At its first meeting last week, Mayor Anthony Calderone admitted to the newly appointed members of Forest Park’s newly created Diversity Commission that he had really caught “the attention of people and the news media” when he proposed adoption of a “saggy pants” ordinance two years back.
That would be the simple-minded notion that a local government could improve the community by telling young black men to pull up their trousers. So totally out of touch with the complexity and opportunity of a racially diverse town.
The righteous hubbub that followed led to Calderone’s promise that the village would soon have its first diversity commission. Well, it took two years and a lot of prodding by many people and one newspaper.
But, to his credit, he finally appointed six citizens to the commission. Also to his everlasting legacy, each and every one of those citizens is white.
This is outlandish.
In a town which is just about one-third African American and 10 percent Hispanic, the longtime mayor could not find any persons of color to join a commission focused on diversity.
What does this tell us about the mayor’s connectedness to his hometown — his hometown as its exists in 2016, not when he was a kid in the 1960s? Who makes up his network of supporters? White folks, it would seem.
He tossed off the usual bromide in explaining this absurd situation to a commission member with the temerity to point out the lack of diversity in the group: It has always been very hard to find African Americans and other minorities to volunteer on commissions. We’ve heard this before, even in towns as race-conscious as Oak Park, and we believe there is a challenge here. But it is not insurmountable. And the existence of the challenge only goes to the nature of the problem to be solved.
Forest Park’s elementary schools have a solid history of black and Hispanic elected school board members. This can be done. And it must be done.
And given Calderone’s spoken promise to expand the commission if minority members come forward, it is obvious that this commission’s first and critical charge is to make this body look like Forest Park.
Video gaming limbo
The citizen-sponsored town hall on video gaming took place last week. Four speakers. Seventy-five residents. A good bit of information. An expected level of passion.
Thanks to Chris Harris, a former village commissioner, for organizing and moderating the forum. Percolating on a parallel path is the citizen-driven effort to put this divisive issue on the November ballot as a binding referendum.
Now, from village hall’s viewpoint, what’s next?
The village government has promised a forum of its own. Reportedly it will happen in July. But sooner or later, we assume, Mayor Anthony Calderone will actually ask his colleagues on the village council to publicly discuss this contentious issue. Council members have listened as the intensely divided business community has made its points at council meetings. If the mayor demurs, will anyone on the village council ever take the lead on this?