Runners enjoy the shade and colorful decorations as they make their way through the Flossmoor Park neighborhood during the Hidden Gem Half Marathon. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
Free, Local News, Opinion

The weeks | Sept. 11

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Democracy Day all month
Sept. 15 is International Democracy Day.  The Chronicle is participating in a collaborative journalism project sponsored by the Montclair State University Center for Cooperative Media.

Quote of the week
“If you have a plan, we want to hear it. Tell your community leaders, your local officials, your governor, and your team in Washington. Believe me, your ideas count. An individual can make a difference.”
— George H.W. Bush

Cynicism about politicians is practically a national pastime in the U.S. There are plenty of examples from throughout history right up until last week that can justify distrust in corrupt and/or ineffectual elected officials.

That’s why it seems important to point out when local officials do right. H-F elected officials aren’t perfect, and no decision in the long history of decision making has ever satisfied everyone, but there are three cases I want to highlight that illustrate Flossmoor and Homewood officials worked with constituents to shape policy and practice effectively.

In Flossmoor earlier this year, residents asked the Board of Trustees to reconsider the village’s ban on above-ground swimming pools. They conducted a petition to show they had support, then presented the suggestion to the board.

Pool advocates and opponents presented their views to the board at meetings. Trustees talked to residents outside meetings, too, learning residents views pro and con. Village staff drafted a sample ordinance so there would be something more tangible to consider.

After about two months of consideration, the board members all weighed in on their conclusions. It was clear the prevailing opinion in the community and on the board was not in favor of the change, but Trustee Gary Daggett made a motion anyway so the issue would be part of the board’s official actions. The motion died for lack of second.

Certainly not everyone was happy with the result, but residents were given opportunities to be heard, the board considered the matter carefully and made a decision that seemed to reflect the will of the people.

In Homewood, there are two recent issues that have worked well.

One is similar to the Flossmoor pool situation. After a fatal crash at the intersection of Center Avenue and 183rd Street in July 2020, a resident started an online petition insisting that something be done about speeding and other safety issues on the main thoroughfare. The petition got thousands of signatures.

Homewood officials responded within a few weeks with steps that were feasible in the short term and aimed at starting the process. Traffic delineators were installed in an attempt to block risky turns at the tricky intersection. Several parkway trees were removed to improve visibility of oncoming traffic. Another easy option was implemented earlier this year. Delineators were added to the center line of 183rd Street at Park Avenue to prevent dangerous turns eastbound from southbound Park.

Then the village commissioned a study to learn about traffic patterns, accident patterns and possible solutions to safety problems.

The traffic study was presented to the public at a board meeting where there was a lively discussion about the options presented in the study. Residents offered their views of the study and made suggestions of their own.

In May, the village did a test of a traffic diet approach that would reduce the traffic lanes from four to two. It appears that test was successful. Village officials met with residents along 183rd Street several times to get their views on various options. 

It appears the test was a success. At the board meeting Tuesday, trustees will consider authorizing a grant application that would cover most of the costs of implementing the traffic diet approach from Morgan Street west to Dixie Highway.

Residents asked. The village responded. Residents and officials worked together throughout the process to come up with solutions that would work and would have acceptable costs.

The other example in Homewood is the major revision to the village’s zoning code. Zoning regulations can affect anyone in the village, but they are often invisible and of little interest until a sizzling controversy arises. 

When Homewood officials decided to revamp the zoning code, the village hired a consultant to not only work on regulation revisions but to involve the community at every stage. 

The next opportunity to learn about the process will be at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Thursday, Sept. 22. The commission will meet at 7 p.m. in the board room of village hall, 2020 Chestnut Road.

The meeting will feature a presentation of the new code draft, giving residents another chance to make suggestions before the final version goes to the Board of Trustees in November.

Things don’t always work this well. Next week we’ll look at a couple of examples that were more fraught with complications and conflict and try to figure out what went awry.

Week ->

If you can’t make it to this week’s local government meetings, the Chronicle will be covering District 161 and Homewood boards. Check back! And if you want to get notice about which stories have been posted each day, sign up for our free daily headlines email.

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District 161 Board of Education will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12, at Normandy Villa, 41 E. Elmwood Drive, Chicago Heights. 

  • Read the agenda here
  • Watch the livestream of the meeting here.
  • Highlights: The meeting will start with a public hearing on the 2022-2023 budget, which the board will vote on later in the meeting.  

Homewood Board of Trustees will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, at village hall, 2020 Chestnut Road. 

  • Read the agenda here.
  • Watch the livestream of the meeting here. Use meeting ID 980 4907 6232, password 830183.
  • Highlights: Staff is seeking the board’s permission to apply for a grant that would help restructure lanes on 183rd, converting the street from four traffic lanes to two traffic lanes, center turn lanes and bike lanes.

