All results / Stories / Wayne Horne
The year of 2021 will be over by the end of this week and, ready or not, we’ll all be flipping pages on the new year calendar all over again. It’s also the time of the year that various media venues take a look back at momentous events that occurred over the last twelve months. I’m going to leave that to others in the local media to take on that task. I did think about one story that’s been hanging around for years that added another chapter to downtown Joliet history. It’s an undertaking that’s been waiting for the City Council to solve at least as far back as 2015, probably well before then, and that’s parking spaces in the City Center, better known as the downtown.
The Joliet City Council meets at least twice a month all twelve months of the year. Preceding each City Council meeting all Council Members receive a volume of information regarding the items up for discussion, approval or disapproval that are on the agenda. This information is provided to each Council member at least the week prior to the Council meeting. Many times, council agenda items have been vetted for days or weeks, sometimes months before they actually become an agenda item. So, when items are on the agenda for consideration, Council Members should be ready to make their decision.
The City of Joliet remains on schedule to bring Lake Michigan water to its residents. It has been approximately two years since the decision to provide Lake Michigan water to the area was voted on by Joliet’s City Council. The timeline for the plan development is three to five years of planning and three to five years of construction. Joliet wants to become a water supplier for surrounding communities by forming a Regional Water Commission. Joliet is attempting to form the commission with Channahon, Crest Hill, Homer Glen, Minooka, Rockdale and Shorewood. Romeoville is also considering joining with Joliet’s water commission. Romeoville and Homer Glen are currently members of the Northern Will County Water Agency that also includes Bolingbrook, Lemont and Woodridge. The NWCWA is basically a paper organization.
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.
Major League Baseball teams ended the regular season this last Sunday. If you are a Cubs fan the season wasn’t what is always hoped for, the play-offs, and it’s “wait ‘til next year,” again. The White Sox fans have more games to look forward to and maybe even a World Series victory. We’ll see. Since attendance at the ballpark is one measure of a successful season, how did the two Chicago teams due this year? Better, certainly, than the 2020 season, when attendance records were not kept, although they did play an abbreviated season.
The City of Joliet is the third largest city in the State of Illinois so it should not be surprising that a lot of attention comes to the city from outside its boundaries. It has been a little over two weeks since the Illinois Attorney General started a civil investigation into the Joliet Police Department to determine if it should be investigated regarding its “patterns and practices.” Now, this last Friday, the Better Government Association, an Illinois Non-Partisan Full-Service Watchdog, has spotlighted an investigation they are conducting regarding Joliet’s “ambitious plan to buy Lake Michigan water from Chicago and resell it throughout the region.”
It was about two months ago that Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk stated at a City Council meeting there was a “war on police.” Sometimes, I guess, it just depends on your perspective. That was not one of the implications contained in an article of the September 7 issue of the USA Today news section. It’s a national newspaper with a national audience. The article was titled Behind the Blue Wall. The subject was regarding Joliet’s Police Department and the video of Eric Lurry’s arrest and ultimate death while in the custody of the Joliet police. The article was about the subsequent action taken by Sgt. Javier Esqueda releasing video of the arrest and that was unauthorized for public release by the police department. The subtitle of the article is “A police officer exposed a video showing a death in custody. Now he’s facing prison time”. For those who might think there is a “war on police” the article is a must read.
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 Fourth of July weekend will be the first three-day holiday that all of the official restrictions have been lifted since the pandemic began more than 16 months ago. Longer than that actually if you were among those taking the warnings seriously when the first alerts sounded. Fact is, those warnings are still with us due to the COVID-19 variants. For those who are vaccinated the risk has been lessened but not eliminated. For the 46 percent that have been fully vaccinated, family gatherings for the traditional Fourth of July celebrations will most likely be able to proceed with lessened caution. There are still some impediments to the celebrations with fireworks. According to Business Insider, fireworks are in short supply due to the supply chain crisis. Americans spend about $1 billion a year on fireworks. It’s illegal to purchase or possess most types of fireworks in Illinois, but drive through any neighborhood the week before or after July 4th and it’s obvious many do not observe the legality.
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.
This past Monday was Vietnam Veterans Day. The day was noted in this column a couple of weeks ago. The day was established by Presidential Proclamation in 2012. The day is for recognition of all living veterans who served on active duty in the Armed Services, regardless of location, during the time period November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975. During that time span approximately 10 Million served in the military. The memory of Vietnam has faded somewhat for most Americans since the time period marks a span that was 50 years ago. How have Vietnam veterans fared since then?