A decade-old resolution designating English as the official language of Carpentersville was repealed by the village board Tuesday in a move Village President John Skillman says is long overdue.
The controversial measure was initially passed in 2007 during what is known as a contentious era of village politics. Supporters believed the nonbinding resolution would encourage non-English-speaking residents to learn the language, while opponents argued it would further divide the community.
Trustees on Tuesday sided with the resolution's original adversaries and voted 5-0 to remove it from the books.
"As far as I'm concerned, it should've been done years ago. It should've never happened," said Skillman, who was elected to his first term last year. "We want to bring the town together, and this is a start."
Skillman campaigned on a platform of unifying the village and said he has been working to form stronger relationships with Latino residents, who make up more than half Carpentersville's population. The 2007 resolution does not align with those efforts, he said.
"We are a community of different ethnicities," said Maria Vela, a Latina trustee who was appointed last month. "It's very important that we all feel welcomed, and with this vote tonight, I think we are showing that we want to move forward as one. We want to be in unity."
Absent from Tuesday's meeting was Trustee Paul Humpfer, who was on the village board in 2007 and voted in favor of the resolution. Skillman said Humpfer asked him to relay the message that he now supports the decision to revoke it.
Tom Wall was one of two community members who asked trustees keep English as the village's official language. He expressed concerns over the potential financial impact of reversing the measure.
Interim Village Manager Marc Huber said the resolution was purely symbolic and served no legal purpose. Removing it does not have any effect on village costs or resources, he said.
"All we're doing here tonight is righting a wrong, righting an injustice, and righting what was clearly done in an effort by a previous council to make a point," Trustee John O'Sullivan said.
Trustee Kevin Rehberg added the resolution has never been discussed in his five years on the village board, nor does he believe it has resulted in "anything positive" since it passed.
The measure was mentioned as an example of Carpentersville's past divisiveness in a March 15 letter from the Campaign Legal Center, a national voting rights agency that has been looking the village's election practices. Skillman said village officials have met with agency representatives to discuss options for better engaging Latino residents in politics.
The village has been making great strides toward overcoming the political tensions of 2007, he said. "We're moving in a positive direction."