It was a lost opportunity last week as River Forest Township held its annual meeting, turned out a much larger than usual crowd and then failed to offer an open discussion of the suggested merger of the township and village government.
Clearly there is not a more important topic facing the township right now, its leaders profess to be ready to make their case for why this unit of government should not be eliminated by voters, and in any event the discussion is not going away even if it is not put on an agenda.
Sooner or later township and village officials will need to sit at a table in a public setting and have an honest give-and-take. We have found township officials less than credible with their repeated suggestions that they are being blindsided by this topic. In general, eliminating township governments has been on the radar across the state for decades. In particular, the village government in River Forest has been actively seeking this conversation with the township for well over a year.
It's time to talk. It's time for village officials to offer assurances that some tax money can be saved by a merger, that the essential social services provided by the township will not be given short shrift after a merger. For its part, the township needs to enter these talks with an open mind and then make its case for why it is uniquely able to offer these services — especially considering the extent that it already outsources key functions of youth and senior services to Oak Park Township. Officials also need to explain the upside for taxpayers to pay even a small premium for the township's continued existence.
Enough delay. Start talking.