The five candidates vying for three open Flossmoor village trustee seats shared their views Feb. 7 on topics ranging from the housing market to neighborhood unity. Candidates include incumbents James Mitros and Perry Hoag, who both have been on the board 24 years, as well as new challengers Gyata Kimmons, David Bruni and Michelle Nelson. Bruni and Nelson are running as write-in candidates.
The five candidates vying for three open Flossmoor village trustee seats shared their views Feb. 7 on topics ranging from the housing market to neighborhood unity.
The Homewood-Flossmoor Area League of Women Voters hosted the forum in Flossmoor Village Hall and used a moderator to ask questions from the audience. About 50 community members were in attendance.
Candidates include incumbents James Mitros and Perry Hoag, who both have been on the board 24 years, as well as new challengers Gyata Kimmons, David Bruni and Michelle Nelson. Bruni and Nelson are running as write-in candidates.
The candidates shared their backgrounds before fielding about a dozen questions, including naming Flossmoor’s greatest challenge.
Hoag said he has lived in Flossmoor since 1986 and enjoys making a positive difference as a trustee.
“I think we have a record of accomplishment here in terms of economic development and financial stability that is really unparalleled in the south suburbs,” he said.
Hoag said maintaining revenue while the state cuts funds is the village’s greatest challenge. “The No. 1 problem we face year in and year out is balancing our budget,” he said.
He said ongoing economic development will be needed to replace the gap and pay for things like street and sidewalk repairs.
Hoag said that while stagnant housing prices are not positive, Flossmoor has stabilized its Equalized Assessed Value. He said the village should subsidize to bring in more private enterprises rather than act as a property developer itself.
“This is a very challenging area,” Hoag said. “We have spent literally hundreds of hours developing and working on property consolidation for the TIF area.”
Hoag said he believes Flossmoor is a relatively unified community because of the reach of its services.
“We do have police, fire and public works,” he said. “The key is that those core entities work across the board for all communities equally.”
Kimmons said he is from Evanston and moved to Flossmoor because he and his wife wanted to raise their two daughters with a sense of community.
He said he has a background in both the public and private sector, having run a small business and worked in Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s office.
“I am running because I think I have the skillset, new ideas and energy to continue moving us forward,” Kimmons said.
Kimmons said fostering economic development and increasing home values will be needed to overcome the village’s greatest challenges.
He said filling vacant parcels of land without “over-developing” them will be key to increasing tax dollars, but creating a welcoming environment is also important.
Kimmons said fighting stagnant housing prices will come down to showcasing the “wins” Flossmoor already has.
“Ultimately we have to do a better job, I think, of leveraging our stakeholders,” he said. “We’ve got a wonderful public library, award-winning park district, great schools.”
Kimmons said village hall should be treated as the center of town for different groups and individuals of Flossmoor to come together in a unified way.
“Let’s enhance and promote the individuality of these neighborhoods, but let’s make sure we are all doing it in a cohesive matter,” he said.
Mitros said he has lived in Flossmoor since high school, and he and his wife raised four children here. He served on the village zoning board for two years before being elected trustee in 1995.
Mitros said he believes high property taxes are the village’s greatest challenge, as the state’s high rates are driving people to leave.
“We are always chasing to try to balance our budget,” Mitros said. “Nothing pays for what it used to pay for anymore.”
The village will have to look for new resources to maintain its infrastructure long-term when street repairs cannot be funded as often as they used to, he said.
Mitros said the village board can fight stagnant housing prices by keeping high standards for services like police, fire and public works.
“The way that we can guard against loss of property values is to maintain what we have and do the best with what we have,” he said.
Mitros said events like Flossmoor Fest, the Fourth of July parade and Beer Fest are great ways to think about unifying the neighborhoods.
Nelson said she is from Kansas City; she and her husband moved to Flossmoor 15 years ago to raise their family, and they now have four children.
Nelson is treasurer and member of the founding board of directors for the Homewood Science Center, and she has served on Flossmoor’s zoning board of appeals since 2009.
Nelson said funding infrastructure improvements is the biggest challenge facing Flossmoor.
“(Flossmoor roads) are a disaster,” she said. “They are a hazard for bicyclists and runners.”
She said the village should appeal to its residents to buy gas at the Meijer station instead of driving elsewhere, as roads are funded by the motor fuel tax.
Nelson said the village should be proactive about fighting stagnant housing prices with a master plan for developing Vollmer Road.
“If we look strong from Crawford (Avenue) all the way to the tracks, that will enhance our home values,” she said.
Nelson suggested revamping events and festivals as well as coming up with new ones to enhance the unity of Flossmoor.
Bruni said he is from Homewood and lived in Oak Park for 12 years, but as he and his wife expanded their family they wanted to move back to “plant their roots.”
Bruni described Flossmoor as being “at a crossroads” because so many people are wanting to leave the state.
“We can stay with the status quo or we can elect officials with fresh ideas and fresh perspectives to move this town forward,” he said.
Bruni said one of Flossmoor’s biggest challenges is its draw to new residents. Many have a preconceived notion that Homewood is a less expensive community, he said.
“We have a desirability problem,” Bruni said. “We cannot have fights at Flossmoor Fest; we cannot have a dilapidated building across the street from our crown jewel Homewood-Flossmoor High School.”
Bruni said working on Flossmoor’s desirability will also be key to fighting stagnant housing prices, but the good news is the average number of days for a home to be on the market has decreased.
“The numbers in real estate are not bad; they’re not terrible, but they could be better,” he said.
Bruni suggested village officials take part in community meetings like the Flossmoor Hills Civic Association to foster neighborhood unity.