Downers Grove library trustee dismissed over meeting comments
The Downers Grove Village Council took action Sept. 5 to remove a member of the Village’s library board after coming under fire recently for using a public meeting to air his views: disapproving of individuals who identify as LGBTQ or people of color.
In a 6-0 vote, Downers Grove officials decided to remove Art Jaros from his seat as trustee. Commissioner William Waldack was absent.
The council’s action was met by a host of constituents who sought to express their views during the public comments section.
Joel Stava, of Westmont, said he is in the process of purchasing and building on property located in Downers Grove and felt compelled to share his thoughts on the council’s decision.
“My goal is two-fold: to make sure that you know there are real impacts to ignoring or opposing community diversity efforts, and two—which is hopefully a shared goal—to ensure that all members of the community, including my family, friends and those I hold dear, will be represented and welcomed by our leadership here,” he said.
Stava urged elected officials—current and future—to appoint board members who represent and understand the diversity present in the Village.
“Part of the reason we chose Downers [Grove]—my wife and I—is for the nostalgia I feel for the place that I love, but part of it is because we see it as a place that’s welcoming [and] where there’s community,” he said. “ My family friends here—new and old—are thoughtful, empathetic and kind people.”
David Haugen, of Downers Grove, said he supports the action of the council.
“I firmly believe that a member of a public commission [or] council needs to be fundamentally in agreement with the mission of the organization that they are supporting,” he said.
Mayor Martin Tully took a moment to discuss the process of appointing elected officials to serve as representative members of the community.
“In the six-and-half years I’ve been mayor I’ve appointed and reappointed probably around 212 people, and most people probably don’t even know what our boards and commissions are, but if you look at them, we’re already pretty far along in meeting the goal,” he said. “Again, I think all of us would look at our boards and commissions generally and think that we could always do better, but I think we’re doing pretty well in terms of representation of the makeup of the community.”
David Diehl, also of Downers Grove, said the council’s decision serves as evidence of their leadership.
“I would ask in the days, weeks, months and years ahead that you continue to exercise leadership and make our community a better place,” he said.
Jeanette Ward, a board member of School District U-46 Board of Education, disagreed.
“I find it ironic that you in this room speak of tolerance and yet you just dismissed someone because you were intolerant of their opinion,” she said.
Ward stressed that her views do not necessarily represent the school board she serves on.
“I’d like to point out the irony of a library, which is supposed to support diverse opinions, firing someone over his diverse opinion,” she said. “There is one thing that one side of this argument cannot abide, and that is diversity of thought, which is the most important kind of diversity.”
Art Jaros’ wife, Claire, shared that sentiment.
“The action you’ve taken this evening implies you cannot tolerate someone who disagrees with you, instead of learning to accept tolerance of others,” she said. “Diversity exists on both sides of the aisle.”
Jaros added that people should not have to comprise their convictions to be compassionate.
“Art Jaros is a very unique individual,” she said. “I’ve been married to him for almost 37 years. [He] is compassionate about his beliefs. You may agree with him [or] you may not agree with him at all, but have you learned to accept his diversity?”
Lisa Scott, of Downers Grove, said the matter at hand rings close to home for her.
“I’m the mother of an LGBTQ child,” she said. “We moved here from Chicago when she was only one, and she is now a young adult. She’s in college; she’s a National Merit Scholar; she’s a State Farm Scholar with a perfect 4.0 [grade-point average] at college.”
Scott said she admires her daughter’s bravery to come out and went on to applaud the administration at Downers Grove North High School for supporting her child.
“My child was fully supported there, and the administration was terrific,” she said. “I wish I could also say the same for the population at large. There is hate in our community, and it’s ugly.”
Scott added, “Mayor Tully, I implore you to appoint a library trustee who is appreciative of the diversity in Downers Grove [and] will promote an inclusive library environment for the benefit of all.”