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Wayne Horne

Wayne Horne

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Joliet has bigger fiscal concerns

In days of old, the “good ‘ole days,” boxing matches were fought until one fighter or the other was knocked out. Today we are witnessing one of those old time boxing matches. In one corner we have the City of Joliet, the area champion of gaming revenue waste, and in the other corner is the Rialto Theatre, local mismanagement contender. To be fair, most of the current board members of the two contenders did not play a role in the events that created the financial chaos at the Rialto. Councilman Pat Mudron quite emphatically articulated a defense of Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority Board Chairman Dan Vera by pointing out he is a volunteer who has been chairman less than one year and is the point person who brought much of the financial woes of the Rialto to light. Based on comments reported publically in local media and on social channels one would be led to believe he is solely responsible for the financial troubles at the Rialto and is covering up criminal activity. Some perspective is in order. The latest controversy regarding the unpaid payroll taxes is the failure of General Manager Randy Green to authorize payment. Payment of the payroll taxes has already been made by the City of Joliet directly to the Internal Revenue Service. The nonrenewal of Green’s contract is established. The Termination clause of Green’s contract has no provision for invalidating payment of six months of compensation if the contract is terminated during the last 12 months of the contract. This has been verified by a legal opinion. The Joliet City Council has mandated that no taxpayer funds be used to fund a termination agreement. When Chairman Vera was contacted on Tuesday by this column he stated categorically that when the settlement is reached” no taxpayer funds of any type will be used to pay for a termination agreement”. When the City Council passed the 2016 budget that included the $600,000 grant they placed no limits on how or

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Rialto Theatre Woes

Columnist-whorne@thetimesweekly.com The Times Weekly was notified by the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority Board Chairman Dan Vera on Thursday morning that the firm hired last week by the board, Theobald and Associates, upcoming shows. The payments will use some of the remaining $600,000 budgeted for the Rialto subsidy in the city’s 2016 budget. Perhaps it’s time to take a deep breath and put the Rialto on hiatus after the performances already scheduled are completed. A fresh start is necessary if the theater is to survive long term. The public drama being displayed is damaging the Rialto’s reputation as a center for performing arts and the City of Joliet’s efforts to redevelop the downtown City Center.

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Rialto tax bill over $113,000 in arrears

whorne@thetimesweekly.com Contrary to a local news outlet’s exclusive story, the amount of the Rialto Theatre’s past due payroll taxes is not less than what was previously reported by The Times Weekly. The amount of both Federal and State of Illinois payroll taxes in arrears totals $113,321.23. Sources at the Rialto have confirmed the amounts after being made aware of the mistake reported. Apparently, the figure of $67,246 reported only represented the last quarter of 2015 payroll taxes that had not been paid. The total payroll tax expense due does not include any penalties or interest that are added on to the past due amount. Normally any interest accumulation will have to be paid but there are some possibility penalties can be negotiated down.

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Mutual Cooperation?

The promise of an intergovernmental agreement led to the Joliet City Council agreeing to a short-term bailout of the Rialto Theatre dilemma. The City has agreed to guarantee payment of two comedy shows scheduled for later this year and payment of past due payroll taxes. Although those payments will be approximately $400,000 they are within the amount budgeted for the Rialto’s subsidy approved in the City of Joliet 2016 Budget. In the past the $600,000 Rialto subsidy has been paid out quarterly to the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority for general operations. The City Council voted 6 to 1 to approve the payments. Councilman Larry Hug was the lone vote against the arrangement. Jim McFarland did not

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Wayne's Words: Who did what, Again?

Columnist Wayne Horne says that trust is a recurring theme in the ongoing sagas of the Rialto Theater and Evergreen Terrace.

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Wayne's Words: What’s Next For The Rialto?

