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Neighbors bury the hatchet
Trustee: I was worried about safety
By Jameel Naqvi | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/12/2008 11:50 PM

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A Carpentersville trustee who got into hot water with remarks made during a dispute with her neighbors reconciled with those neighbors during a meeting Saturday with two local pastors.

Police charged Trustee Linda Ramirez-Sliwinski with disorderly conduct last week after she told her black neighbors' 8- and 9-year-old sons to "quit playing in the tree like monkeys."

The boys had been climbing a tree next to Ramirez-Sliwinski's house.

The remarks attracted national media attention and ignited a firestorm of controversy over whether Ramirez-Sliwinski's remarks were racially charged.

At Saturday's meeting, Ramirez-Sliwinski's Sparrow Road neighbors agreed that the trustee was not using the word "monkeys" as a racial epithet, according to two pastors who mediated the meeting.

"Everyone realizes it wasn't a correct statement to make, but her intent was good," said the Rev. Dexter Ball from the Faithwalk Harvest Center in Carpentersville.

Ramirez-Sliwinski has said she was worried the children would fall out of the tree.

"She was concerned about their safety, and she didn't want the children to get hurt," said the Rev. Walter Blalark, president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition's Northwest suburban chapter.

Ball and Blalark mediated the meeting between Ramirez-Sliwinski and her neighbors.

The neighbors agreed to put the incident behind them and work together to unite the community, the pastors said.

"Everyone walked away satisfied with the outcome," Ball said. "They agreed to communicate better to be friendly neighbors."

The meeting also addressed the future of Ramirez-Sliwinski's political career. The one-term trustee said last week she would not seek re-election but pledged to remain a delegate for presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama.

Blalark, Ball and Ramirez-Sliwinski's neighbors encouraged the trustee to seek re-election in 2009 and remain an Obama delegate.

"She should not allow this one particular misunderstanding to end her political career," Blalark said.

Ramirez-Sliwinski has said she will challenge the disorderly conduct citation. Blalark encouraged her to contest the charge.

"I don't think that's disorderly conduct," he said. "I think that's a misunderstanding."

Ramirez-Sliwinski declined to comment on Saturday's meeting, and her neighbors, Georgia Lockett and Dametta Stewart, did not return calls seeking comment.