The Civic Information Systems Commission received tentative approval, at the May 7 Oak Park village board meeting, to move forward with its proposed work plan. But the language in the draft caused some debate among trustees about the commission’s role.

The commission, a seven-member group, advises the village board on topics related to the development, oversight and annual review of important information resources and services related to Oak Park’s master plan for municipal and civic information management and policy.

John Shuler, commission chairman, presented the group’s goals to the board and said it divides work into three categories: the village’s current website redesign project, digital archive record keeping, and the Comcast cable agreement. He said the group is ready to move forward with assisting village staff in engaging the community on these decisions.

“We believe we have made great progress in all areas,” he said. “We are also very eager to get started looking at how the village can use software to encourage more interaction and involvement from the community in all aspects of village governance.”

The group hopes to review how the village can use social media and other communication tools including the cable access channel to gather greater public input so leaders can sustain a leadership role by incorporating all viewpoints.

The issue sparked a lengthy board discussion, in large part regarding concerns expressed by Village President David Pope, who said he wasn’t comfortable with some of the language used in the plan. He suggested the fact that the group is an advisory body, and not a decision-making body, needed to be made clearer.

Shuler assured the board it knew its place, saying it understood that their suggestions would be taken up by staff to determine if and how they should be implemented.

“The role we see is giving the best set of benchmarks and guidelines to make the best [request for qualifications] possible,” he said. After that, he said, decisions and judgments would be made by village staff.

The commission’s duties, according to the report, include advising the village board on cable and telecommunication issues; being the liaison between residents and cable or any telecommunication operator; and acting as a group to encourage the development of programming for public, educational and governmental access channels.

Shuler presented an outline of the group’s suggestions that it’s been working on with staff and said it will continue to advise on providing ongoing support with communication issues as the projects are reviewed and implemented.

Pope asked if there was a way to provide a “blessing of approval” without formally accepting the document, since he didn’t want to delay the commission’s work.

Shuler called the plan “a living document,” and said the board should keep in mind that it’s a work in progress.

David Powers, the village’s communication director, said he had concerns with some of the language that could suggest the commission sets rules, when in fact they only advise, but a majority of the trustees said they thought the document implied the commission’s role enough to approve the plan and move forward.

The original motion to accept the plan as presented was approved, with Trustee Glen Brewer casting the dissenting vote. Pope hesitated on his vote, but said he voted yes so he could reintroduce the issue in two weeks with some recommendations.

This matter will be up for discussion at the board’s May 21 meeting.

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