Now that the Rialto board has decided to not renew General Manager Randall Green’s contract, what’s next? When the matter was discussed in open forum at Monday’s Joliet Pre-Council meeting there seemed to be some confusion over what the cost would be for a separation agreement with Green. Readers of Wayne’s Words know from previous columns that Green’s contract specifically outlines that he will be entitled to six months of compensation from the date of termination if that occurs during the third year of the agreement. The original contract dated January 1, 2011 was extended on January 1,2014. There were three parts to the extension. Part A increased his salary from $135,000 to $142,000. Part B extended the agreement for three additional years beginning January 1, 2014. Part C continued all other terms and conditions contained in the original “Employment Agreement of January 1, 2011.” Based on the terms of Part A of the contract extension the maximum cost of a separation agreement is $71,000 which is half of his annual $142,000 salary, so why is anyone confused? It is assumed negotiations will lower the amount to zero if possible. However, there may possibly be some doubt the contract extension is valid.

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Wayne’s Words update: Rialto Management Misses Tax Payments

This week’s Wayne’s Words column outlined reason’s that Rialto General Manager Randy Green’s contract should not be renewed. Based on a reliable source The Times Weekly has learned GM Randy Green has not paid Federal and State quarterly tax payments for the months of November and December and part of January. According to the IRS, the Employment Taxes and the Trust Fund Recovery Fund Penalty(TFRP) can be assessed any person who is responsible for paying withheld income and employment taxes and willfully fails to pay them. The responsible person in this case would be the general manager, Randy Green. Using available funds to pay other creditors when the business is unable to pay the employment taxes is an indication of willfulness, according to the IRS. Failure to pay trust fund taxes can lead to criminal charges according to TFRP. The amount of the payroll taxes not paid is believe to exceed $125,000 not including any possible penalties. Part of the unpaid taxes are from last November and December and also part of the January payroll. The Will County Metropolitan Exposition Auditorium Authority has posted a special meeting for Monday, March 14, at 4:00 PM. The only agenda item is the renewal of General Manager Randy Green’s contract. The current contract is set to terminate on December 31, 2016. The contract specifies “The Agreement shall automatically extend for additional one (1) year periods, unless terminated…” as provided in clause 9 of the Employment Agreement.

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Rialto Theatre needs change in leadership

Trust. It is something that is often taken for granted. Most of us have trust in the people placed in responsible positions. We often place our trust in people who operate our public institutions and rely on them to do the public business in a responsible and cost effective way.

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Building Downtown

The passage of a contract that will allow the start of major construction on the Joliet Multi-Modal Regional Transportation Center in downtown Joliet has been a long time coming.

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Highlights of the budget

Last week’s City Council vote approving a master contract with the City of Joliet’s six bargaining units was deemed a “fair” deal for all concerned, according to some council members’ comments.

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Explosion of video gaming

The recent announcement out of the Peoria area regarding Par-A-Dice casino personnel layoffs may not surprise many people but it should be noted by other casino towns like Joliet.

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Primary Vote is important

The primary election season for Illinois is less than five weeks away. There are 27 states the will have primaries before Illinois voters go to the polls on March 15.

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Wayne's Words: The Making of a Better City

Following Mayor Bob O'Dekirk's state of the city address and its focus on revving up Joliet's economic development, columnist Wayne Horne thinks its time to consider some changes with the Rialto Theater as part of that plan.

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Joliet Slammers 14th season opening soon

Now that the first real blast of winter weather has passed it seems like a good time to talk a little baseball at Silver Cross Field.

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Special Census to Increase Revenue

The Joliet City Council authorized a special census that will be conducted this year and possibly certified by year’s end. The cost of $99,705 was included in the 2016 Budget passed last month.

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Why do we need Big Government?

When the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, Evelyn Sanguinetti, released a report last week on local government consolidation and unfunded mandates it hit with a great thud. The premise that Illinois has more units of government than any other state in the union could only have been news to grade-schoolers.

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What’s the Fuss?

When Bob O’Dekirk became Mayor last year he released a document titled “City of Joliet 2015 Mayoral Transition Report.” The 36 page report outlined some recommendations that were short term and several long term goals.

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Hope and Promise Passed

Now that the Joliet City Council has passed the 2016 Budget, with several days to spare, it seems a comment or two is in order. The phrase “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!” from the poem ‘Marmion’ by Walter Scott comes to mind.

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Passion and Resolve…Almost

What is most surprising about this year’s Joliet budget process is there is nothing surprising about it. The financial challenges facing the city of Joliet have been predictable and ongoing for several years.

