During May, Forest Park Village Administrator Tim Gillian composed a list of Forest Park’s religious, business and civic leaders to speak to comprehensive plan consultants Images, Inc. for what were termed “Key Person Interviews” to get background about Forest Park.
Representatives of Forest Park’s taxing bodies were interviewed, including Rodger Brayden, director of the Forest Park Public Library and Commissioner John Doss of the park district. The elementary and high school districts were represented by Ed Brophy, assistant. superintendent of Forest Park Elementary Schools District 91 and Supt. Nettie Collins-Hart of Proviso Township High School District 209.
Karen Dylewski, director of the Community Center was interviewed, along with Kiwanis Club member and Fenwick employee Jerry Lordan. Cub Scout Pack 109 Leader Jill Wagner was interviewed, as was Forest Park Historical Society President Augie Aleksy, also the owner of Centuries and Sleuths bookstore.
Representing Forest Park’s religious communities were Pastor Leonard Payton of St. John Lutheran and Rev. George Velloorattil, pastor of St. Bernardine’s Church. Kim Clay, business manager of Living Word Christian Church and Forest Park Baptist’s pastor, Dave Steinhart were also interviewed.
Representing the business community were Dan Watts, president of Forest Park National Bank and commercial Realtor and Chamber of Commerce member David King.
Requesting more diversity
But Commissioners Chris Harris and Rory Hoskins complained in May that the Key Persons list lacked diversity and that fresh voices should be heard. “It just seems like a lot of the ‘same old same old,’ Harris wrote in an email to Gillian obtained by the Forest Park Review.
Hoskins also called for more diverse voices, pointing out that St. Bernardine had a large Filipino congregation and that more African American voices should be heard.
Hoskins told the Review he decided to speak to Mayor Anthony Calderone directly about his concerns.
“I approached the Mayor at the All School Picnic [May 23] and mentioned that I thought we should have some more diverse voices in the Key Persons interviews,” Hoskins told the Review. At the mayor’s request, Hoskins suggested Pastor William Teague of Faith Tabernacle Church and Forest Park Baptist Trustee and local Realtor Akin Famoyegun, both of whom were interviewed by Images, Inc.
Mayor’s snippy memo
But a week later on May 29, the mayor sent a tersely worded memo to his fellow commissioners criticizing Hoskins and Harris.
“For some unknown reason, commissioners Hoskins and Harris seem to be perplexed as to why Images is not focusing, zeroing in or specifically identifying minorities to participate in the Key People interviews,” Calderone wrote in the memo.
“This is a comprehensive land plan, not a [sic] ethnic or racial plan,” he continued.
“The key people are just that, individuals who represent a large sector of others, including all races,” Calderone said in the memo.
He then scolded, “Rather than an knee jerk reaction, hypothesizing that someone is being left out,” he said, “you can each best serve the community in which you were elected by reaching out [to constituents] to participate in one or all of the meetings/workshops taking place over the next year or so.”
When asked about the memo, Hoskins said he was confused because Calderone had requested names at the picnic and seemed to welcome the input.
But last week Calderone said he sent the memo after thinking about Hoskins’ request and judging it as unfairly asking for more input than any of the other commissioners got.
“Commissioner Hoskins is trying to turn it into a racial or diversity plan,” he added. “As I thought about it, I thought it was not fair for one official to offer up ideas to pick who is on [the Key Persons list] and the others do not get that opportunity.”
“My memo was clear and succinct,” Calderone told the Review. “This is a land use plan, not a diversity plan.”
Calderone said the Key Persons interviews were meant to kick off the plan and real work of the planning process would be at the steering committee level and in following workshops. “That’s for the stakeholders of all backgrounds that want to be part of the process.” He said that he’s the only sitting commissioner who has experience with a comprehensive plan, having helped craft the first one in 2001.
He added, “Did Commissioner Hoskins say I asked him why aren’t Italian Americans being sought out for Key Person interviews?”
Calderone said he thought the needs of Forest Park’s minority populations would be known by Brophy at the school district, Brayden at the library and Dylewsky at the community center.
“I’m offended that Commissioner Hoskins feels that anyone is being cut out,” he added.
“While diversity is always a good topic of discussion, a comprehensive plan must be color blind and its main focus is current and future land use,” he said in a follow-up email.