Thursday, April 9, 2009

Encouraging Community Involvement -- but not really meaning it

As long as I have lived in Flossmoor -- going on a decade now -- Roger Molski has been trying to silence me. Not that I cared. To be honest, Molski wasn't much of a concern. In 2002, I was involved in the campaigns of four challengers running for the U.S. Senate (all of whom are now in the Senate), in 2004 I was involved in the presidential campaign and in 2006, I began to be involved in Barack Obama's long-shot run for the presidency. So in the scheme of things, Roger Molski wasn't that big a deal. But that's not the point.

As long as I've lived in Flossmoor, I've listened to Roger Molski (and others) preach about people getting involved in their community, in coming to village council meetings and "making Flossmoor better." The irony shouldn't be lost on anybody.

I believe that the Molskis of the world do want their neighbors to get involved in their local communities, but we can't be surprised that what they really mean is for us to get involved as their allies.

There are very few reasons why I've spoken up against Roger Molski since I moved here in 2000. The most common reason would have been when he was wrong. And, in my experience, Molski is wrong a lot. The great big empty lot right behind our condos (the Molskis and mine) proves the point. In May 2005, I took my concerns to the village meeting, starting with how it would negatively impact our condo units and ending with the fact that the banks I talked to considered Bruti a risky (or risk-taking?) developer, which Roger dismissed with a wave of his hand. "He's my friend," Roger said to me.

In other words, trust me.

If it isn't obvious, asking people to trust their representatives in government is antithetical to both good government and getting people involved in their community. That's one of the lessons we should take away from Molski's years of service to Flossmoor: if you want people involved, then you have to be able to withstand their criticism when they don't agree with you. It's nothing personal. It's just government (or, without the Godfather reference, it's the process).

I started this particular blog because a friend of mine had been doing a spectacular job covering his local community. Like Flossmoor, where he lived was basically ignored by the major media. His blog is a lot more successful and a lot more thorough than this one. I don't spend nearly as much time on this as he does. It is merely a coincidence that so much focus has been paid to Roger Molski.

About six months ago, Molski changed his routine (or pattern). He no longer walked his dog everyday. He started driving into the parking lot very early in the morning (when his car was conveniently missing at 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning). I asked him, when we talked about my mother-in-law, if his dog had died. I was told it hadn't.

So I started to write about our missing mayor. He wasn't really missing, it seemed to me, he was just commuting. But understanding political messaging as I do, I knew that calling Molski "our missing mayor" would be easier to understand that calling him a commuting mayor. People get that.

I didn't realize that candidates had used his home in the city against him before, but I also didn't care. I wanted to highlight the really bad decisions that Roger Molski has made for Flossmoor -- and the fact that we wasn't a full-time resident of Flossmoor went a long way in explaining his bad decisions. His daughter claims that Molski really loves Flossmoor, and I wouldn't dispute that. I also know that no parent tells their kids everything. But the problem wasn't that he cared about the village, it was what he was doing to the village.

I also didn't believe that Molski would run again. Given his new pattern, I expected him to retire. To be honest, I was shocked when he filed to run for re-election.

I write about what goes on in our community because people should know more about that. As a private citizen, which Roger Molski converts to in May, recording his commutes to the village would be gossip. But as a public official, as mayor, it is something that people had a right to know.

If the village government was more transparent, more open, more inviting, there would be no need to write these kinds of things. It hasn't been, and I've witnessed Roger Molski using his insider knowledge of village government as a bludgeon against people. If our new mayor -- or the trustees -- try to do that, I'll stand up against them, as well.

There's a lot to be done here in Flossmoor. We need to protect the unique charm that defines this village -- which means we have to do something about the blight that Molski brought to Flossmoor (by way of recruiting "his friend" to come here). We have to make sure that the new CVS, across the street from H-F, doesn't sell alcohol. Instead of reacting -- as Molski was inclined to do -- we need to be proactive. Anticipate problems. Prepare for them. Encourage the rest of the village to be involved in their solution.

I am very hopeful for Paul Braun's term as mayor. He, too, loves Flossmoor. He loves it so much that it is his only residence. He would never tell anyone, especially a son, "there is no future in Flossmoor." He will work hard to protect Flossmoor's charm and value because it's the only place he has to think about. That's important. He's fully invested in our future.

Paul Braun promised that change was coming to Flossmoor. It was a big, ambitious promise. Now we wait, and watch. And hope for better things to come. Electing Braun was the first step. But it was only the first step...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your coverage of the mayoral race in Flossmoor. It motivated me to get out and vote on Tuesday, and I'm pleased with the outcome. I hope Mr. Braun lives up to the confidence shown him in Tuesday's election.

I agree it was time for a change. The ugly vacant lot on Flossmoor Road has been a thorn in my side since it became apparent nothing was happening there.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your informative blog. I have hopes for Braun, but what he does about filling his own trustee seat will be very telling. Will he do the logical and RIGHT thing by appointing Pam Lessner, or will he and the board fall prey to the Illinois tradition of cronyism? Time will tell.

P.S.- did you know the board all gave themselves a nice 3.5% raise? In this economy? Who else around is getting a 3.5% raise?? Interesting, and not very encouraging.