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Wayne's Words: Joliet's finally planning for the future

Wayne Horne | 6/25/2015, 11:03 a.m.
The mayor and city council are working on long-range plans for such issues as the future of Evergreen Terrace and ...
Mayor Bob O'Dekirk

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Wayne Horne

It’s been just over 11 weeks since Bob O’Dekirk was elected mayor of Joliet. He identified his No. 1 priority as mayor was the issue of the Evergreen Terrace purchase.

Since the election, the current owners of the apartment complex on Broadway Street have appealed the court decision that awarded the city of Joliet the “opportunity” to purchase the property. The case will probably drag on into next year.

In the meantime, O’Dekirk and the Joliet City Council are looking at ways to determine the best course of action regarding the potential takeover of the property by the city. O’Dekirk recently commented that plans for buying the complex hinge on the city finding a way to accomplish the purchase without an increase in taxes.

Under any circumstances the possibility of redeveloping a lower density housing complex at the current site is probably years away.

Another announcement made at the time of his election was the formation of a transition team. The disclosed purpose of the transition team was to review how Joliet government could possibly be improved.

For purposes of disclosure, I participated on one of eight committees that have met over the last two months. A report is being prepared for O’Dekirk and the council and will be presented for review by the council soon.

Until the report is released, no details are available for publication. The transition team committees that met were finance, general administration, public safety, public infrastructure, economic development, intergovernmental affairs, legal services and community relations.

Two of the issues that emerged in the finance committee meetings I attended were transparency and financial planning.

Transparency comes in many forms. Most information regarding finances, for instance, is available to the public but it is not always obvious where to look for it. There are numerous financial reports on file at the city of Joliet website. Most of them are about what’s already happened. The money has been spent and expenses are already incurred.

Several years ago Joliet’s budget document projected revenues and expenses five years ahead. Many communities use a five-year projection to plan for capital projects and infrastructure improvements. The projections provide a basis for planning. Joliet’s 2015 budget looks back three years. It shows that the City’s finances are improving but from a public perspective it looks like the city lives “paycheck to paycheck."

One of the finance committee’s recommendations is to project the city’s finances and expenses long term. Without such projections we wind up paying for unanticipated expenses like a $350,000 scoreboard for city-owned Silver Cross Field and other routine maintenance costs that were not planned for. Planning depends on sound financial management that includes anticipated revenues and expenses going forward.

Filing a report that expresses the need for transparency and planning has been done before in Joliet. Former Mayor Tom Giarrante had a 23-member Committee to Attract and Retain Business (CARB). The committee seldom, if ever, met and produced no published reports or recommendations.

O’Dekirk and the council need to aggressively pursue the recommendations contained in the soon-to-be-released report. O’Dekirk recently called on residents to submit resumes for potential appointment to various board and commission positions. That’s a good start. I look forward to the release of the full report.

The well-known philosopher Yogi Berra once noted, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future."

One last thing…

I and others are still waiting for proper illumination of the Joliet flag pavilions. Next week is the Fourth of July. A report on the progress regarding the promise to illuminate the pavilions would be appreciated.

Stay tuned…

Contact Wayne Horne at Wayne@TheTimesWeekly.com.