Riverside has one fewer citizen advisory commissions after village trustees voted unanimously on Oct. 19 to disband the Safe Environment Commission, which hadn’t convened in more than a year and met only sporadically in recent years.

Former Police Chief Eugene Karczewski championed the creation of the Safe Environment Commission back in 1998 and the group and its longtime chairwoman, Joanne Lincoln, were instrumental in the creation of a Neighborhood Watch program.

Thomas Weitzel, then a sergeant, and former Deputy Chief Robert Gordon were the first police liaisons to the commission, according to Weitzel.

“No one had more passion for Neighborhood Watch than Joanne Lincoln,” said Weitzel.

The fruits of the commission’s labor on that front still exist on the village’s website in the form of the 20-page Neighborhood Watch handbook for Riverside block captains. The program technically still exists, though it isn’t actively promoted.

Lincoln stepped down as chairwoman of the commission after moving from the area. Since that time, the commission has not met regularly. 

In 2011 and 2016, the commission hosted a pair of forums on burglary prevention, but its role as an advisory panel for issues such as traffic safety increasingly was farmed out to village staff or traffic engineering professionals.

“The village board gave the commission things like parking regulations and signs that we now rely on professional staff to take care of,” Weitzel said. “A lot of the stuff that used to go before them became so technical in nature or involved liability.

The last traffic safety issue on which the commission played an active role was recommending a trial period for the removal of no-turn signs at Lionel Road and Ogden Avenue during rush hours. Neighborhood residents hated the idea and the signs eventually went back up, though the street is still a cut-through.

In response the village board commissioned a village-wide traffic survey, which was completed earlier this year, complete with many traffic and pedestrian safety recommendations.

The vote to disband the Safe Environment Commission likely is the first of several “ghost” commissions and boards still on the books that will be abandoned in the future.

In addition to the Safe Environment Commission, Riverside technically still has a Board of Health, a Board of Local Improvements, a Safety Commission (in addition to the Public Safety Commission) and something called the Riverside Civic Center Authority.

The civic center authority was established in 1997 by the Illinois General Assembly, apparently as part of a larger bill that created dozens of other civic center authorities around the state. The 1997 bill appears to have replaced an earlier civic center act.

 Village Manager Jessica Frances said cleanup of the village code will continue in the coming months, with ordinances either disbanding commissions or folding their responsibilities into village departments.