In an effort to create a bridge of understanding among members of Forest Park’s diverse population the village’s newly created Diversity Commission officially met for the first time, June 23, at Forest Park Village Hall, 517 Desplaines Ave.
So far there are six members on the seven-member commission and they are: Nick Ardinger, Tom Holmes, Trudy Roznos, Mike Thompson, Kate Webster and Scott Watson, who was not in attendance.
Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone met with the commission members that evening, talking to them about what he believes they are charged to do as a commission. According to the village ordinance, the commission’s mission is to promote harmony and deter prejudice, discrimination and intolerance through educational and action programs.
He said the village’s new Diversity Commission is the result of a promise he made after the village board received a backlash reaction for considering passage of a “saggy pants” ordinance in 2014.
“Boy, did it catch the attention of people and the news media,” Calderone said. “We ended up not adopting the ordinance and I made a pledge to create a Diversity Commission.”
While the commission is made up of men and women from various backgrounds and alternative lifestyles there is no person of color on the commission. Webster, a new member on the commission, who is a lesbian, brought this up during the meeting and Calderone said they tried to make inroads in that area.
In the past, he said, getting people of color like African Americans to volunteer has been very difficult, but if there are people of color who want to join the commission they could be accommodated by expanding the number of people on the commission.
Mental illness and homelessness in the village were among the issues some of the members believed the commission should be an advocate for, in addition to race.
Ardinger believes that to make positive change there would have to be a change in the mindset of both longtime village residents and new ones and getting the word out about what they plan to do.
“There has to be some way of helping people understand the issues,” he said.
Calderone believes the commission can make that happen.
“There is room for improvement in Forest Park, absolutely, and I believe this will be the charge of the group,” he said.
The next Diversity Commission meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., July 28 at Forest Park Village Hall.