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The “If” Budget Part II

It’s déjà vu all over again. One would like to believe such trite sayings are not overused and I’ve already used that one earlier this year. Monday night’s Special Joliet City Council meeting to tweak the 2016 budget was a rehash of last week’s special meeting. The City Council and the public learned nothing new and City Manager Jim Hock offered no new plans to scale back expenses as was requested at last week’s meeting.

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Wayne's Words: Joliet's proposed budget more like a 'what if' plan

There are so many unknown variables, especially in regards to what will happen with the state budget, that the Joliet City Council is struggling with what to include in its own 2016 spending plan.

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Wayne's Words: Take the time to be thankful this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is upon us and the start of another holiday season begins. There will be gatherings and celebrations enjoyed with family and food. Most will block out the tribulations faced in our day to day lives.

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Wayne's Words: City employees have it good compared to Obamacare users

The city employs a consultant to help negotiate health benefits for employees -- a service that would be extremely helpful to folks trying to purchase insurance on their own through the federal plan, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: City budget woes made worse by state, casinos

Joliet's new fiscal year kicks in Jan. 1, but no proposed budget has yet been presented to the city council for review.

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Wayne's Words: Thank a vet for their sacrifice this Wednesday

Veterans Day is a solemn occasion for those who served in the military, especially if they lost friends or family in battle, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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De`ja` Vu

Some things never change or as Yogi Berra once famously said “It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again.” The Joliet City Council held a Special Session on Monday night to hear a presentation on the recently completed ‘Joliet Downtown Plan.’

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Wayne's Words: Illinois' good, bad and ugly a matter of perspective

There are lots of reasons to think our state may be among the worst in the country, but there are lots of surveys that will tell you the opposite as well, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: Brace yourself -- health insurance increases to hurt

Here's why your premium will likely be going up next year -- and for the years after that.

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Wayne's Words: Council gets good news, bad this week

On the positive front, the JJC City Center Campus is finally moving ahead. On the not-so-positive, the cost of building the downtown transportation is $7 million over budget.

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Wayne's Words: Crime stats affected by variables, including your actions

The numbers of crimes being reported are going down, but is that because some people are not calling the police when about what they see or when they're victimized?

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Wayne's Words: Plenty to discuss as city heads into budget talks

Among the problems the Joliet City Council is going to have to deal with is an overtime bill in the fire department that appears to be headed toward more than $1 million before the year ends, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: Delay, delay ... but the bill's still going to come due

The Joliet City Council has dragged its feet for years and squandered millions of dollars but now cannot avoid an impending deadline to fix its combined sewer-water overflow problems.

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Wayne's Words: Vets shouldn't pass up best health care in U.S.

Yes, the system has problems but that shouldn't dissuade veterans from taking advantage of the many programs available to them, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: JJC board resignations kind of make you wonder

One trustee said she was upset by the treatment she received from other board members, another provided no explanation at all.

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Wayne's Words: What's next for Evergreen? Good question

The city has committed to plunking down $15 million to buy the complex, but doesn't have the keys yet and no clear idea of where the money will come from to make improvements, columnist Wayne Horne said.

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What Next?

Last week, a reader of this newspaper asked me a question: “Now that we’re the new owners of Evergreen Terrace, what’s next? I responded by observing that we don’t really own it yet, we just had to pay for it. But that’s not the point.

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Wayne's Words: Let's celebrate Joliet's good news!

Much has been said about the downside of Illinois and Joliet, but there's a reason companies such as Amazon are choosing to build large centers here, Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: Evergreen Terrace and Hope Manor 'affordable housing' plans

The Joliet City Council has signed off on a housing plan for homeless vets but still debating how to handle management and redevelopment of Evergreen, should they opt to buy it Sept. 1.

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Wayne's Words: So many decisions, so little time

Council members are not the only ones divided over what should happen with Evergreen Terrace should Joliet purchase the apartment complex.

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Wayne's Words: Running for office not for the poor

Local elected officials and candidates are accruing -- spending -- a lot these to win office based on campaign fund information they're mandated to provide to the state.

