Wayne’s Words: Porta-potty overtime?
Wayne Horne | 7/23/2020, 6 a.m.
It is not a great stretch of imagination to understand we humans face a worldwide crisis that threatens all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated almost all aspects of our lives for the past six months and that is unlikely to change very soon regardless of who is doing the talking. We have witnessed peaceful protests, partisan quarreling and unwavering stances on some of the simplest of things such as wearing a mask in public places.
With all of the serious business going on in the world, Joliet managed to make headlines by paying four city employees overtime wages on a holiday for providing a porta-potty for nurses on strike at Amita St. Joe’s hospital. Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk ordered up the portable facility by directly calling the public works department to set-up the city-owned property. The part-time interim City Manager Steve Jones, who has resigned but not gone, was not happy over the incident and let it be known Mayor O’Dekirk has no authority to do that.
Jones is right. Under Joliet’s City Manager form of government, the mayor does not have the authority to provide city services to the public directly from his office. The proper procedure would be to forward the request the mayor received to interim City Manager Jones who would have properly refused the request because, in his words, the matter had no relation to city business.
However, the Mayor might have reminded Jones that the hospital is in a Tax Increment Finance District (TIF) and the city has a vested interest in the welfare and economic benefit of those businesses and surrounding environs within the TIF. The health and welfare of the striking nurses needed to be considered, since there were no restroom facilities available for their use in the immediate area.
The striking nurses, on the other hand, could have planned and prepared for the inevitable need for restroom facilities by ordering from one of the several companies in the Joliet area that rent such facilities for events like a strike. They not only provide the facility but also maintain it at the site of the premises being used. The nurses were on strike from July 4 through July 21. The cost over the 16-day strike would have been substantially more than what the city’s cost provided even including the employee overtime expense.
It must also be noted that Public Works Director James Trizna’s remark regarding the city-owned porta-potties are only used for “city-related events” like the New Orleans North festival is misleading since that event is actually sponsored by the Joliet Chamber of Commerce.
There you have it. With all of the things to be concerned about, Joliet’s leadership is involved in a porta-potty dispute. Amazing! Since the nurses certainly benefitted by using the porta potties provided by the city while they were on strike, the union should be willing to foot the cost of the restroom facility provided by the city. The solution to this dilemma is for the Jones to send the bill for the service to the nurse’s union, including the cost of setup and delivery by the four employees who were compensated for four hours of overtime.
Leadership in Joliet seems to be unable to resolve even the simplest of issues without disagreement. Wouldn’t it have been much simpler for city leadership to have worked this out at the outset of the strike rather than squabble about it in the local media? Leadership needs to step up. There are real problems to solve now and on the horizon.
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