In his Jan. 27 column [River Forest Year in Review, take 2, Viewpoints], Steve Lefko criticizes as a “tired old formula” Wednesday Journal’s choices of the most important River Forest stories of 2020: the racial reckoning, adoption of a new Affordable Housing Plan, and the ad hoc commission on deer management. He’s wrong, perhaps because he misses the common thread that runs through them.

Last summer’s racial reckoning led to a historic new relationship with our neighbors in Maywood. Both communities passed “twin villages” covenants; both communities marched, together, to protest police killing Black people; both communities’ kids were welcomed to River Forest’s youth soccer teams. For many of us, it felt like a tectonic shift — if just a beginning.

An Affordable Housing Plan was nearly voted down by the village board, but not for the reasons one might assume. Remarkably, half the trustees rejected the plan as too weak. Dozens of community members spoke in favor of a more urgent commitment to affordable housing. The village president promised major zoning amendments, and the entire board publicly supported expansion of affordable housing options. Again, just a starting point, but an encouraging one.

The year-long work of the resident-led deer management committee, formed by the village (in the wake of Thatcher Woods flooding in the spring of 2019) to consider what, if anything, to do about the Thatcher Woods deer herd, served to defuse the anger of some residents. The deer “problem” may have seemed less pressing during a pandemic, but make no mistake — this story will bubble up again the next time spring rains flood the woods and displace the herd.

What makes these stories important is what they have in common. Each is about what kind of a community River Forest wants to be. Will we be inclusive of all — especially the less fortunate and the vulnerable? Will we love our neighbors? When we say we are all in this together, what exactly do we mean by “we”? Will we welcome the stranger, whether in the form of a displaced deer or, in future years, refugees displaced by climate change? Or will we default to protecting the most affluent, powerful, and privileged? These are the questions many in the village are asking themselves, and will be asking of candidates between now and April 6.

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