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Wayne's Words: Only three options for fixing state budget

Too many governments, too little money and an unhappy choice between cutting services and increasing taxes all add up to a mess in Springfield.

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Wayne's Words: Let Evergreen be a warning for the future

The Joliet City Council has until Sept. 1 to decide if it will spend $15 million to buy Evergreen Terrace -- less than two months to come up with a plan on what to do with the complex and how to finance it.

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Wayne's Words: A few things to know about the 4th

As you eat a hot dog or two to mark the anniversary of our country's birth, consider these facts about what actually happened 239 years ago and other trivia about our nation.

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

The mayor and city council are working on long-range plans for such issues as the future of Evergreen Terrace and spending so that we aren't surprised by such things as the need for a new scoreboard at Silver Cross Field, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: What Dad really wants for Father's Day

Ties and gift cards are nice, columnist Wayne Horne says, but the best gift of is far more simple and inexpensive.

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Wayne's Words: Pulling plug on Illiana the right move

The proposed toll road was unnecessary, and a lot like many other projects in Will County that need to be reevaluated, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: Council's asking questions -- what a concept!

For too long, leadership in Joliet has been stagnant and things done without questioning why or if it was in the best interest of the city, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: Veterans know the sacrifices made during war

A park in Plainfield is named after PFC Andrew Meari, who died saving the lives of other soldiers in Afghanistan, and it's important we remember him and all those who have fought for this country, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: You'll grow old waiting for state's help

The Illinois Attorney General's Office needed two years to answer a call about a possible Open Meetings Act violation that took place in 2013, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: New Joliet mayor, council have plenty to discuss

Dozens of projects in the city of Joliet need not only decisions but cash, and the city is far from swimming in money, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: Here's an idea -- sell JJC's downtown building to county

Joliet Junior College doesn't have the money to finish the downtown Joliet building and Will County needs more office space -- it's a win-win, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: Lincoln's funeral train stopped in Joliet

This month marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. April 14 was also the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

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Wayne's Words: Big money spent on Joliet election but turnout low

The three candidates seeking Joliet's top office spent more than $200,000, which set a record for the city, columnist Wayne Horne said.

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Wayne's Words: Don’t sit this election out -- vote!

In the last mayoral election four years ago, just 15,156 votes -- 19 percent of registered voters -- were cast in Joliet, which is far too few given the importance of the issues the mayor and council will be deciding in the next four years, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: Crunch time for voters in Joliet

Residents must finally make up their minds on who will get their vote -- and need to be certain they know what district they live in before they cast a ballot, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: Tough decisions ahead for those elected to Joliet council

The list of things that will require the city of Joliet to provide cash in the coming years is starting to grow, but sources of new revenue are not so plentiful, columnist Wayne Horne says.

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Wayne's Words: Stadium numbers show poor return on investment

According to a revenue and expenditure spreadsheet released by City Manager Jim Hock to The Times Weekly, Silver Cross Field has provided a positive return of $1.2 million over the last 12 years.

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Wayne's Words: JCTV, please reconsider taping mayoral debate

Regardless of whether Joliet Mayor Tom Giarrante attends the Thursday event or not, the local cable station should cover it and apologize for its decision to "pull the plug" on the broadcast.

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Wayne's Words: City dropped ball on Slammer's scoreboard

Columnist Wayne Horne also raises questions about the timing of Rialto board Chairman James Smith's reappointment, and whether it actually occurred.

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Wayne's Words: Gov's budget cuts not looking good from Joliet's perspective

The city of Joliet, in particular, will be in a serious financial bind given the expenses that are relying on the state sharing its revenue with municipalities.

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Wayne's Words: State facing budget dilemma

Illinois’ newly elected Governor Bruce Rauner will submit his 2016 Budget on Wednesday this week. The proposed budget is being presented after this column’s deadline but advance expectations are there will be deep budget cuts and little to no revenue enhancements (tax increases).

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Let the campaigning commence

The campaign season is upon us. The Consolidated Election on April 7 is less than seven weeks from now. The Mayor and five District Council seats will be decided on Election Day.

