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Joliet mayoral candidates offer very different views on issues

Karen Sorensen | 3/29/2015, 7:55 p.m.
Candidates Tom Giarrante, Bob O'Dekirk and Andy Mihelich laid out their positions during a Saturday forum held by The Times ...
Joliet's three mayoral candidates, (from left) Andy Mihelich, Mayor Tom Giarrante and Councilman Bob O'Dekirk, answer questions posed by The Times Weekly and local residents at a forum Saturday at the Billie Limacher Park theater. Brock A. Stein

Times Weekly columnist Wayne Horne poses questions Saturday to Joliet mayoral candidates (from left) Andy Mihelich, Mayor Tom Giarrante and Councilman Bob O'Dekirk.

Times Weekly columnist Wayne Horne poses questions Saturday to Joliet mayoral candidates (from left) Andy Mihelich, Mayor Tom Giarrante and Councilman Bob O'Dekirk.

Joliet residents have three clear-cut choices this election when it comes to the man who will be mayor because all three have very different views on what they'll do if elected April 7.

The Times Weekly asked each to answer questions at a forum held Saturday at the Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park and what follows is a rundown of their responses.

You can watch videos we shot at this forum – as well as from candidates forums for Joliet districts 1, 2 and 3 and districts 4 and 5 – at our Web site, www.thetimesweekly.com. Click here to read our story on the first council forum and here to read the story on the second council forum.

Also, don’t forget that you don’t have to wait until April 7 to cast a ballot. Early voting is under way at the county clerk’s office in the Will County Building, 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet, and at the Joliet Park District building, 3000 W. Jefferson St.

DIVERSITY IN POLICE, FIRE DEPARTMENTS

Giarrante: No doubt there is not enough diversity, he said. “It’s hard to get minorities to take the test (to become a police officer or firefighter),” he said. When he was a firefighter, he said he used to go out to basketball courts, homeowners associations and other places in an attempt to recruit. He believes minorities already employed by the city need to reach out to friends and family to get them interested, he said.

Michelich: He agreed the number of minority employees does not mirror the population breakdown in Joliet. In the short-term, he said, he’d reach out to the minorities who failed the police and fire exams and work with them to find out why they failed and help them pass the next time they test. In the long-term, he’d work with high school counselors to recruit those students who might be interested in police or firefighter careers and work with Joliet Junior College to providing training sessions so minorities are better prepared to take the exam when it comes around.

O’Dekirk: Also agreed the city must do a better job of increasing minorities in both departments. The Explorer program in the schools is a good tool to teach students about careers in the police, and should be extended to include the fire department, he said. He’d also like to re-establish the Safe Police program in schools to expose children to police officers and firefighters so they not only see them as friends, not enemies, but make them think about their jobs as possible careers, he said.

REDUCING CRIME, BEYOND HIRING MORE POLICE

Giarrante: The neighborhoods need to be the “eyes and ears” of the police, who cannot be everywhere, he said. Get to know the community police officers and let them know what’s happening, he said. “It takes the neighborhoods to get involved and when something goes wrong, they have to step forward,” he said.

Mihelich: The city needs to work with churches, community groups, schools and other groups to get at the social issues of crime and to create programs that prevent people from turning to crime, he said. City officials must work with the groups that are already out there, such as the 815 anti-crime organization and Men of Valor, in order to make those connections and show they are part of the efforts to reduce crime beyond just making arrests, he said.