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Today is Thanksgiving. There will be gatherings and celebrations enjoyed with family and food. It is the most American of all the holidays we observe. It’s not a day for exchanging gifts. It’s not a celebration of the start of a new year or the birthdays of presidents. It’s not a day of commemorations or historical events. As important as all of those types of holidays are, Thanksgiving is specifically for giving thanks for whatever blessings we have or hope to have. It’s also a day to share with family and friends and give silence to our differences whether they be political, religious, work related, or even family disputes.
Next Thursday, November 11, is Veterans Day. The day is set aside to honor all military veterans who have served in the military and includes those currently in the military serving all over the globe. The current number of U.S. veterans is estimated to be around 19 million as of this year, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, representing just over 7% of the total U.S. adult population. The veteran population has been declining for the last decade or so due to aging and a reduction in military personnel. According to a recent Pew Research Center article published this year, 72% of Americans view veterans’ benefits and services as a priority. In fact, that majority contains equal shares of support among Democrats and Republicans. The vast majority support an increase in spending for veterans’ benefits and services. Those in elected office and those campaigning for government office would be well advised to support spending increases where veterans’ needs are concerned.
Column updated 10/22/21 Have you been vaccinated for COVID-19? That question has become a flashpoint for many to determine who is a patriot and who is exercising their freedom to say “you can’t tell me what to do.” Approximately 57 percent of the U.S. population have been vaccinated since early January, 2020. Some who remain unvaccinated cling to the idea that the vaccine has not been proven to be safe. Over 184 million have been fully vaccinated with a small percentage having any adverse reactions and a few with underlying health conditions contracting the virus. The idea that refusing the vaccine because it somehow violates one’s freedom of choice seems unwarranted in view of all the mandated safety precautions in our society. For instance, you can receive a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt.
About four months ago, U.S. News and World Reports released its Overall Best Countries Rankings. The United States moved up this year from seventh to sixth. In 2016, when Donald Trump became President, the U.S. was ranked fourth. By 2017 we were ranked 8th. Perhaps we’re on the way back up. The five Countries ahead of us are Canada, Japan, Germany, Switzerland and Australia. There are a variety of metrics used to determine the overall rankings. The U.S. Ranks number one in Power and Agility. We rank 45th for being open for business. Switzerland ranks number one and Canada is number three by comparison. Amid the 50 states, Illinois ranks number 30. Our highest ranking using the same metrics to rank the positions on the list is number 11 for education. Illinois is dead last among the states for fiscal stability. Will County didn’t do very well among the 500 counties that were ranked. Will County came in at 483.
The ability of any organization to succeed requires planning. Another requirement is, of course, money. Generally speaking, government organizations have those two requirements built in. For instance, a municipality has a planning department and tax dollars to accomplish its goals. However, it’s almost become a cliché for governments to say first, “We’re going to do a study,” before they do anything. Joliet is undertaking another study to assess parking on Joliet’s downtown (City Center) streets that also includes the one city-owned parking deck as well as the Ottawa Street parking deck recently sold to John Bays. The revenue source for the study is the money received from Bays from the sale of the parking deck sold to him by the city. Bays has already spruced up the Ottawa Street deck and installed an automated system for collecting revenue to support maintenance of the deck. He is also providing free parking for tenants of some other downtown properties he owns. The City of Joliet for their part has to conduct a “study” to determine what inevitably will come to a similar conclusion: the need for an automated revenue collection system, a clean facility that is welcoming and some free parking.
Gambling is an established fact in Illinois. One would be led to believe that it is an innovation unknown to Joliet City Hall. Recently, a few gas station owners in Joliet have decided to take advantage of the profit involved in Video Gaming Terminals, or VGT’s. One requirement to securing a VGT is a liquor license. The granting of a liquor license to a gas station is apparently one of the biggest unviable propositions in Joliet. Bad things may happen. Drunks will seek out the opportunity to fill up the gas tank while guzzling one or two beers in the process. Worse yet, they may drive off while enjoying a forbidden liquid refreshment. Of course, that’s illegal, but since there is a shortage of police in Joliet, whose checking? So seriously, what’s this all about?
If you missed last week’s City Council meeting and maybe haven’t read local news sources, including The Times Weekly, you might be unaware that Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk stated there is a “war on police” in our State of Illinois and in our country. By implication, one can assume he also meant to include our local police department. One council person Larry Hug, brought up the fact that legislation that is not yet effective is “tying the hands of our police.” We’re going to “fight it as a city”, Hug said. Really? What does that mean, exactly?
This last Monday, June 14, was Flag Day. June 14th is also the U. S. Army’s 246th birthday. Perhaps you did not realize it’s also National Bourbon Day. Just around the corner, on Sunday is Father’s Day. The bourbon thing seems to fit Father’s Day. It’s more of a male beverage. According to the history, there was a Mother’s Day before there was a Father’s Day. Dad’s day was probably inspired by Mother’s Day. Mother’s really do need a special day though. It’s expected that mothers will be treated special and not have to do much on their day. Father’s Day has more recently elevated the father role to more of a co-parenting position worthy of the same type of recognition.
Joliet has considered itself to be a destination for out-of-towners for many years. As the county seat for Will County, many people come to Joliet because of the county services that are located primarily in downtown Joliet. The Will County office building on Chicago Street is located just a few blocks from the Will County Court complex on Jefferson Street. In fact, most of the downtown Joliet area is home to government offices and services, including City Hall. Many residents and non-residents have occasion to visit downtown Joliet.
The summer season is at long last upon us. Seems we missed last summer altogether with the intense concentration to control the pandemic numbers. Masks, washing hands and social distancing are terms that most people continue to pay attention to. More than half the country remains unvaccinated with the prospect that it will be late Fall before the gap is closed on vaccinated and non-vaccinated. The CDC has somewhat lifted the ban on masks for those who have completed a vaccination regimen.
Most of us have considered the various risks that exist in our everyday lives. Most of us tend to ignore those risks if we perceive they are not an immediate threat to our wellbeing. While the risks may be apparent, we all tend to go on with our daily lives without allowing them to curtail what we do, with some exceptions of course. In other words, life goes on. It is getting more difficult to ignore the risks we face in life because of “transparency.” The slightest risks are magnified due to what seems a 24-hour news cycle across multiple outlets. I’m not just fingering news programs and newspapers, but also the vast array of internet sources both personal and public. It has been pointed out to me from various sources, that it is difficult to know the “truth” and what are the absolute facts.
The predicted lack of excitement regarding the recent Consolidated Election was reflected in the low voter turnout. While the turnout in Will County was approximately 16 percent, a closer look at some precincts shows a much lower rate in Joliet. The precinct I vote in, for instance, had voter turnout of less than 10 percent on election day. Mail-in ballots may boost that somewhat, but probably not much.
The fourth anniversary of National Vietnam Veterans Day will be on March 29. It’s been about 46 years since the official end to that conflict. As a matter of perspective, a 19-year-old who was in Vietnam at the end of the war in1975 will turn 65 in 2021. Most Vietnam vets are in their 70’s. Veterans today are a much-respected group in society. Veteran issues are often a focal point for debate in both Federal and State governments. It’s considered patriotic and a form of national pride to support veterans’ needs. Most local governments usually are relegated to issuing proclamations celebrating veterans sacrifices and victories on holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Veterans Day. Myself and other veterans appreciate the acknowledgement of our service.