The Forest Park Village Council unanimously approved ordinances more explicitly spelling out the duties of its Environmental Control Commission and changing the length of members’ terms.

The commission was originally established June 12, 1971 to advise the village council on environmental issues, only to fade into obscurity. It was revived in 2019, but, like many other village advisory bodies, it fell by the wayside during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Environmental Control Commission hasn’t met since 2020.  

 The village code didn’t explicitly spell out the commission’s responsibilities and the length of the members’ terms. During the Dec. 19 village council meeting, the commissioners adopted an ordinance addressing those issues. Village commissioners also took the opportunity to re-appoint most members of the revived commission.  

While the Environmental Control Commission was established in 1971, it stopped meeting by the end of the decade. In 2019, members of Keep Forest Park Beautiful, a local chapter of Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit that aims to end littering, improve recycling and beautify communities, asked then-mayor Anthony Calderone to create a sustainability commission. The village attorney searched the village code and discovered that the Environmental Control Commission was still on the books. Calderone decided to simply appoint members to the commission that already existed on paper. The village council approved the appointments on April 22, 2019.

The council included then-Review contributing reporter Lucia Whalen, Karen Rozmus, the former Environment Services Manager in Oak Park who started Forest Park’s recycling program; Etta Worthington, a community organizer with Western Front Indivisible; Jessica Rinks, an award-winning farmer who helped start the Forest Park Community Garden; David Gulyas, a LEED-certified sustainable building and interior design consultant who has since been appointed to the Altenheim Advisory Committee; Forest Park Kiwanis board member William Gerst; and architect Scott Whitebone. 

But the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the revival. According to the village website, the Environmental Control Commission last met on Oct. 14, 2020. 

The original description of the Environmental Control Commission duties said that it serves “to promote and ensure the cleanliness of water and air; study and make recommendations to the village council on all other matters related to the environment of the community.” The amended ordinance kept the “cleanliness of water and air” language and added that the commission would promote “the protection of the public’s health, safety and welfare as it relates to environmental sustainability” and “the conservation of natural resources and protection of the environment.” It would also help educate Forest Parkers about environmental and natural resources, collect information about how the changes in the environment affect residents’ quality of life, and “make recommendations to the village council for adoption of policies, programs and/or goals which would improve or sustain the environment of the village, and which would not conflict with state or federal laws or regulations.”

The village code didn’t explicitly set the term lengths and stated that the council can appoint “as many members as the village council may deem necessary.” The seven members of the revived commission were appointed to five-year terms. The new ordinance explicitly caps the number at seven and shortens the term length to four years. 

The village council reappointed all members except Whalen. The terms will expire on April 23, 2023, when their original five-year terms would have ended. 

The commissioners approved both ordinances unanimously and without discussion.