I recently subscribed to the Landmark, because I had been impressed with the quality of its reporting. So you can imagine how disappointed I was with the articles in the last issue concerning the budget meetings in North Riverside. I expected there to be another article listing the facts, so that both sides would be presented objectively, so the reader could decide what the truth was.
But there was not. On account of this, I felt I had to write to tell what I and many others have experienced under the past administration.
For almost 20 years I have been coordinator of the 100 block captains in North Riverside Neighborhood Services. Our goal was and is twofold: We share resources with all our residents and we try to create a sense of family on each block.
All of us are volunteers. Our priority is helping people by welcoming them into town, helping them in troubles circumstances. Our former mayor, Richard Scheck, and the trustees supported our program and even helped us, behind the scenes, when we could not meet the financial needs of those in difficult situations. They were ready to answer any problems with concrete solutions. They always helped the residents who were in need – even after hours.
I was amazed with the support we all received and I was not ever asked to support elections with signs by my house. I was asked nothing, only the freedom to serve the residents.
As a result, the neighborhood program and our unique partnership with village officials have been commented on positively by neighboring towns. One visitor even commented she could not believe such a town existed, such a collaboration of town government and its people.
Over the years, I learned that the politicians I met were good people who cared about serving their neighbors, not about power. They were involved in church and community events.
They did have Christmas parties and the Fourth of July gatherings because that is what the people wanted; people liked the feeling of community. They liked sharing this with their families; adults would come back with their kids. Second and third generations remained in town. Plus, at the Fourth of July, many businesses and churches had booths which benefited them financially.
North Riverside Day served as a showcase for young couples thinking to move to town. The rider program, handyman program, the wonderful outreach programs of the Recreation Department were all means to help our residents, especially those alone or without family. They brought people together. Our town is still an example to many neighboring communities of what a place can be like when officials listen and care about the residents.
No one knew the future economic downturn. But, from my past experience, I know that our incumbent officials will do what is necessary to save our town and our residents. I trust, too, that the new trustees will present their perspectives and both sides will listen and compromise.
In the 1970s, I was ashamed reading about the vocal disagreements at our town meetings. We have come too far to go back to that type of behavior. The people want good solutions; they want help. We also need to model for our children how to work together. They will learn from us how to lead tomorrow.
This town should serve as a model of collaboration. We must never give up trying to work together for the common good. Perhaps residents could make suggestions. After all, the town is made up of people who can help with their ideas.
We can go forward, if we work together.
Carol Spale is the coordinator of neighborhood services for the village of North Riverside.