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Joliet politics and city overtime

Wayne Horne | 4/4/2019, 6 a.m.
If you Google the definition of politics it states “Politics is the way that people living in groups make decisions.... ...

If you Google the definition of politics it states “Politics is the way that people living in groups make decisions.... In everyday life, the term "politics" refers to the way that countries are governed, and to the ways that governments make rules and laws.” Governments are political creatures.

Politics has and probably always will be a game of “gotcha.” There are several varieties of political action. Some actions tend to be divisive and some are mildly harmless. For instance, campaigns tend to operate on the idea of “I’m right and you’re wrong on the issues.” Any given candidate may be correct in the statement, but it’s hard to know because there are seldom facts to back up a given claim.

Then there is the “I can do anything you can do, only better.” Actually, that is probably the most normal way politics is conducted during a campaign for election. It’s oftentimes the most normal because the candidates themselves are not schooled on what the issues are.

Another method is the “one-upmanship.” That’s when a candidate or officeholder puts forth an idea and the opponent will attempt to go one better. It can be a real positive but this method usually suffers from a lack of how the idea will be funded or accomplished.

The most divisive and destructive type of politics is “revenge politics.” I don’t suggest it is “to the victor belongs the spoils.” That’s fair game in politics. Revenge politics sometimes occurs during an election campaign but more often it occurs after the election is over. It is more subtle. Most of the time it’s barely noticed. Oftentimes it’s disguised as legislation or job replacement.

Recent legislation being proposed by State Representative Natalie Manley looks somewhat like revenge politics. Maybe not, but last Fall, Representative Manley supported the recently elected Will County Clerk, Lauren Staley-Ferry, in the Democrat primary election. Lockport Township Clerk, Denise Mushro-Rumchak, ran against Staley-Ferry for the position. The legislation being proposed eliminates the Will County Township clerks in Manley’s Illinois Legislative District. The responsibilities would be done by the Will County Clerk. The premise of the legislation, she calls it a pilot program, is to save taxpayers the cost for what Manley describes as “duplicative services.”

Portions of six townships are in Manley’s 98th District: Lockport, Joliet, Plainfield, Troy, Wheatland and DuPage. Lockport and Joliet are controlled by Democrats and the other four by Republicans. That gives it a bipartisan look on the outside. Coincidentally, Joliet Township Clerk, Beth May, also supported Mushro-Rumchak in the primary.

Readers of this column know I am an advocate of smaller government, having written many past columns regarding the number of Illinois government units. This legislation won’t make government smaller, just more complicated and expensive. Will County government would be tasked with additional cost and personnel to make the proposed legislation function. The Townships and Will County government are opposed to the legislation, almost unanimously, for the costs and inefficiency it will cause. According to reports and several sources, Manley didn’t consult any of the affected parties before submitting the proposed legislation.

Government can be effectively reduced to run more efficient and for less cost but that can’t be done piecemeal with unrealistic expectations. That’s what this week’s One Last Thing is about…

One last thing… it didn’t take long for the City of Joliet’s overtime budget to get off track. Only nine weeks into the year the Fire Department has expended almost 25 percent of their overtime budget for the year. The OT budget for the year was originally set at $1.8 million (after reimbursement) but was reduced to just under $1.4 million for 2019 on the premise that the Fire Department was fully staffed and would not require as much OT as in previous budget years. Obviously that premise isn’t panning out so far.

Is there an acceptable excuse for the Fire Department being overextended on their OT budget? The City Manager made a big deal about the department’s OT budget when he reduced it because, after all, the department was fully staffed. Why can’t the overtime budget be controlled? Is the Fire Department fully staffed or not?

What is more disturbing is the police overtime budget is already 27 percent expended for the year. It doesn’t stop there. Most of the city departments are over budget for overtime. The entire overtime budget is about 32 percent expended just nine weeks into 2019. The roadways portion of overtime may be understandable given this year’s harsher winter season. It will probably even out over the course of the year. No snow in the summer. Surprisingly, even the Finance Department is over budget on overtime. How does that happen? While the council candidates debated their personal shortcomings during the election campaign, city employees used a lot of overtime to get their jobs done. Why wasn’t it a campaign issue? Remember, the overtime payroll also affects pensions over the long haul. Stay tuned….

Contact Wayne at wayneswords@thetimesweekly.com