As soon as the blades stop and its safe to approach, a line forms at National Night Out to take a peek in the UCAN helicopter, an annual feature of Homewood's event in recent years. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
Local News, Opinion

The Weeks | July 30: D233 board retreat, village hall parking lot project, Porch Fest, National Night Out

THE WEEK >

Meetings

Homewood-Flossmoor School District 233 Board of Education will hold a special meeting/retreat at 8 a.m. Monday, July 31, in the Viking Room at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. 

  • Find the agenda here.
  • Highlights: There will be a presentation by  Gregory Hutchings, founder and CEO of Revolutionary ED plus discussion of committee goals and strategic priorities for 2023-2024. 

Notice

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Deadline to apply for tax exemption is Aug. 4
The deadline to apply for property tax exemptions is Friday, Aug. 4. Exemptions lower a homeowner’s property tax bill, according to the Cook County Assessor’s Office. The most common is the homeowner exemption, saving a property owner an average of $950 dollars each year. New homeowners, first-time applicants or those that need to reapply can now do so online by visiting, www.cookcountyassessor.com/exemptions. Applying online is easy, free, and can be done in under 10 minutes. Homeowners can watch or join virtual workshops to learn about eligibility and how to file exemptions on Facebook and YouTube in English and Spanish. For a list of upcoming in-person and virtual outreach events visit, www.cookcountyassessor.com/event-list.

Stuff to do

Rubber ducky hunt in Homewood
Homewood announced on Friday, July 28, the start of a rubber ducky scavenger hunt for Homewood residents. There are 37 rubber ducks hidden in the downtown area, each marked with the badge number of a Homewood police officer. Anyone who finds one can bring it to National Night Out from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1, at Irwin Park, 1800 block of Ridge Road, to win a prize. There will be a special prize for whoever finds the duck with Police Chief Denise McGrath’s badge No. 400.

National Night Out on Tuesday
Homewood and Flossmoor will be hosting National Night Out celebrations from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1.

Homewood’s festivities will be centered at the Irwin Park gazebo, 1800 block of Ridge Road. Residents will be able to view the police vehicles and participate with the officers in various kid-friendly games. There will be a face painter and a balloon artist available for all. Kids can tour a UCAN helicopter that will land in Irwin Park at about 5 p.m.

The Flossmoor police, fire and public works staff will be at the village hall and IJP School parking lots, 2800 Flossmoor Road. There will be games and refreshments, learn how police and fire departments use their specialized equipment and explore the Public Works Department vehicle fleet with a Touch a Truck experience.

Reading in the park
Tuesday morning, Aug. 1, at 10:30 a.m. Flossmoor Public Library will host a storytime at Leavitt Park featuring a Flossmoor firefighter as special guest reader. For more details or to register, call 708-798-3600.

Grown Up Night at the Splash Pad
The Splash Pad in Millennium Park will be turned over to the adults from 8 to 10 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 4. The event is for anyone 21 and older. Alcohol and food will be available for purchase. A DJ will provide music. Call 708-957-0300 for more information.

Porch Fest returns Aug. 5
After a one-year hiatus, Porch Fest, the informal distributed neighborhood concert, is back. Organizer Annie Lawrence has lined up four homes and 10 groups and soloists to perform at locations in Homewood’s Southgate neighborhood from 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5. The free event is intended to foster community and showcase local musicians. 

< THE WEEK

Developer hopes to build on Homewood parking lot
Homewood trustees approved a letter of intent on Tuesday, July 25, with HCF Homewood II. The developer of the Hartford Building in downtown Homewood is hoping to purchase a portion of the village hall parking lot to construct a five-story, 59-unit residential building. A number of residents spoke at the board meeting with questions and challenges to the project. More stories to follow.

Flossmoor to rebuild bridge and culvert
Federal and state funds will be used for a more than $1 million project to rebuild the Brookwood Bridge and the Butterfield Road culvert.

South suburban airport gets boost from new law
On Friday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law HB 2531, which requires the state to seek private sector partners to continue the development of the airport near Monee. U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly issued a statement lauding the signing. South suburban legislators and economic development officials believe the new cargo airport could be a significant boost to the regional economy.

Hidden Gem Half Marathon sold out
Flossmoor’s Future, organizer of the Hidden Gem Half Marathon, announced on July 28 that the race on Sept. 9 is sold out. More than 1,000 runners from 20 states and one territory will compete. The event was named circuit race of the year for 2022 by the Chicago Area Runners Association.

The start of the first Hidden Gem Half Marathon in Flossmoor in 2019. (Mary Compton/H-F Chronicle)
The start of the first Hidden Gem Half Marathon in Flossmoor in 2019. (Mary Compton/H-F Chronicle)

Chamber Night draws big crowd to Flossmoor
The third annual Chamber Night concert in downtown Flossmoor — sponsored by the village, the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce — brought out a crowd that filled the street in front of the Flossmoor Public Library to hear performances by an IPO string quartet and the Bel Canto Community Choir. 

Tennis courts closed for upgrades
The Homewood-Flossmoor Park District announced last week that tennis courts at Pheasant Trails Park are closed until further notice while being resurfaced. The courts at Flossmoor Hills Park also will be closed to be resurfaced and converted to pickleball courts. Orchard Park, Flossmoor Park and Lions Club Park courts remain open. The district has a list of outdoor tennis and pickleball courts on its website. 

DEMOCRACY WATCH

I saw a Block Club story last week, Mayor Johnson Asked Chicago Youth For Budget Feedback. Hundreds Showed Up, that reminded me of a situation in Homewood that might benefit from a similar approach. 

Last year, Homewood purchased the office building at Harwood and Dixie to use as the future home of a new water tower. The tenants’ leases were not renewed, displacing a number of local businesses.

One former tenant, Rachael Shores, who owns a massage therapy business, expressed her dissatisfaction at a village board meeting. She was upset that the village did not provide more support for her relocation. Economic Development Director Angela Mesaros later gave a presentation to the Homewood Business Association to explain the requirements and funding limits for support to local businesses.

It occurred to me then that the issue was a budget matter that, as far as I know, has not been addressed in conversation between village staff, trustees and local business owners. It looks to me like the budget is hammered out by staff. It’s a long, demanding process, and I know staff take it very seriously. They want their departments to efficiently provide the best service possible to the community. 

But the public input into the budget seems thin. The draft is released, followed a few weeks later by a public hearing, followed by a vote to adopt. Few residents or business owners participate in the process, even though it’s done in public. One person spoke at the public hearing this year for Homewood’s budget.

There are questions on many topics that could be addressed earlier in the process, perhaps in townhall-style meetings with residents. Residents’ questions and suggestions would help village officials better understand the priorities of the people. Staff explanations could help residents better understand the workings, opportunities and limits of village government.

In this case, the conversation could tackle questions like how much money do local businesses need from the village in order to thrive? How much would be appropriate given the many needs of the community? What are the consequences of increasing or decreasing the allocation for business support? What constraints come with each tool the village has available?

Even if the budgeted amount of support didn’t change, the conversation would be valuable in building a sense of shared mission. Village officials and business owners all want local businesses to thrive. Working together seems to make sense.

Quote of the week
“That 10 minutes that people spend in the voting booth every two years is not enough. I think back sometimes and wonder if we in the civil rights movement had left it to elected officials to desegregate restaurants and lunch counters, to desegregate buses … I wonder how long we would have had to wait. And I think, truly, that we might still be waiting.”

Diane Nash, civil rights activist

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