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Wayne's Words: Marine project on U.S. 6 could spur industrial growth

A contract allowing Illinois Marine Maintenance Corp. to take over a Joliet-owned property in exchange for cleaning up the hazardous material on the site is close to being finalized.

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Wayne's Words: GED testing could spell employment trouble

Tougher testing means fewer people are passing, and anyone without a GED or high school diploma is likely to get stuck in a low-paying, dead-end job.

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Wayne's Words: Time for some serious changes at the Rialto

Aurora's Paramount Theatre has found ways to be successful that Rialto Square Theatre officials should be studying if they want to turn around the venue's "bleak" financial picture.

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Wayne's Words: Joliet jumps into new year with 'gusto'

It was a busy week for city officials, who learned how much the Evergreen Terrace purchase might cost, dealt with an election challenge to a councilwoman's nominating petitions and heard about a possible compromise for the Rialto marquee.

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Wayne's Words: A look back at 'one last thing'

Here’s my “One last thing…” for this year

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Wayne's Words: Rialto marquee hoopla not good sign

Some opponents to the theater's new marquee question why the Rialto was not more open about the sign, but the Joliet meetings where it was approved were public -- if you knew where to look.

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Wayne's Words: Council in a hurry to amend, pass budget

Despite the speed with which the 2015 city budget was ultimately approved, council member managed to amend it to add more neighborhood police officers without increasing the dollar amount being spent.

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Wayne's Words: Money 'found' for more police officers

Last week, there was no city money available to hire more police for the Neighborhood Oriented Policing Team; this week there is.

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Budget Time!

The City Manager’s Recommended 2015 Budget presentation at this week’s City Council meeting starts the review process later than other years.

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Wayne's Words: Lockdown decision raises more questions for downtown

A consultant will brief the Joliet City Council on more recommendations to revive downtown Joliet just days after the developers of a proposed restaurant pulled the plug on their project.

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Wayne's Words: Giarrante has $53,000 in war chest

Records show opponents Bob O’Dekirk has $33,193 to spend and Andy Mihelich reported $284.

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Wayne's Words: Show your appreciation on Veterans Day

This week’s column is dedicated to all veterans in recognition of their service.

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Wayne's Words: Campaign season can't end too soon

The rounds of negative ads provide little substance to help voters make a choice in Tuesday's election.

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Wayne's Words: Joliet needs headquarters, not big boxes, if it wants to win

The tax payoff is not with more commercial development but with big corporate offices, and that's more of what the city needs.

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Wayne's Words: Business opportunities abound for city

The city of Joliet is considering three deals, one of which could bring 60 jobs.

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Wayne's Words: JJC to get $5 million for downtown campus

Campaign visits from incumbents often come with goodies attached. Goodies like money, of course. According to reliable sources inside the Joliet Junior College ranks Governor Pat Quinn will be in town Saturday morning to present JJC with a check for $5 million. Apparently the event will not be made public until Saturday. A press conference will be held at 2:15 PM outside the now empty shell of the downtown JJC City Center Campus on Chicago Street in Joliet.

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Wayne's Words: New study begs question -- tell us something we don't know

New report tells Joliet council what it already knows: No one outside of Joliet wants to invest in downtown and things recommended previously never get done.

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Wayne's Words: Domestic violence statistics stunning

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Will County's Take Back the Night rally is Thursday and October is National Domestic Violence Month, but the need to eliminate violence between partners requires year-round attention.

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Wayne's Words: What's next for Evergreen Terrace?

The city of Joliet has won its lawsuit to acquire the troubled housing complex through eminent domain, but must deal with many issues, including density, safety and purchase price.

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Wayne's Words: The economics of the city

Economic development was on the agenda at this week’s Joliet City Council meeting. Two of the proposals will need annexation into the city because of the more rural nature of the businesses. Each business proposes a cannabis growing venture.

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Wayne's Words: Making deal on river land could benefit Joliet

Councilman Bob O'Dekirk wants the city to seriously consider the sale of land that has stood unused for more than four years.

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Wayne's Words: Things might just be looking up for Joliet

Many things have changed in the last 25 years, not the least of which is a population increase that's nearly double the town's size.

