Forest Park’s Environmental Control Commission met for the first time since Oct. 14, 2020 – and it is hitting the ground running.
During the meeting, which was held March 8 over Zoom, the advisory commission agreed to launch a community-wide online survey to get a sense of what residents would want from the commission – though the details won’t be approved until the next meeting. They also agreed to work with the Cross-Community Climate Collaborative (C4) to help with the public outreach. Going forward, the commission will be looking into putting out some kind of online newsletter, and they are eager to get involved in local and regional environmental events.
Going forward, the commission will meet at the Forest Park Village Hall at 7 p.m. every fourth Wednesday of the month. The next meeting has been scheduled for March 22.
While the Environmental Control Commission was established in 1971, it stopped meeting by the end of that 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 a commission that already existed on paper.
The village council approved the appointments on April 22, 2019. But the COVID-19 pandemic shut it down before it had a chance to accomplish much.
Since then, Forest Park joined a group of other west suburban villages to form the Cross-Community Climate Collaborative (C4), which set out to pool resources to apply for grants and promote environmental sustainability. During the March 8 meeting, Rachell Entler, Mayor Rory Hoskins’ executive assistant, said the village thought the commission would be “a perfect group to get us started” on that front, helping Forest Park with public engagement and developing ideas.
“What we find important is probably going to be different than what Oak Park thinks is important, so we want help to start things off and [find out] from the community what they find to be important,” she said.
Entler said she reached out to the previous commission members, and most of them agreed to come back. That included 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. The village council confirmed their reappointments on Dec. 19, 2022.
On Jan. 9, the council filled the remaining vacancy, appointing William Ho, founder of Apex LED Solutions, a Forest Park-based LED lights installation company.
During the Dec. 19 meeting, the village council reduced the commission members’ terms from five years to four. As part of the reappointment process, the members terms were shortened accordingly. Entler said this was done as part of the effort to create more consistent terms – which fell by the wayside over the years. While village officials considered waiting until after the election, they decided that they’d rather not delay the commission’s relaunch.
“The idea is that whoever the mayor is on May 1 would then reappoint everybody,” Entler said.
Much of the discussion during the March 8 meeting was devoted to how the commission would work with C4. Entler said representatives from each C4 municipality have regular monthly meetings. The environmental commission agreed to send a member to attend one of those meetings and report back.
For C4 outreach, the commission decided to do town hall-style listening sessions, and that they would prefer to hold them at the Forest Park public library. As Worthington put it, they wanted to have a community space that Forest Parkers had a favorable opinion of, one that “doesn’t seem quite as stiff and formal as the Village Hall.”
“I think that’s smart.” Whitebone said. “It takes government away from it and makes it feel more like a community.”
The commission also discussed doing a separate village-wide survey to help identify its goals and priorities.
“I think the goal is to identify what the community wants, what they think is really valuable and important, and it helps us focus what we should be looking at,” Whitebone said.
After some discussion, the commission decided to brainstorm ideas for what can go in the survey and bring them to the March 22 meeting.
As the meeting concluded, Entler said she was happy to see the environmental control commission up and running again.
“On behalf of the village, I thank you [the members of the commission] for volunteering your time for something that feels very important,” she said.