Peace breaks out at board meeting

Silent night a blessing for board members

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By BILL DWYER

Talk about peace on earth, good will toward men. All too frequently recently, when the River Forest village board adjourned early, it was due to some acrimonious impasse. But Monday night, with the advent of the holiday season, the River Forest village board was becalmed as it glided through a complete agenda with nary a raised voice or nose out of joint.

Prior to the regular meeting the board met in a special meeting and agreed to a set of previously contentious committee appointments. They also avoided further battles over a proposed ordinance that would have mitigated the sole power of trustees to decide who sits on those committees.

Trustees took less than five minutes to come to a 6-0 vote to approve appointments to all six committees (see box) with no discussion. Minutes later in the regular meeting Village President Frank Paris responded in kind.

"I'd like to remove the item (the mitigating ordinance) from the agenda," he said. Afterwards, smiling trustees were looking and talking like they wanted more of the same in the future.

"I'm thrilled," said Trustee Susan Conti. "Now we can go on to other things."

"Yahoo," seconded Village Clerk Kathy Adduci with a bright smile, adding, "Write that down. The trustees did the right thing."

"I'm absolutely delighted," said Paris. "I'm glad we finally found a way, finally had a meeting with no acrimony."

Conti noted that the committee appointments the trustees unanimously agreed upon were the same appointments arrived at between her and Trustee Russ Nummer a month ago.

Nummer said he and Conti never broke off their dialogue, despite how things appeared.

"When this first came up, we met six or seven hours on Saturday," he said. "Then we talked on the phone on Sunday." Nummer acknowledged a brief hiatus occurred, but said he and Conti continued to "hash out the same list of committee assignments."

There were two keys to the breakthrough- both sides gave up something, and Nummer gave up more than anyone else. The minority bloc trustees- Steve Hoke, Nummer and Steve Dudek, retained control of the police committee, while the majority bloc of Conti, Patrick O'Brien and Nancy Dillon, who have routinely backed Paris's agenda, regained majorities on the finance and administration committee.

Both Conti and Dudek had been vying for the third seat on that committee. Conti was appointed. Hoke is currently chairman of both those committees.

"I really appreciate the work Russ put into this, because it wasn't going to happen without him," said Paris, smiling more broadly than he has in months. "It was a sacrifice on his part."

"We had to do something. I'm just glad it's done," Nummer said, acknowledging the praise with a smile and a shrug. What he did was step down as public works committee chairman to make way for O'Brien, who had lost the chairmanship of the finance committee to Hoke two months ago in maneuvering that gave Hoke and Dudek control of the committee.

Hoke thus chaired two standing committees. That was a problem for O'Brien, one Nummer was willing to fix by foregoing any chairmanship.

"Yeah, that's exactly what I did," said Nummer. "That was the sticking point, the inequity in the chairmanships. In order to make this work, I said I was willing to give up my chair."

Hoke, who has formally called for another meeting of the police committee for this Thursday to address recent problems with the West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center, was a bit more reserved, agreeing with Conti's statement but wondering why it took so long. "This was the same compromise that was proposed a month ago," he said. "I guess we actually had to get close to the precipice to get it done." Like the others, he thanked Nummer.

"His action enables us to maintain momentum with respect to the important work of the police committee."

Among the unanimous votes in the 47 minute long regular board meeting was approval of a proposal by Conti that the board direct village staff to arrange to have digital audio recordings of board meetings placed on the village website. Recordings of all open meetings retroactive to the installation of the digital recording capability earlier this year should be available online within the next several weeks. The recordings will remain available for 18 months, in accordance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

CONTACT: bdwyer@wjinc.com

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