

December 8st