Wayne's Words: Not My Fault
Wayne Horne | 3/23/2017, 6 a.m.
We live in the age of “it’s not my fault.” There has always s been the question of “who’s at fault?” since time began. It just seems more prevalent today. When it is our own fault, we need to take responsibility. Sometimes that fault is collective. The collective fault is often most visible in the political realm.
When the Joliet Junior College board of trustees met last week, they approved a student tuition increase for the fall session. They insisted it was not their fault the tuition increase was necessary. No, no, it was the lack of adequate funding from the State of Illinois that caused the increase.
One Trustee, the board’s Vice Chairman Andrew Mihelich stated “We’re not here because of ourselves. This is the state. I want to make this completely clear to our public. This is a state funding issue.” Really, you have no responsibility for this Increase? This “funding issue” came on suddenly, with no warning. That’s your story? I beg to differ.
First, the State of Illinois has been without a budget for two years. Second, the State of Illinois has been in fiscal crisis regarding pensions for more than 20 years. Third, and most compelling, you made the City Center Campus project a part of the JJC’s Master Plan in 2008. The problem was an inadequate amount of funding was not available for the project.
Originally the plan was for a 10-story building that cost approximately $30 million. It was scaled back to a six-story structure but the cost of the project kept growing. Approximately $14.58 million was to come from the State of Illinois through the Illinois Community College Board. That amount has since increased to $17 million but the promise is over 15 years old. It remains the far distant promise it was before the building was constructed. The final cost of the building exceeds $50 million. The JJC board spent money it didn’t have. And now you say it’s not your fault? Shame on you.
The need for the building was questioned by members of the public at JJC meetings in May and June of 2011. According to published reports at the time, the board was asked why no studies had been done supporting the need to expand and relocate the Culinary Arts Department. The board at the time, many of the same board members serving today, dismissed the public comment and confirmed there had been no research done to confirm the relocation and expansion.
Kudos to Trustee Alicia Morales for voting against the tuition increase. Her view that JJC tuition expense needs to be affordable is in the students best interest. Recent and past property tax increases have also been necessary to support the board’s lack of foresight and transparency. Yes, the State of Illinois legislature bears a large portion of responsibility for the state’s fiscal mess. JJC trustees also bear responsibility for the JJC budget shortfall. You spent money you didn’t have on a building that is beyond the scope originally intended in the master plan. Don’t whine now.
One last thing… seems another city asset is in worse repair than originally thought. The old Union Station building is being renovated for a new tenant. The MyGrain Brewing Company will receive tax credits in lieu of rent to accommodate unexpected renovation costs. As has been pointed out many times in this column and elsewhere the city never seems to keep up with maintenance on the property it owns.
One more tidbit in the “best of list”. The U.S. is number 14 on the 2017 list of ‘happiest countries’. Remember, the first part of the Declaration of Independence cites one of the truths we the people believe to be self-evident is the Pursuit of Happiness. Last year the U.S was number 13. The top five happiest countries are Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland. I always thought they were just cold and they skied a lot.