Local News, Opinion

Half Week | June 21: Thornton Township turmoil, Cicada Shuffle, support Juneteenth Fest, legal cycling

Thornton Township meeting fail
Amid a tsunami of scandals and lawsuits in Dolton and Thornton Township, Tiffany Henyard continues to have trouble getting the basics of governance right. Josh Bootsma of the Lansing Journal reports this morning that Henyard kept members of the public and the press waiting for more than an hour Tuesday, June 18, before cancelling the scheduled Thornton Township board meeting.

The meeting was rescheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday, June 20.

Starting meetings on time is something every other board I’ve covered over the course of more than 20 years has been able to manage consistently.

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A bigger problem: The township board still has not approved the full budget for fiscal year 2024-25. Trustee Chris Gonzalez addressed the problem in the Journal story, saying there could be two public forums held before the board tries again. In the meantime, the township will continue operating according to the 2023-24 budget, he said.

Bootsma’s report also included a statement from Thornton Township Trustee Carmen Carlisle, who apologized for recent comments she made as a resident at a Dolton board meeting and promised to change her approach to her role on the township board. She and trustees Gerald Jones and Darlene Everett-Gray have consistently voted with Henyard on township business. Bootsma quotes Carlisle:

“I will no longer sit on the board with a quiet voice. I will use my influence to do what’s right for the people of Thornton Township. And I understand that the public has lost trust and confidence in us as board members, but I sit here today and say that I will do what’s necessary to rebuild that trust and confidence.”

It could be the tide is turning in the township, according to Gonzalez, who has been a dissident on the board.

I want to thank Josh Bootsma for his tireless work covering Thornton Township. About half of Homewood is in the township, but the Chronicle isn’t able to cover it consistently, so we have depended on the reporting of the Lansing Journal to help keep our community informed.

Friday, June 21, is Bootsma’s last day with the Journal. He’s moving to a new job in South Holland. I have enjoyed working with him. We might work for different publications, but we’ve worked like partners when we could. I wish him the best and promise to do better helping Journal publisher Melanie Jongsma with Thornton Township coverage.

The need for fees
Flossmoor Mayor Michelle Nelson, in her greeting to open the fourth annual HF Juneteenth Festival on Saturday, called the event “one of the biggest and definitely the best Juneteenth celebrations in all of Chicagoland.”

But HF Juneteenth attendance was down some this year, according to founder and curator Destiny Watson. That’s not really surprising since this was the first time the festival charged an admission fee. The prices were modest, $5 for kids and $10 for adults, especially considering the rich variety of activities and vendors and the quality of the art and entertainment.

“I think people don’t really understand fully what goes into putting on an event like this. It’s hard to do this every year as a small organization,” Watson said. “It isn’t village sponsored. We have to pull the money from somewhere.”

HF Juneteenth curator Destiny Watson. The founder of You Matter 2 said the organization needs more support from those who enjoy the big festival in order to keep it going. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The team that makes HF Juneteenth Fest happen are all volunteers, she said, and they work nearly year-round to plan the event.

“We do this because we love it. We have to be able to continue it some way if that’s what the community wants to see,” she said. “We don’t really have any other type of celebration like this for Black people in the South Suburbs. To be able to come together, all these Black owned businesses, all these entertainers and food trucks, we don’t really get this out here anywhere else. It’s important to have.”

The community might need a little time to adjust to the idea of the admission fees. The Chronicle had a similar experience when we introduced subscriptions to our website several years ago, but our community will support services it values, and just as our subscription numbers continue to grow, I think attendance at HF Juneteenth Fest will bounce back.

Cicada Fade
Cycling will be a little less of an adventure soon. The cicada party is fading. The bugs that appear to be passed out on the lawn are actually deceased.

For the past month, pedaling around town with our flying friends has involved more swerving to avoid committing insecticide, occasional thwaps as the big bugs and I collide and numerous cicada hitchhikers.

I generally let them ride along as long as they climb aboard a leg or shoulder. If they attempt to grab a seat on my face, I gently escort them off the premises.

I thought maybe they might present a business opportunity and tried charging for rides, but they stiffed me every time.

Cheap bugs.

A cicada visits the Chronicle's booth at the HF Juneteenth Festival. The big, flying bugs certainly enlivened the event, though not in a good way for some entertainers and members of the audience. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
A cicada visits the Chronicle’s booth at the HF Juneteenth
Festival. The big, flying bugs certainly enlivened the event,
though not in a good way for some entertainers and
members of the audience. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Cicada Shuffle
It wasn’t on the program, but probably the predominant activity at the HF Juneteenth Festival on Saturday was the Cicada Shuffle, a vigorous dance that begins when a cicada approaches and tries to cozy up for a little cheek-to-cheek with a human partner, who then leaps, twists, flails, dodges and sometimes screams and stomps (and stomps again) until the cicada is persuaded to seek a new partner or becomes squished.

Providing the energy for this dance is the very common fear of large, flying bugs. Cicadas are harmless, technically, but for anyone who has a phobia, mere facts are no consolation. As someone who suffers from claustrophobia, I have a great deal of sympathy for those whose reflex reaction to cicadas is one of fight, flight or both at the same time. I like the critters, but I get why many people don’t.

Next year, Juneteenth Fest should be a much more traditional experience, with the beat of the music rather than terror fueling the dance.

More cycling law excerpts
In a column on May 11, I mentioned that I had recently reviewed Illinois laws pertaining to cyclists from a handout available at GoodSpeed Cycles in Homewood and online. Here are two more sections from the handout.

Riding Side-by-Side
Riding two abreast is permitted as long as the normal and reasonable movement of traffic is not impeded.

Riding more than two abreast is prohibited except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. [5/11-1505.1]

Riding on a Shoulder
The law restricting driving on a shoulder shall not apply to any bicycle. [5/11-709.1]

Steve Buchtel of GoodSpeed also recommends the Bike Safety Quiz, also at RideIllinois.org. He said it’s a better learning tool than reading the code.

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