The newly-formed commission that will play a significant role in River Forest’s fiscal health could soon begin meeting to sort out its priorities and review the resources it has on hand, its chairman said last week.

Tom Hazinski said a meeting has not been set, but he plans to address that with Village President Catherine Adduci, who put formation of the commission at the top of her agenda before her election in April.

“I think there’s initially a study period to get familiar with past economic development in the village before we determine where and how to go forward,” he said.

Hazinski is one of seven voting and two non-voting members of the Economic Development Commission, a panel that will work to attract and retain business and foster development in the community’s commercial corridors.

He also was on the ad-hoc committee that over the summer crafted the ordinance that set out the group’s responsibilities.

While it did not set out specific qualifications for its members, it was crafted to bring in, according to Adduci, people with a diverse set of skills and who had a “deep understanding of the community and its unique characteristics.”

He said the community was lucky to have such a talented group on the commission.

“The more diversity we have the better,” he said. “We have all the parts necessary to make this commission work.”

The commission’s formation was unanimously approved Oct. 14 but a vote on Adduci’s initial recommendations for members was delayed until Oct. 28 over questions of residency.

Three of her first roster of appointees were non-residents: Cathy Yen, director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce; Michael Murray, an expert in architecture and historic preservation and Lou Vitullo, who has extensive experience in municipal law and finance. Vitullo, an ad-hoc committee member, lived in River Forest for three decades and was active in the community. He recently sold his home and moved out of town.

Trustees unanimously appointed Yen an ex-officio member; Murray withdrew his name from consideration.

Trustees unanimously affirmed six of the seven voting members. Vitullo’s selection was approved by a vote of 4-2, but only after an attempt failed to open up the ordinance and add a residency requirement. Vitullo’s appointment was opposed by Trustees Carmela Corsini and Tom Dwyer.

While other boards and commissions in River Forest require that members be residents, the Economic Development Commission did not have that distinction. The only requirement is that the chairman has to live in town.

But by not requiring residency, Adduci said she would have the flexibility to allow for “a balanced perspective.”

Even though he was part of the initial unanimous consent to the formation of the commission, Dwyer insisted on changing it.

“We have plenty of resources in the community that we can reach to. That makes the commission more accessible,” he said.

While he said consistency related to residency is important, Trustee Tom Cargie noted that this commission was different.

“To be effective, it has to look outwardly and inwardly. To just have River Forest residents with shared views, it would lose the advantage of the outside view. He (Vitullo) brings a valued perspective. This illustrates the value of giving the president the flexibility she asked for and needs. For this commission, a residency requirement is rigid and arbitrary.”

If the committee he set up to help Oak Park and  River Forest High School deal with its fund balance had a residency requirement, John Phelan, president of the District 200 school board, said he could not avail himself of Vitulo’s valued expertise.

Phelan spoke in opposition to a residency requirement.

“Certainly residency is a factor I would want my elected officials to consider when appointing members to a commission,” said Phelan, a resident of River Forest. “But in my judgment it needs to be weighed against other things, including the skill set brought to the table, a familiarity with the community, the likelihood that the candidate has the community’s best interest at heart.”

Had there been a residency requirement, Phelan continued, “I would have deprived myself and the residents of the District 200 community of those skills and abilities for what I think is a formalistic reason. I would have deprived myself of the discretion of weighing those independent pieces.”

Hazinski, an expert in public policy, budgeting and public facilities planning and development, will serve a four-year term; Vitullo a two-year term.

Other members are:

  • Stan Tafilaw, an ad-hoc committee member. He is an active community volunteer and senior advocate. Two years.
  • Nena Mass, an ad-hoc committee member. She is a specialist in portfolio assessment, real estate leasing and property management, strategic planning as well as financial analysis and transaction management services. Four years.
  • Tim Brangle, who has expertise in urban design, strategic development, management, design conceptualization, site investigation and analysis. Four years.
  • Tom Prothero, a senior executive at MB Financial who has extensive banking and corporate business experience. Two years.
  • Collette English Dixon, who has a long career in real estate investments and social service involvement. Four years.

Yen will join Village Administrator Eric Palm as a non-voting member.

Twenty people applied to serve on the commission. The remaining 13 candidates will be put on a waitlist and considered as spots are available.

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