Since February of 2017, public comments at Monday night’s village council meetings (including the most recent one) and posts on various Forest Park Facebook pages have encouraged the village to pass a welcoming resolution. As weeks have turned into months, comments and posts have shifted, demanding to know why the process has been taking so long.
To address this mounting frustration, members of the community took action independently and held a Town Hall on the issue in May — during which the mayor announced he’d pass a resolution soon. Weeks have since passed and comments and posts have once again raised the question: “Why is it taking so long?”
The Diversity Commission hopes to help address this question by highlighting the process of drafting the resolution. Essentially, there have been three distinct phases of the process — pre-drafting, drafting, and post-drafting — in which the Diversity Commission participated. Throughout each of these phases, there has been continued back-and-forth between the chair of the Diversity Commission and the village council, the mayor, the village administrator, the village clerk, the various lawyers involved, the chief of police, and the public.
The following is a general overview of what transpired in these three phases:
- In January 2017, Claudia Medina (Forest Park resident, board member of PASO-West Suburban Action Project, and District 209 school board member) reached out to the Diversity Commission and the mayor to find ways the village of Forest Park could best articulate that it is welcoming to diversity. This request was in response to a federal executive order on immigration and a sanctuary status movement across the nation.
- At the February Diversity Commission meeting, we voted unanimously to support the process of putting together a draft of the Welcoming Village Resolution similar to Oak Park’s recently passed ordinance.
- As the Diversity Commission chair, I connected with Mayor Calderone of Forest Park and received his approval to work with Mony Ruis-Velasco, executive director of PASO, to put together a draft resolution. In an email, the mayor replied that he’d envision the Diversity Commission as the group responsible for “vetting such an instrument” and that we should work toward a final version to be submitted to him for consideration by the village council.
- For the remainder of the month, Nick Ardinger (member of the Diversity Commission), Mony, and I worked on an initial draft based on Oak Park’s strong ordinance, taking into account Forest Park’s status as a non-home rule community.
- This initial draft process took nearly four weeks, as we had to become more familiar with non-home rule status and the intricacies of such resolutions and ordinances.
- On March 14, I provided the mayor with the Diversity Commission’s final draft of the resolution. The mayor replied that he’d pass it along to the village’s attorney and looked forward to moving the process along.
- On April 14, exactly a month later, after the mayor received the initial draft, I received the mayor’s revised draft for consideration by the Diversity Commission.
- While not privy to all the reasons why there was a month’s delay, it seems the village council had two significant issues with the Diversity Commission’s original draft which included:
- Strong calls for specific action that the Forest Park police not cooperate with ICE and federal immigration orders and not racially profile undocumented members of the community.
- Assessing Forest Park’s risk of losing federal funds in accordance with an executive order blocking funds from sanctuary cities.
- To address the village council’s issues, the Diversity Commission’s drafting committee and Mony suggested additional “whereas” sections to highlight what the Forest Park police already do when dealing with individuals in general around racial profiling and undocumented members of the community, and sent the resolution back to the mayor.
- Community frustrations built on not being able to see the draft, raising concerns of a lack of transparency. The Diversity Commission was instructed by the mayor that the draft could not be shared with the public according to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemptions on drafts. Other community members disagreed stating that, according to FOIA, if a draft is part of a final document, it can be subject to disclosure.
- Currently, the mayor has stated that the lawyer from PASO and the village attorney needed to work on it independently.
- Once the proposed resolution is finalized by the village attorney, it will be shared at a village council meeting and not acted on until a subsequent Council meeting.
- During the two-week interval, community members can provide feedback to the mayor and commissioners.
We hope sharing the details of this process has been helpful. We hope that elaborating this process doesn’t seek to condemn or condone the comments and frustrations, merely to provide additional insight into the process.
Please let us know if you have further questions via email at email@example.com or at our next Diversity Commission meeting on June 8.