Infrastructure, business development and even seasonal decorations came to the table when candidates for Flossmoor Village Board met in a debate on Wednesday, March 15, at village hall.
The H-F Area Chapter of the League of Women Voters hosted the debate for the four candidates vying for three seats, including incumbents George Lofton, James Mitros and Rosalind Mustafa, and newcomer Arlene “Sugar” Al-Amin.
Candidates began the hourlong debate with opening statements. Lofton, Mustafa and Al-Amin read from prepared remarks, while Mitros addressed the crowd extemporaneously.
Al-Amin said she is the Clerk of Rich Township, along with a salon owner and property investor. She touted a fresh perspective.
“There’s a lot I want to share with you tonight, so hang on tight,” she said.
Mustafa reminded the crowd that she was appointed to the board in October 2021. She emphasized the number of local organizations she supports, as well as her focus on communicating with residents to find what’s important to them.
Lofton offered examples of other boards on which he serves, including that of ComEd, his former employer of 28 years. Now retired, he said one focus for him is increasing business tax revenue in the village to lessen the “burden” on Flossmoor taxpayers.
Mitros provided a personal introduction, including his status as a 52-year resident of Flossmoor and the fact that he has been a village trustee for 28 years.
“I won’t go into the litany of things I’ve done, but there have been a lot,” Mitros said.
The LWV moderator then posed questions submitted by audience members to each candidate in turn. The first was to name an idea to better the community that isn’t being discussed.
Mitros mentioned the village’s recent agreement with a consultant group called Retail Coach to help it develop retail development. Al-Amin proposed a “doggy park.” Lofton suggested a monthly Flossmoor Fest. Mustafa stressed the need to connect with young people.
“If we’re going to create a welcoming village for the future and encourage our youth to come back with their families, we need to engage them and to consider that we need to find safe social spaces for them,” Mustafa said.
Another question asked the candidates their opinion of building an amphitheater in the vacant lots of 2620-2629 Flossmoor Road, just west of Sterling Road.
Lofton called that “an important piece of property,” and said he would consider resident consensus. He called out potential zoning issues, as did Mustafa. She said factors such as noise, parking, light and traffic flow must be considered. Al-Amin said she’s in favor of the idea to keep entertainment dollars in Flossmoor. Mitros also said he liked the idea.
“Eight years ago, I was a proponent of doing that. I think I came up with the idea, and it got slammed,” Mitros said. “Zoning laws are made to be changed. I think that would be cool to have an open public space in downtown. Maybe plots for gardeners.”
Candidates were asked how they plan to involve residents in decision making. Mustafa said she would be in favor of occasional opinion polling to collect resident input.
“I volunteer regularly in Flossmoor and talk to residents through those activities. Because they’re informal, people are sometimes more willing to talk,” Mustafa said.
Communication isn’t an issue, Mitros said, because residents know how to get in touch with trustees by email and seeing them around town.
“I don’t see it as an issue, but if it is we could overcome that by having some events, I guess,” Mitros said.
Al-Amin brought up her work as a member of Flossmoor’s Community Relations Commission, and said this and other commissions are good ways to hear resident ideas.
“My community already leans in on me and asks me how can I help with Flossmoor (issues),” Al-Amin said.
Candidates answered a question about what types of businesses they want in Flossmoor. Mustafa said Retail Coach will help the board understand what businesses will most benefit the village.
Mitros said new residents want amenities that “are not Auto Zone, Pep Boys and a car wash,” which he said the current village board prevented from opening on Vollmer Road. He read a list of eight businesses that have recently opened in Flossmoor.
“It’s not like we haven’t been doing anything. We’ve been bringing it in,” Mitros said.
Al-Amin said residents want to keep entertainment dollars in Flossmoor, and suggested businesses such as Top Golf, dining and more recreational and social opportunities.
Lofton said the board has heard from residents who want more upscale opportunities.
“We know that you want to have more fine restaurants,” Lofton said. “We know that you want to shop here and not necessarily travel to Orland or other places.”
As the debate neared its close, candidates were asked what they believe is the most serious issue Flossmoor will face in the coming years.
Mitros said aging infrastructure and recruitment of “policemen and firemen” will be challenges, and budgeting for those things, as well as public works, will be a balancing act.
“Safety is one thing we have to hone in on now,” Al-Amin said. “We have to make sure funding for law enforcement is allocated to the right channels, that is mental health and equity and diversity.”
Lofton named safety and economic development among Flossmoor’s top concerns, and also called out inflation as an “important issue we have to be very careful about.”
Mustafa said keeping pace with aging infrastructure remains a serious issue in Flossmoor.
The audience and candidates shared a laugh when the moderator asked an audience question about the possibility of an ordinance to force homeowners to maintain their property exteriors, including taking down out-of-season holiday decorations.
Mitros said that Flossmoor isn’t a home-rule community, and therefore can’t enforce things such as outdoor decor.
In offering their closing statements, Lofton stressed financial management and accountability.
“I advocate for the continued training for the men and women of our police department in the areas of deescalation, use of force, civil rights and cultural competency,” Lofton said.
Mitros said he will always put Flossmoor first, and that the community will continue to be great “no matter what happens.”
Al-Amin said she is excited to join the already successful board, and she will remain flexible as a trustee.
Mustafa rounded back to her message of open communication, and said she will work for equal access for everyone.
“Equity is like a muscle, and we need to continue to flex it,” she said.
Watch the debate in its entirety at the League of Women Voters H-F Area YouTube Channel.