Housing Authority to get $1.7 million
Wayne Horne | 3/26/2014, 5:09 p.m.
Next week’s Joliet City Council meeting could set the stage for the nomination and approval of a new council member for District 4. Although former Councilwoman Susie Barber resigned earlier this month, she had been absent from her public responsibilities since last August. District 1 Councilman Larry Hug requested an open public forum be held to assess the concerns of District 4 residents and the qualifications of anyone chosen by the council to represent them.
Joliet Mayor Tom Giarrante expressed resistance to that idea. He said he would accept any resumes and interview anyone who might be interested in the position. To date, the only one publically known to want the seat is former Councilman Alex Ledesma, who lost a reelection bid to Barber in 2007. District 4 has a 49 percent Latino population. The person selected will serve out the remainder of Barber’s term which ends in April 2015.
Besides the quest for a new council person for District 4, the Concerned Citizens of Joliet group is circulating a petition that would change the makeup of the council. Members of the group are asking via the petition to eliminate the At-Large Council positions and replace them with three additional districts. The eight districts would contain approximately 18,000 people. The current five districts each contain more than 29,000 people.
Another petition currently being circulated is a statewide initiative to reform the way Illinois redistricts for State and Federal elections. The process takes place every 10 years and is controlled by the Illinois General Assembly. That gives the dominant political party control over where the boundaries are drawn. Those responsible for circulating the petition want to change the Illinois Constitution to allow the formation of an independent commission that would be responsible for drawing a new legislative district map every 10 years. The idea is to eliminate the gerrymandering that divides municipalities and other local government entities with multiple representatives.
Public housing funds
In other matters, last week’s edition of The Times Weekly ran a story on an award of $118.5 million to Illinois public housing authorities. The Joliet Housing Authority will receive $1.7 million of that to provide funding “to build, repair, renovate and/or modernize the public housing…” in Joliet. That’s good news for those living in Joliet’s public housing.
Meanwhile, the city is engaged in a condemnation lawsuit that could make Joliet the owner of Evergreen Terrace, now a privately owned complex that provides subsidized housing for eligible residents. None of the above mentioned funds are available for Evergreen because it is privately owned. At last week’s City Council meeting, Councilman Jim McFarland questioned whether there had been any private discussions regarding dropping the condemnation lawsuit.
Councilwoman Jan Quillman expressed confusion at McFarland’s question. The consensus of the rest of the council was that the city is moving forward with the lawsuit. There has yet to be a plan unveiled detailing how the city will fund the purchase of Evergreen Terrace or what the future holds for the complex. Council members McFarland, Hug, John Gerl and Robert O’Dekirk have repeatedly asked to see a plan should the City prevail in the condemnation suit.
Gov. proposed budget
One last thing… Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday said he will submit a proposed budget to the legislature for approval. Prior to the Wednesday address, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute released a survey conducted in February asking if the temporary State income tax increase should be extended and made permanent. A majority – 60.3 percent of respondents – opposed or strongly opposed the extension. The loss of the temporary tax would result in a $2 billion deficit in the state budget. Yet when those surveyed were asked what should be cut there was no desire to cut any major programs. The overwhelming response to making up the deficit difference was to cut waste and inefficiencies. There is no evidence that would come close to closing the $2 billion gap. Some in the legislature see the expansion of gambling as a possible remedy. The bottom line is everyone wants to keep their benefits and not have to pay for it. Will Quinn and the legislature have the will to overcome that attitude? Stay tuned…