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.
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.