We live in the age of “it’s not my fault.” There has always s been the question of “who’s at fault?” since time began. It just seems more prevalent today. When it is our own fault, we need to take responsibility. Sometimes that fault is collective. The collective fault is often most visible in the political realm. When the Joliet Junior College board of trustees met last week, they approved a student tuition increase for the fall session. They insisted it was not their fault the tuition increase was necessary. No, no, it was the lack of adequate funding from the State of Illinois that caused the increase. One Trustee, the board’s Vice Chairman Andrew Mihelich stated “We’re not here because of ourselves. This is the state. I want to make this completely clear to our public. This is a state funding issue.” Really, you have no responsibility for this Increase? This “funding issue” came on suddenly, with no warning. That’s your story? I beg to differ.
If you believe in miracles, then perhaps the newly proposed (Trumpcare) also American Health Care Act is your cup of tea. Currently being called the AHCA, it is having a difficult time finding its legs. The AHCA (I prefer the more realistic term, the Aha! Plan) is opposed by large segments of all the various players such as Republicans, Democrats, doctors, hospitals, healthcare workers, senior citizens, and even some insurance experts among others. It’s still too early to know exactly where all this will lead, but the rush to make it happen is always a red flag, especially when it comes to a Federal government program.
US falls in world ranking: Joliet’s new way to fight crime?
Who knew? The United States fell from number 4 to number 7 in the world ranking of Best Countries. That’s according to a U.S. News and World Reports survey conducted after the presidential election last November. The survey asked 21,000 business leaders, informed elites and everyday citizens their views on certain aspects of a variety of countries, including the U.S.A. The media company U.S. News transitioned several years back to a primarily web-based company in 2010 that specializes in highly popular ‘Best of’ lists. There are nine sub-categories of featured rankings. Some categories such as power, entrepreneurship and quality of life are self-explanatory. Others like Adventure and Movers need a little more explanation. The U.S. ranks 35 and 24 respectively in those two categories. Apparently, we are not an adventurous people compared to number 1 Brazil and number 4 Thailand. I’d rather be bored than live in either of those places. The number 1 and 2 countries considered Movers are the United Arab Emirates and Singapore. They rank number 22 and 15 in the overall Best Countries. We’re 35th when it comes to Open for Business but the U.S. is 16 and 18 respectively in Citizenship and Quality of Life. Canada and Sweden are 1 and 2 in Quality of Life rankings.
Governments at all levels want voters to believe they are working hard for the best interests of their constituents.
The local election season is less than six weeks away. Even if you haven’t received any candidate mailings in the last couple of weeks, it’s getting hard to miss the ‘vote for me’ signs that are popping up in yards all over Will County. If it seems as if elections are happening all the time, you’re right! There is at least one, and usually two, elections every year. Odd numbered years, like 2017, are for the consolidated elections, more commonly known as municipal and/or township elections. Even numbered year elections are for Federal, State, Judicial and county officials. If you are like most people, you can take comfort in the fact that, after this year’s April 4 election, the long interlude between elections will occur. The next one will take place almost a year later on March 20, 2018. What makes it seem like there’s always an election is the almost continuous candidate campaigning for the various offices. Campaigning usually starts anywhere from six months to a year before the election date. That’s particularly true for Federal and State offices. There are 419,372 registered voters on the books in Will County. Voter turnout in the Consolidated Election four years ago, was 18.1 per cent. If that percentage holds true for the upcoming April 4 election, a little over 76,000 people will vote in the 303 precincts in Will County. Some of the municipalities in Will County are in more than one county. For instance, Bolingbrook has part of its population in DuPage County and Joliet is partially in Kendall County.
It seems somewhat ironic that Mayor Bob O’Dekirk’s State of the City address took place at Harrah’s casino this year. It was a positive address touting several past and soon to come commercial successes that will enhance Joliet’s tax base. It was just 10 years ago, in 2007 that the City’s share of casino gaming revenue peaked at just over $36 million for the year. Gaming revenue totaled $18.4 million in 2016. According to the latest gaming revenue reports, Joliet’s share of gaming revenue continues to decline. Joliet’s casino revenue share this month is down by almost 10 percent compared to January last year. The addition of video gaming revenue to the city coffers over five years ago, has not stemmed the tide of the decline. It was September of 2012 when the city received its first share from the only video machines licensed in Joliet. Izzy’s bar had five machines that paid the city’s share of $430. Last month Izzy’s shared $898 with the city. They were one of 74 locations with a total of 295 gaming machines. Last year video gaming revenue totaled $665,802. No significant increase from video gaming is anticipated that will offset the expected decline of casino revenue this year. Economic growth can and should replace gaming revenue as a source for everyday expenses and be used for capital projects as was the original intention of the state legislature.
