A proposal to elevate River Forest’s sustainability committee into a full-fledged village commission moved forward as village trustees Jan. 23 unanimously consented to preparing the documents to set it up.

Staff and the village attorney will work on a draft ordinance the committee presented as part of a packet that included answers trustees requested during the group’s initial presentation in October. Committee members also will look at the final copy and sign off if necessary, village officials said.

That measure will be ready for a vote on Feb. 13, Village President Catherine Adduci said.

Full support for proceeding was an acknowledgement of the hard work of the sustainability committee. And it also meant that trustees endorsed their roles as environmental stewards on behalf of the community, said Katie Brennan, the committee’s chair.

The committee was formed as a partnership between the village and the River Forest Parks Foundation and since 2014 has acted as River Forest’s go-to environmental team. Since then, it has successfully spearheaded more than 20 initiatives and won praise from many in the community for its dedication, expertise and ingenuity. 

Admiration for its work also came from trustees. But the idea of moving it to commission status – making it a part of village government — was met with some opposition when committee members and their allies initially presented the idea before the board.

Two trustees – Mike Gibbs and Tom Dwyer – in October objected. Gibbs didn’t want a new commission for any reason. Dwyer said another panel would strain resources. Trustee Carmela Corsini wanted more information.

Brennan countered that creating a commission was a signal to residents and potential homebuyers that the village prioritized environmental initiatives and provides opportunities for residents to volunteer and participate.

Julie Moller, another committee member, said that because committee members work already with staff on initiatives and attend meetings it would have no impact on staffing or cost.

“A commission would give residents a voice, a say … help set priorities, objectives and strategies,” Moller said. “We would have more input and a stronger direction.”

The presentation and the additional information brought from Gibbs an apology about his prior statements.

“I was just trying to present our concerns before casting something in stone. I hope you will cleanse any bad opinions you may or may not have of me. …  It was always about doing the right thing for your group….It was never about what the group does and continues to do,” he said.

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