River Forest welcoming resolution still weeks away

Residents call for transparency, inclusion

July 12th, 2017 4:05 PM

By Thomas Vogel

Staff Reporter

Work continued, July 10, on a welcoming resolution for River Forest as village trustees discussed a working draft at their board meeting and took public comments from some of the roughly 100 residents gathered at Roosevelt Middle School.

As planned, no official vote was taken. The July 10 meeting was the latest step toward adopting a resolution spelling out protections for undocumented village residents and visitors, as other neighboring communities — including Forest Park, Oak Park and Evanston — have in recent months. Village President Catherine Adduci said she was unsure if a resolution would come to a vote at the board's next meeting in mid-August, but she is leaning that way.

"The point we hope to accomplish tonight is that we'll have this open conversation with all of you here and understand where all the trustees [stand], what they like, what they dislike," Adduci said. "The hope is that if we can build some reasonable consensus around language we can adopt, I see this going to the next board meeting, perhaps for a vote."

At times the meeting turned into a back-and-forth between seated residents and village trustees. Some residents urged transparency and inclusion in the drafting process, asking to see a copy of the working draft, which village officials have not made public. They did, however, read out portions of the draft.

"There is nothing to hide. We are just trying to get through it," Adduci said. "We're not trying to do this in the dark. … I promise you will get a copy of this way ahead of time so you can comment, you can critique, you can do whatever you'd like, way before we vote. I promise you that."

Process aside, a handful of residents, including local clergy, local activists, a Dominican University professor and a local pro bono attorney, pressed for a more strongly worded resolution. Other residents said Oak Park's ordinance should be the example for River Forest, not Forest Park's recently adopted resolution, which trustees said they've used as a framework.

"The Oak Park resolution is much stronger and much bolder," River Forest resident Tim Brandhorst said, to loud applause. "That's the model we should be following."

Adduci stressed that the board needs to "build some consensus" around a draft document.

"You can tell the concern is that the welcoming resolution will be a bit weak and not as strong as we'd like it to be," River Forest resident Mark Carroll said. "This is the second meeting, President Adduci, I've heard the word 'consensus' and I'm just a little concerned that you're looking for a unanimous result and I think we should look for a humane result."

This was the first opportunity for trustees to discuss a working draft, which they first saw on July 6. Trustees said the draft includes parts of the Illinois Trust Act, a bill currently before Gov. Bruce Rauner, as well as language based on trustees' suggestions from the board's last meeting in June.

At that meeting several trustees suggested tweaks, including clarifying certain terms in the draft and using consistent language throughout the document. At the July 10 meeting, Trustee Respicio Vazquez again advocated for specific language preventing village funds to be put toward "immigration matters" unless explicitly directed by federal or state law or a court order.

"I want to limit our local taxes for local use," Vazquez said. "We have plenty of other federal and state unfunded mandates."

Village Trustee Susan Conti, Adduci said, was on vacation and not in attendance.