It’s hard to say what was more impressive about Wednesday’s historic collaboration meeting in River Forest — that a majority of a quorum from each unit of government along with their administrators came or that hardly anybody whispered word one about the box score of the Chicago Blackhawks game.
But one thing was quite clear: many walked away with a sense that this was the start of a conversation focusing on how they all can help improve the quality of life in the community.
“We need to make this go forward on an ongoing basis. It’s valuable,” said Barbara Hickey, who was recently elected to serve on the Elementary School District 90 board. “Relationship-building is important part of what needs to happen.”
River Forest Park District Commissioner Beth Dunne said the entire meeting was very informative and it enabled her to “attach faces to names.”
“The opportunity to collaborate will be a win-win for the community,” said Jennifer Cassell, a newly-elected member of the Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 board.
Gerri Humbert, one non-elected official who attended, said the meeting was a fantastic accomplishment.
“Next time I hope everyone comes,” she said.
The meeting was chock-filled with information. There were introductions by each board member and administrator from the village, park district, library, District 90, District 200, the township and Triton Community College. Representatives presented their respective budgets, initiatives and challenges.
Certainly the session was fruitful. About 15 to 20 minutes of idea-sharing, led by District 200 board President Jeff Weissglass, brought several concepts to the floor — a community strategic plan, a meeting focusing in on business and economic development and finding ways of collectively working on issues related to substance abuse among children.
Everyone Village President Catherine Adduci spoke with seemed to enjoy it. The background was necessary before actual discussion took place.
“At a minimum, this got people thinking about ideas,” she said.
Many questions remain, though, like where does this energy go from here. Adduci, who called for the meeting to take place, said she wants to get a sense of which direction other leaders want to go, which topics they want to focus on first and whether they want to organize in small groups to address them.
“It will happen. There were some good ideas discussed and we will follow up on them,” Adduci said. “Ideas and collaboration make government more efficient. We will get back together and talk specifics about where we can improve together. Leaders will have to figure out how to organize themselves and take it to the next level. We want to promote government efficiency and collaboration.
“This is all good stuff.”