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The Weeks | April 2: Democracy to do, soggy Friday, another annexation possible

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Time to do some democracy
Early voting is open through April 3. Tuesday, April 4, is Election Day. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Find Homewood and Flossmoor polling places here.

Meet the Candidates. The Chronicle has compiled its most extensive election preview package ever, with 27 candidate-provided profiles and video interviews by Chronicle editors with 20 candidatesAll election preview content is free.

Cook County Clerk’s Office election resources

Easter egg hunt in the shops
There’s a new Easter egg hunt on the schedule this year. Giant paper eggs will be hidden in 19 local businesses on Saturday, April 8, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Participants who find an egg take a selfie with it and send the photo to Event Manager Marla Youngblood at [email protected]. Anyone who submits photos of them all will be registered in a raffle for gift cards at participating businesses.

Green Committee to host community clean-up day in Flossmoor
Volunteers can help spruce up Flossmoor during the annual Chicago Southland Green Committee Community Clean-Up Day, 9 a.m. to noon on April 8. Volunteers will work in the vacant lot behind Meijer, 3800 Flossmoor Road. Participants younger than 15 should be accompanied by an adult. Register online.

Village stickers
There was no line of residents waiting to buy vehicle stickers at Homewood Village Hall on Saturday, April 1. That might change near the sticker purchase deadline of May 31, as it has in the past, but it might not. Village Manager Napoleon Haney said many residents are switching to online sticker purchase rather than completing the transaction in person.

Click here to find more information about the sticker program and to purchase online.

The deadline to purchase Flossmoor vehicle stickers and animal tags is April 17. Call 708-798-2300 for more information or visit flossmoor.org.

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< THE WEEK

Storm leaves H-F soggy but relatively unscathed
Wild weather the past couple of weeks has pummeled communities from Iowa to Mississippi, and Illinois has not been spared. A dozen tornadoes hit Illinois on Friday, including one in  Belvidere that killed one person and injured 40.

Homewood and Flossmoor got lucky and mostly got drenched Friday night, getting almost nine-tenths of an inch of rain in an hour. That produced some localized flooding, according to Homewood Village Manager Napoleon Haney, but no serious problems.

The viaducts with drainage problems, Flossmoor Road and Dixie Highway, were flooded for a time. Irene Mercer got a great photo of the Flossmoor viaduct under water. Drainage improvement there continues to be one of the village’s top priorities. Homewood’s Dixie Highway viaduct drainage has been on the Illinois Department of Transportation’s project list for years but has not been selected and funded.

Lucky Egg Hunt undaunted by weather
The field west of Irwin Center where the annual Lucky Egg Hunt usually takes place is prone to flooding. The storm Friday night made it too soupy to host the popular event, but Homewood-Flossmoor Park District staff made things work anyway, moving the event to higher ground near the gazebo and playground further west. The kids got their eggs, and Chronicle editor Marilyn Thomas got the photos.

The grass at Irwin Park was off limits due to the weather, so kids collected eggs from around the gazebo and play equipment at the park. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
The grass at Irwin Park was off limits due to the weather, so kids collected eggs from around the gazebo and play equipment at the park. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

Train station demolition
The old mission-style train station entrance building on Harwood Avenue is no more. The structure was razed Wednesday and Thursday to make way for a new building. The major renovation of the station is expected to take more than a year to complete.

Flossmoor’s Strongest Town run ends
Flossmoor made it to the second round of the Strongest Town contest but wasn’t able to top Saranac Lake, N.Y., to get into the final four of the March Madness-style completition. The contest invited the public to vote on the community that exemplified the values of resilience and bottom-up development.

D161 to seek reimbursement for residency fraud
Flossmoor School District 161 will start seeking reimbursement in cases where students attend who don’t live in the district. At its meeting on Monday, March 27, the school board voted to allow collections. 

Olympia Fields Country Club requests annexation
A second area golf course could be annexed into a village soon. Ted Slowik reports in The Southtown that Olympia Fields Country Club has asked to be added to the village of Olympia Fields, citing frustration with Cook County bureaucracy as the reason. In February, Calumet Country Club, formerly part of Homewood, was annexed by Hazel Crest.

OFCC seeks volunteers for BMW
Olympia Fields Country Club is looking for volunteers to help with the BMW Championship tournament in August. To volunteer or to view descriptions of each of the volunteer committees, visit bmwchampionship.com/volunteers.

DEMOCRACY WATCH

“The reality of the fact is that, whoever is elected, our candidates are only as good as we make them. …  The work of government involves us all. We cannot be weak residents. We must be engaged.”
Ciera Bates-Chamberlain, Michael Pfleger, Seth Limmer and Otis Moss III
in an opinion piece published Sunday, April 2, in the Chicago Tribune.

Good point. 

The next step is getting more residents to bring their voices to the governing process. The pattern over the last few years has been for people to get engaged when there is a controversial issue facing the community. That’s normal and understandable but not ideal. 

Routine engagement by more people would be better. I’ve seen efforts by Homewood and Flossmoor officials to build more engagement, and I hope they continue to create momentum.

Homewood, for example, made resident participation part of the process for revising the zoning code. Two new revision projects are starting up now, one to update the Downtown Master Plan and one to update the Appearance Plan. Both will, like the zoning project, include residents in the process.

I attended the first Appearance Plan meeting on March 29. Only a handful of residents showed up, but those who did had good questions, ideas, concerns and criticisms that helped shape the initial run through the question of how to manage public-facing structures the village regulates, like building facades, landscaping, lighting and signage.

One exchange was interesting. A woman who expressed her dislike for the four-story Hartford Building, currently under construction at the corner of Ridge Road and Martin Avenue, asked who had approved the building’s design.

Economic Development Director Angela Mesaros noted that the village had gone through the required process of public notice, including holding a public hearing, before the Board of Trustees approved the project.

She was right, of course. The project was not a secret. The Chronicle published numerous stories about the acquisition and demolition of the Triumph Building and the planning and design of the Hartford Building. 

The fact that the woman wasn’t aware of the process is not an indication that she’s not interested or engaged. After all, she came to an evening meeting to learn about and have a say in the revision of the Appearance Plan. 

I think the problem is with the required process of notice and public hearings. It is necessary but inadequate. 

That is, the process ensures transparency but doesn’t routinely attract engagement. Over my years covering municipal government, I’ve heard many residents say they believe once a project or budget or ordinance is on a board agenda, it’s a done deal and the rest is a formality. Too many people don’t believe their voices will make a difference, and so they don’t bother to speak.

Or, sometimes, they speak too loudly. (My theory is that people shout more when they don’t think they’re being heard.)

For major revisions of village policy, like zoning, appearance and downtown planning, taking the time to involve residents in working through issues together with staff and elected leaders has worked pretty well. 

I wonder how that approach can become more routine. It helps to have village leaders inviting people to participate. Take them up on the offer.

“The work of government involves us all.”

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