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Wayne's Words: Slammers, Splash Station numbers continue downward spiral

Summer must be over. Schools are back in session, Labor Day has come and gone, the water park is closed, and baseball season is winding down at Silver Cross Field. The political season is ramping up for the mid-term election November 4. It must be autumn.

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Wayne's Words: If we don't pay for road work now, we'll pay more later

Last Wednesday’s closing of the eastbound Interstate 80 off ramp at Center Street came as a surprise to the general public but caused very little disruption for most Joliet area residents.

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Wayne's Words: Watching government 'work' in Joliet, Plainfield

Three examples of government in action raise questions about the decisions that are made -- and not made -- by elected officials.

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Wayne's Words: Ulterior motive in challenge to council referendum?

Cynics might say Sarah Andreano's objection to the Joliet City Council redistricting referendum might be politically motivated if it were to help the judicial campaign she's managing.

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Wayne's Words: More council districts not a bad idea

If the measure passes, Joliet's at-large council seats will be eliminated in favor of three more district representatives.

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Wayne's Words: No mandatory training for interstate truck drivers

The only requirement to drive a big rig is obtaining a commercial driver's license in a process that's almost the same as obtaining a license to drive a car.

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Wayne's Words: Don't drive I-55 at Arsenal Road interchange

The amount of truck traffic being generated by Centerpoint Intermodal snarls Joliet's roadways even when there is no construction on the interstates.

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Wayne's Words: Finally some answers on Joliet's fire hydrants

City Manager Jim Hock presented a comprehensive plan for fire hydrant testing by the Joliet Fire Department at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The presentation followed several weeks of misinformation and inadequate reports from city staff.

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Wayne's Words: Joliet in no-win situation when it comes to gambling

There may be more video gaming machines in Joliet than there were this time last year, but the city's making less money from them, the numbers show.

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Maybe it’s time to rethink video gaming

The Illinois Gaming Board released its June report this week. It comes as no surprise that casino revenue continues to decline when compared to year over results from last year. In 2013 the State of Illinois share of casino revenue was $39.4 million in June.

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Wayne's Words: The more things change, the more they stay the same

A year has gone by, yet in some ways not much has changed with the city of Joliet.

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Frannie's Fountain a victim of Joliet budget cuts

The city couldn't afford to fix the fountain in Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park so it filled it in with gravel instead.

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Number of broken Joliet fire hydrants anyone's guess

According to information provided by the city under a Freedom of Information request, only 3,020 fire hydrants of the 8,460 in Joliet have been inspected.

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Who really knows?

The city of Joliet began its “annual hydrant testing” this week, according to a media release from City Manager Jim Hock’s office. The timing of the release is both welcome and curious. Here’s why…

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Joliet’s council districts among the largest population-wise in state

However, five of the eight council members live within a four-square-mile area

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It just makes sense

The idea of adding three districts to the Joliet City Council by eliminating the at-large positions first came up in the 2009 election for the three at-large council seats.

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Horne Column: No referendum needed if council changed its own structure

After the new U.S. census numbers came in, Will County opted to completely overhaul its structure -- no muss, no fuss.

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Changing city structure may take more time

Every 10 years the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a population count. When the results were made available, the city of Joliet was required to realign the five city council districts. Since Joliet’s population grew by approximately 40,000 people since the 2000 census, the boundaries of the five districts were shifted to reflect an equal amount of people in each district.

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Column: Council needs to draft a plan for the future, and stick to it

The practice of using tax money paying to fund non-development projects can't continue.

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Memorial Day Salute

This coming weekend will mark the beginning of traditional summer. Picnics, barbeques, family gatherings and sporting events will all be part of the first three-day weekend since Presidents Day in February.

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Horne Column: Focus needs to be put on the VA 'crisis' this Memorial Day

Simply changing the person at the top will not be enough to solve the myriad problems that face the VA, not the least of which is a lack of funding and medical personnel.

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Column: Surprising contradictions in city's council, staff survey

As part of first step in the drafting Joliet's new strategic plan, council and staff members were asked to anonymously state what they thought were the city's strengths and weaknesses. Columnist Wayne Horne draws few conclusions from them.