The Forest Park Diversity Commission is not only gaining prominence but also new members.
At Monday’s meeting, the village council voted to increase membership from seven to nine members and appointed Naoto Hasegawa and Austin D’Souza to fill the newly created positions. Both votes were unanimous.
In recommending the two, Mayor Anthony Calderone commented on how the Diversity Commission is becoming more diverse. Hasegawa was born in Japan and D’Souza in India. After noticing D’Souza in the audience, Calderone thanked him for offering to serve and asked him to stand and be recognized, which he did to a round of applause.
Forest Park officials unveiled the long-talked-about commission in May, approving the ordinance, creating it and appointing six residents to serve on it.
At that time, Calderone acknowledged that other communities have similar groups, but her said the Forest Park version is not modeled after any particular municipality.
In October, Deborah Starks, was appointed, becoming the first African American member. Other members are Nick Ardinger, Tom Holmes, Trudy Roznos, Mike Thompson, Scott Watson and Kate Webster.
The Diversity Commission has stepped into the spotlight in conjunction with the recent grassroots effort to make Forest Park a “welcoming community.”
Village residents Kamau Jones and Deborah McConnaghay started the conversation during the public comment portion of the well-attended Feb. 13 village council meeting, each asking elected officials to consider passing such a resolution.
They, Starks and three others also spoke at Monday’s meeting, each asking village officials to join them in supporting the effort. Starks noted that the Diversity Commission has been asked to draft a “welcoming community” resolution to be considered by the village council at a future meeting and that public input was welcome. Her comments were met with applause from the audience, which was larger than usual, apparently due to the presence of supporters of the effort. Starks said after the meeting that no timetable has been established.