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Some Flossmoor residents upset about Planned Parenthood’s new facility

A small group of Flossmoor residents spoke up at the village board meeting on Feb. 5 to voice their displeasure about the opening of a Planned Parenthood facility. Though tempers remained muted, Mayor Paul Braun had to call for order at one point when residents began shouting from the gallery.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois (PPIL) opened the new facility at 19831 Governors Highway in January after crews spent months renovating the building, sold to Healthcare Partners, LLC. It was only when the center revealed its sign on Jan. 11 that members of the community discovered the building’s true occupant. 

At the meeting, Braun called this the “modus operandi” of PPIL — essentially opening new facilities quietly to avoid protest.

Some community members in attendance, however, said they were upset by what they called the secrecy of the method.

“For an agency that we know will cause a degree of controversy to come into our community without public discussion is disappointing,” resident Dennis Cortes told the village board. 

Also at the meeting was Donna Miller, the president of the board of directors of PPIL. Miller is also a candidate to hold the seat as Cook County commissioner for the 6th District on the March election, and she attended the meeting to introduce herself to Flossmoor’s board and residents. Flossmoor Trustee Diane Williams is endorsing Miller in her election bid.

Cortes specifically called on Williams to ask about whether she knew about PPIL moving into town. 
When Williams responded that the entire board found out with the rest of the community, some members of the gallery called out, “That’s not what he asked! Answer the question!”
Williams clarified that she personally did not know about the planned use of the building. Cortes’ wife, Kris Cortes, who spoke before the board later in the meeting, also addressed Williams directly. 
“If I, as an elected public official, endorsed a candidate, I would feel betrayed and hoodwinked that this was coming into my village and I didn’t know about it,” Kris Cortes said.
She also called into question the level of services available at the PPIL facility, saying it’s not a full-service gynecological and obstetric health center. 
Braun said he and other village officials met with the CEO and staff members of PPIL earlier that day, and they described the facility as a full-service women’s health center. According to the facility’s website, it offers sexual health services, including care before, during and after pregnancy; family planning, abortion and adoption; menopause care; along with generalized health services and care for men.
Cortes mentioned that PPIL does not perform mammograms and only provides referrals for the screening tests, which is accurate. Most gynecological practices, however, would not conduct mammograms in their office, but rather refer women to a hospital or other facility. 
Because PPIL is a nonprofit organization, it will not pay property taxes for its occupation of the building, another point of annoyance among some of the residents in attendance. Trustee James Mitros said he sympathized with those complaining about PPIL’s existence in Flossmoor.
“Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot we can do about it, or some of us would be doing something,” Mitros said. “It wasn’t a happy day when that sign went up, let me just say that.”
The Rev. Eric Wallace, a Flossmoor resident, expressed his disappointment that his town now has a PPIL facility, which he called “a blight on the community.”
“I know you say you can’t do anything about it, but that won’t keep us from doing something about it,” Wallace said. “We’re planning protests and we’re going to make it known that we don’t want them here.”
Braun cautioned him that the area where the facility is located along Governors Highway is not conducive to safe protesting, and that care should be taken to keep potential protesters safe.
The mayor also repeated multiple times that, even if the board had been aware of PPIL’s plans before they opened, that knowledge would not have changed the eventual outcome. The facility was established legally and has 501(c)3 tax exemption, and therefore is outside the purview of the board.
“I thought it was disrespect by the organization for not letting us know in advance that they were the end user,” Braun said. “But the village must operate under its ordinances. … From the standpoint of the village, whether they had announced that they were the end user or not would not have changed the result.”
Flossmoor Trustee Brian Driscoll asserted that, because board members didn’t know who the end user was when they approved the occupancy permit, they assumed it was a for-profit entity. Perhaps this could be grounds, Driscoll said, for claiming PPIL and Healthcare Partners, LLC somehow illegally misrepresented their intentions. Mitros echoed this idea, saying board members did think it was going to be a for-profit entity. 
However, Trustee Williams called the accuracy of that account into question. At the time, she said, they also discussed the possibility of University of Chicago Medicine being the tenant, another nonprofit occupant that would not have paid taxes.
“Just to be completely clear, I don’t think we were sitting here completely convinced that this was going to be a for-profit organization,” Williams said. “We didn’t know (that) at the time.”


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