Flossmoor Public Library Trustees will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, in the lower level of the library, 1000 Sterling Road in Flossmoor.

  • Read the agenda here.
  • Highlights: The board will consider a bid for painting as part of the Youth Services renovation and will consider declaring a vacancy on the board.

Cook County’s Racial Equity Week events begin Monday, Sept 12. This year’s theme is “Many People, One Goal.” County officials say the theme “reflects the breadth and depth of the county’s diverse inhabitants and the desire for a thriving, safe and just county for all.”

The kickoff event will take place at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Thatcher Woods, 8030 Chicago Avenue, River Forest. Most events throughout the week are available virtually.

  • “White Supremacist Ideology and Indoctrination Conversation” presented by Simon Weisenthal Center on Monday, Sept. 12.
  • “CMAP Talks: How can we design safe and complete streets with an equity lens?” from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13. 
  • “A Candid Conversation with Native Americans Reflecting on the Urban Indian Relocation Program 60 Years Later” from 5 to 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
  • “Illinois Muslims: Needs, Assets, and Opportunities – Cook County Roundtable” from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14.
  • “Championing the Unsung: A Fireside Chat with filmmaker Adewole A. Abioye and Cook County Manager of Archives Skyla S. Hearn” from 6 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14.
  • “Dare to Connect: Turbulent Times, Courageous Stories Live Storytelling with Dr. Ada Cheng” from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16.

Bookie’s last day
Last week we reported that Homewood’s only independent book store would be closing by the end of the month. Bookie’s New and Used Books announced since then that the last day for the shop at 2015 Ridge Road will be Sept. 24. 

You Matter 2 sign up
Just a heads-up: The deadline is Sept. 26 to sign up for the youth leadership and community service organization You Matter 2. The organization is open to anyone in sixth through 12th grades, regardless of school or residency.

From the website: “We are looking for members who are dedicated to volunteering, and changing the world! You Matter 2 provides youth with a safe space to develop positive relationships, leadership skills, and discover their passions. Becoming a member of You Matter 2 requires dedication, volunteering, attending meetings, and a positive attitude.”

<- Week

Big day in Flossmoor
For the second year in a row, Flossmoor’s Future held the Hidden Gem Half Marathon and the village sponsored its annual fall festival on the same day. On Saturday, Sept. 10, runners dashed through through village neighborhoods lined with cheering residents all morning and then villagers gathered downtown all afternoon and evening for music, food and fun.

The Chronicle was there all day, starting with Carole Sharwarko’s livestream reports. Here’s the video that includes the start of the race:

Flossmoor meeting protests
Justice for Madeline Miller protesters continued to rally and speak at Flossmoor Board of Trustees meetings. The protest at the Sept. 6 meeting was less disruptive but no less passionate than the previous three events. Protesters also appeared at the Hidden Gem and Flossmoor Fest to continue pressing their expectations regarding police accountability after the fatal shooting of Miller on July 10.

From left, Aaron McIntyre, La’Shawn Littrice, Casey Kueltzo, Don Gross and Lindsey Felker with protest signs they displayed near the finish line of the Hidden Gem Half Marathon on Saturday, Sept. 10. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Citizens for Homewood Schools at HBA
The Homewood Busines Association hosted a presentation Tuesday, Sept. 6, by District 153 Board of Education member Alex Bosch and Citizens for Homewood Schools representative Christine Scully. Scully explained how people can get involved in the campaign supporting a property tax increase on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The district is asking for the first increase to the limiting rate in 30 years. In recent years, voters have approved smaller measures for operating bonds to keep the district going. Bosch said the district couldn’t seek a more permanent solution to its budget woes because state regulations would have negated any additional revenue from increasing the limiting rate.

Since then, regulations have changed, giving the district an opportunity to ask voters for a long-term solution. Currently, the district’s revenues do not cover expenses, reserves are lower than they should be and facility upgrades have fallen behind.

The problem with reserves will be a problem this fall. Cook County’s delay in issuing tax bills means the district will likely have to use all its reserves to meet expenses in coming months.

I asked what would happen if the referendum fails. Bosch said the district would have to make cuts in its largest expense: staffing. That could affect the district’s teacher-to-student ratios. He said reductions at all levels, including administration, would be looked at if necessary.

Hartford Building progress
Construction continues on the new building at Ridge Road and Martin Avenue in Homewood. Work began last week on the fourth story. The top three stories of the building will have apartments. The ground floor will be home to Stoney Point Grill.

 A view of the Hartford Building looking southwest on Saturday, Sept. 10. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Marian Catholic High School holds all-school mass
It was another post-pandemic milestone. Marian Catholic held a mass for nearly 1,000 people to begin the new school year after two-plus years of pandemic disruptions in the school’s rituals.

“It’s pure joy to be able to spiritually gather as one whole community and begin a new year like we did before the pandemic began,” said Principal Steve Tortorello.

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