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Forest Park now 'welcoming' community

June 12 council vote ends months-long process

June 13th, 2017 3:18 PM

ROBERT J. LIFKA

Contributing Reporter

The Forest Park Village Council unanimously approved its long-anticipated "welcoming" resolution to loud applause June 12.

The resolution, months in the making, states the village will "welcome and treat all persons entering or living in our community with the same respect, fairness and dignity." The resolution makes clear the village and its employees will serve all residents regardless of their immigration or refugee status or "race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity, political ideology, disability, homelessness or low-income or veteran status."

Addressing concerns about interactions with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the resolution states that "no village employee, official or department of the village shall inquire into nor collect information regarding the immigration status of residents or condition the provision of village benefits, opportunities or services on matters related to citizenship or immigration status, unless required to do so by state or federal law or by a court order."

The resolution's adoption comes several months after village residents Kamau Jones and Deborah McConnaghay each asked elected officials to consider passing such a resolution at a council meeting in February.

Mayor Anthony Calderone asked the village Diversity Commission to assist with drafting a proposed resolution. Kate Webster, the commission's chair, and Mony Ruiz-Velasco, executive director of PASO West Suburban Action Project, an immigrant rights nonprofit organization, began working with village officials, including the village's attorney.

As they worked behind the scenes, residents continued to pressure elected officials by appearing at every village council meeting through April and May, urging them to pass the resolution.

A crowd of 50 people attending a May town hall meeting organized by the Forest Park Town Hall, Forest Park Progressive Citizens and Suburban Unity Alliance shared concerns and suggestions. At that meeting Mayor Calderone assure them the welcoming resolution would be passed.

After the vote was taken, Calderone thanked all those who had participated in the process.

Although several residents who spoke during the public comments portion of Monday's meeting said they'd hoped the resolution would have been stronger, Webster said she did not think it was lacking.

"The final product is responsive to the various needs of the community," she said. "I support the final draft, as does the entire commission."

Webster cited the communication involving the commission, PASO, the mayor and residents as important to the process.

"I see the commission as a bridge-builder," she explained, noting she has a responsibility to support the mayor and the commissioners while also responding to the needs and concerns of residents.