An attempt to restore the Riverside Parks and Recreation Board officially was shot down Monday night, although the vote itself came as no surprise.
On the table since late December when Trustee Ben Sells broached the topic in the wake of an advisory referendum a month earlier, the proposed amendment to restore the independent board garnered just two votes – from Sells and Trustee Jean Sussman. Trustees James Reynolds, Lonnie Sacchi and Mark Shevitz all voted it down. Trustee John Scully was absent and did not cast a vote.
The vote was not expected to pass. In September 2010, a divided board voted to dissolve the recreation board and replace it with an advisory commission. The votes fell along the same lines then, with Village President Michael Gorman breaking a 3-3 deadlock among trustees.
In response, Sells and former recreation board member Joseph Ballerine started a campaign to pass an advisory referendum asking residents if they wanted an independent recreation board. The measure passed by an overwhelming margin, yet the board majority did not respond to it.
That inaction led to Sells’ proposal, which was tabled until March when all the trustees could attend the village board meeting. In February, just weeks before a vote on Sell’s proposal and during a meeting Sells did not attend, the village board seated a Parks and Recreation Commission. The action coincided with a letter to residents in a village newsletter by Gorman chiding trustees for hanging onto issues after the board had already dealt with them.
Sells took the opportunity Monday night to do some chiding of his own, blasting Gorman for what he termed the president’s “surreal” action, admonishing the board for hanging onto what Gorman termed “my way is right” in his letter to residents.
“It is hard for me to imagine a more glaring example of putting one’s personal point of view over the entire community than eliminating a parks and recreation board that 80 percent of the community says they want,” Sells said.
He added that the appointment of the recreation commission in February, almost five months after dissolving the recreation board in September made “a mockery of tonight’s vote.”
Shevitz responded that Sells’ warnings of a disappearance of recreation in Riverside due to the change proved to be unfounded.
“The argument that, you know, I think that the voting bloc has been making all along is that rec’s going to be fine without an independent rec board, and so far the last six months have borne that out,” Shevitz said.
Mike Foley, a Riverside resident who supported keeping the independent recreation board intact, said voters wouldn’t forget the board’s decision to eliminate it.
“Mr. Shevitz, 80 percent of the residents said to keep the board the way it is,” Foley said. “That’s more people than voted for you guys, OK? … People are going to remember this.”