It was all smiles as the village citizens group, Citizens United in Forest Park (CUinFP), celebrated its one-year anniversary and unveiled their new interactive website. The meeting, held May 26 at St. Peter Church, also re-addressed their mission statement and featured the group’s yearly elections.
“Our goal is to make sure that the village takes care of its business in the light of day,” CUinFP President Kathryn Moran said. “When government is allowed to operate in secrecy, that is when the mischief happens.”
The citizens group was founded by individuals who felt the village handled several developments in town ineffectively. “We started going to village council meetings, saw things that weren’t working and felt we should do something about it,” CUinFP Vice President Steve Backman said.
In just one short year, CUinFP says their hard work and effort has made an impact. “We have started to see how well things get done when business, community and government all work together,” said Backman’s wife, Gloria.
“Our village government is much more transparent and the meetings are much more civilized, organized and productive ever since this group started to show interest,” added Steve Backman.
The group has over 70 members, but attendance at its bi-monthly meetings has been down. To remedy that, Marcy Wozniak said, “We plan on increasing the meetings to once a month and to also feature occasional workshops, guest speakers and open forums.”
After holding an open election, the group re-elected all of its current officers. They then announced their new website, which features everything from personal commentaries to a list of all village officials’ contact information. As of June 1, it can be found at www.cuinfp.org.
The watchdog group’s future agenda includes forming a village Ethics Committee. It is a state law that every community must have an Ethics Committee but several communities, including Forest Park, have yet to appoint one. “We hope to drive that point home and get the ball rolling for the council to appoint a committee,” Steve Backman said.
The group also discussed its annual fundraiser, a rummage sale, which will be held Oct. 1. They urge the community to save their castoffs and donate them to the sale. Last year’s effort was a huge success, bringing in over $1,700. The group has also started to record all of the village council meetings; DVDs of any meeting are available for purchase.
The goal is improving the quality of governance. “If more people ask questions, the village will become more accountable,” Gloria Backman said.
“We are here to foster the future of Forest Park; to create a community that people feel a part of and feel they could change things if they are wrong,” said Moran.