River Forest officials moved closer to formalizing their internal diversity, equity and inclusion initiative at the Feb. 8 virtual village board meeting, reaching consensus on all but two elements.
Following the Feb. 8 discussion, village officials are expected to receive at the Feb. 22 village board meeting a draft resolution formalizing the initiative, including creation of a resident advisory work group to provide feedback and advice. Also expected at the Feb. 22 meeting are drafts of the group’s application form and list of the group’s responsibilities.
Discussion of the initiative began in September. Although the external component, a partnership with Dominican University in River Forest, is moving forward, the internal component has not seen the same progress despite being the subject of discussion at numerous village board meetings over the past six months.
Officials still are undecided on the size of the advisory group and the length of the application period. In a memo to the board, Lisa Scheiner, acting village administrator, recommended that the group consist of seven members and the application be posted online for six weeks.
However, village President Cathy Adduci and Trustee Erika Bachner advocated for 12 members. Trustee Rescipio Vazquez agreed that seven was too few but suggested leaving the number “open for now.” Adduci said the board could either delay adopting the resolution until the specific number is determined or adopt the resolution without listing a specific number and amending it later. Bachner and Vazquez recommended shortening the length of the application period with Bachner suggesting four weeks and Vazquez, 30 days.
Group members will be appointed by Adduci with the concurrence of the village board. Adduci also will select two co-leads of the group, a village trustee and the village administrator. Support for Bachner as the trustee co-lead came Vazquez and from resident John Grant during the citizen comments portion, who referred to her as “the Tom Brady” of diversity, equity and inclusion. Scheiner is the acting village administrator until the board hires a replacement for Eric Palm, who resigned to take a similar position in Hoffman Estates.
At the Jan. 25 meeting, Palm offered draft purpose, mission and goals statements.
The board appeared to accept the purpose statement, “To develop a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative for the village of River Forest,” but Bachner suggested a change to his proposed mission statement, “To remove barriers that prevent the participation, engagement and welcoming environment for all our residents, business members, visitors, employees in municipal services, community and civic engagement; and, in doing so, build trust amongst all parties.” She suggested adding “equitable” to “welcoming environment.”
Palm’s proposed goals, which included hiring a consultant to assess village operations and design a work plan to address diversity, equity and inclusion, were also generally accepted. A modified version of a similar document created by Bachner and Trustee Katie Brennan will be used as basis for the work group’s responsibilities.
“Based on our conversation, we’ve moved pretty far,” Adduci said. “I think it’s going to be great.”