Economic development. Property taxes. Foreclosures. Flooding. Social media and marketing. Citizen outreach. Street repairs. Employee salaries.
Sunday’s Flossmoor candidate forum featured those topics of interest to village residents, and more.
Mayoral candidates Jeanne “Gigi” Gummerson and Paul Braun outlined their plans for the future in the first portion of the forum, which was sponsored by Homewood-Flossmoor League of Women Voters (LWV). The Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle co-sponsored the event.
During the second part of the forum, six trustee candidates answered questions on a wide range of subjects. Three village trustees, and Flossmoor’s mayor, will be elected in the April 4 consolidated election.
The village hall board room was filled to capacity during the campaign event. Candidates answered questions from the audience. LWV moderator Erin Roeper asked the questions and candidates had a time allotment for each response – 90 seconds for Braun and Gummerson and one minute for the trustee hopefuls.
Gummerson, a former Flossmoor trustee and business owner, was critical of current efforts to attract new businesses to town, the village’s marketing and social media initiatives and what’s been done to stem foreclosures in the community.
Foreclosures, she said, are a “major issue” in Flossmoor. Gummerson said the village needs to beef up local ordinance enforcement to prevent property from falling into disrepair and should “go after the banks” to make sure they are doing their part to keep homes presentable during the foreclosure process.
Braun, the two-term incumbent, said foreclosures are not as big a problem as they were following the 2008 recession. The rate of foreclosures is going down, he said. There are currently 103 foreclosed homes in Flossmoor out of 3,200 housing units, Braun said.
Flossmoor is facing a “critical period,” Braun said, and could experience a municipal budget deficit as early as 2018. He pointed to economic development successes such as the Meijer superstore and other businesses that have opened in the village as one way to stay ahead of financial challenges.
The village government, Braun said, is fiscally conservative – last year Flossmoor adopted a “zero growth” budget designed to keep spending at the same level as the year before.
Gummerson said Flossmoor needs to do more to attract new businesses, and to retain those that are already in the village. She said the village needs to be “proactive, not reactive.”
She pointed to the “triangle” area where Kedzie Avenue and Governors Highway converge as a spot where economic development is needed. She said village officials need to attend a major trade show in Las Vegas where municipalities can make contact with developers.
Flossmoor also needs to do more to attract grant money, Gummerson said.
Braun responded that Flossmoor has received $5.3 million in grant money. Grant money was used to pay for the village’s share of the renovation of the Metra station, he said.
In response to a question on whether the Flossmoor community was losing “unity,” Braun said the village has undertaken a number of initiatives to bring residents together, including the Green Committee, the Citizens Police Academy, an email newsletter and social media outreach, ECOP alerts and the MLK Day of Service.
Gummerson said she sees signs that village is not as unified as before. She said changes are needed with the yearly Flossmoor Fest celebration and noted that the village canceled its farmers market. She said Homewood, a community with numerous annual events and festivals, “does it to the nines” and that Flossmoor should not be left behind.
If elected, Gummerson said she would meet each Saturday with residents and would regularly schedule meet-and-greet events in all of Flossmoor’s neighborhoods.
During the trustee portion of the forum, candidates were asked about their budget experience, business development, community pride, why pickup trucks aren’t allowed overnight on driveways, whether they have attended village board meetings and other topics.
Trustee candidates at the forum were Beverly Diane Williams, Philip Minga, Stephen Kelley, Keitric Emory, Brian H. Driscoll and Peter K.B. St. Jean. Williams and Minga are incumbents. Roeper told the Chronicle that James Crum, also an incumbent, was dealing with an out-of-state family matter and could not attend the forum.
According to their campaign literature, Gummerson, Driscoll and Kelley are running together as a team. Braun is running with the three incumbent trustees.
The trustee candidates were asked what could be done to promote pride in Flossmoor.
“If you want to market Flossmoor, talk about the people who live here,” Emory said.
Driscoll said he senses “diminished community pride” in Flossmoor and he would like to see more done to promote the village’s art and architecture.
St. Jean said the village needs to promote its diversity, adding that negative impressions of Flossmoor fly in the face of what the community is all about.
“We fail in public but succeed in private,” he said. “Let us succeed in public.”
Williams said she values input from residents. “Very often the best ideas we get come from residents,” she said.
Minga said he favors more programs for young people, perhaps in coordination with the schools.
“We need to get young people to bring their families here,” Kelley said.
Find more information about the Flossmoor candidates in the H-F Chronicle Voter Guide.