Putting lights on the Joliet’s flag pavilions has been a point of discussion for several years. A commitment to do that was given at a candidate’s forum during the last mayoral election in 2015. I was advised by the mayor in April of 2016 that City Manager Jim Hock had the discretion to spend up to $10,000 for such projects without a formal Council vote. The project was announced at a City Council Meeting held on June 21, 2016. All Council members were present along with the City Manager. The original projected target date for completion was Veterans Day 2016. Several months passed. Finally, at a City Council meeting, I requested an update on the projected completion date. I had received several assurances that the city manager was “working on it.” The Mayor with City Council consensus directed him to get it done as soon as possible. That was on November 15 of last year. This Monday I received an update from Friday’s City Manager report. Briefly, there is now a plan to complete the project. Three of the flag locations will be illuminated by solar-powered lights to be installed by Van Mack Electric. The three locations are more remote and not near enough to an electric source to provide a cost-effective hook-up. The other six locations allow for an electrical connection that will be completed by the City’s electricians. That’s good news.
If you lived in downstate Peoria and woke up on Tuesday morning and read the local paper you might have been surprised to learn that the world headquarters of Caterpillar, the heavy machinery manufacturer, was leaving town. They have called Peoria home for over 100 years. The new headquarters is destined for Chicago, or maybe the suburbs. For weeks, we have been reading about the loss of Illinois residents to other states. In fact, Illinois is shrinking in population, according to many reports. Also, the City of Chicago needs to call in the Feds to restore order. But Caterpillar headquarters is moving to Chicago, Illinois. It was just two years ago, the company made a big announcement regarding the expansion of its downtown Peoria headquarters. At a news conference, held in Peoria at the Caterpillar Visitors Center and attended by some 250-people including Gov. Bruce Rauner, then CEO Doug Oberhelman was given a standing ovation when he announced, "Caterpillar will stay in Peoria." He went on to say they were definitely staying in Peoria and had no future plans to leave. Oberhelman is no longer the CEO and the headquarters is moving to Chicago. No permanent site in the Chicago area has been selected to date. Caterpillar is one of Illinois’ largest companies. According to the new CEO, Jim Umpleby, the sales revenue of the company has fallen 40 per cent since 2012. They have closed 30 facilities around the world and eliminated 16,000 jobs.
The Rialto Theatre has a full complement of seven board members. The final member was appointed by the governor on Monday. Their first meeting will be on Wednesday, after my deadline so I am not aware of the proceedings that will take place. Since the agenda indicates primarily procedural issues will be addressed, probably nothing of much substance will be put forth. The important aspect is that there is a board in place that is newly committed to moving forward. At this point, no one is hostile toward them and no one is holding them accountable for past missteps. There are, however, high expectations for future success with the Rialto Theatre. Currently, a short-term contract with VenuWorks for theater management requires a total of 30 shows to be lined up by June 30 for the Rialto management to receive the additional $250,000 promised by the Joliet City Council. An initial $250,000 was paid based on a one-year contract secured by the previous Rialto board that resigned last month.
The promise of repeal and replace the nation’s healthcare plan known as the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) is the hot-button issue of the day. According to recent census data for the State of Illinois, approximately 54% of the U.S. population are covered for healthcare by their employer. Another 19% are covered by Medicaid, the program for low-income individuals. Medicare covers about 14% of persons’ age 65 and older. About six percent are uninsured. The ACA affects all of these categories. That’s only a portion of the dilemma as it regards “repeal and replace.” The law seeps into almost every facet of healthcare, as well as daily life. For instance, most national restaurants and fast food chains must have menus showing calorie counts. Eating establishments didn’t do that on their own, the law made them do it. Hospitals face penalties if certain quality care benchmarks are not met. According to Kaiser Health News, about half the nation’s hospitals are penalized by Medicare because of the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program. Under the program hospitals are measured for the number of patients who are readmitted to any hospital within 30 days of their initial hospitalization release.