An increase in the minimum wage paid to workers always sparks debate among those who see it as the demise of small business and the loss of profit for big corporations. Generally, the debate centers on those who depend on entry level jobs and the hastening of automation that will eliminate the very jobs that command minimum wages. Most of the arguments regarding the newly increased minimum wage in Illinois, are the same ones raised the last time it was increased from $6.50 in 2007 to the current $8.25 in 2010. The increase is incrementally set to increase over five years starting in 2020 at $9.25. That’s not really the big deal some have made of it when you consider that, based on the Consumer Price Index, a wage of $8.25 per hour in January of 2010 has the same buying power of $9.58 today. Put another way, if the minimum wage were indexed for inflation, today’s minimum wage would be $9.58. That’s higher than it will be a year from now. The minimum wage in 1978 was $2.65 per hour. That equates to $10.67 today, according to the CPI.
President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday coincided with the Chinese New Year known in many Asian countries, including China, as Tet. In Vietnam the new year is officially named Tet Nguyen Dan. Tet is considered one of the most important holidays in Asian culture with families gathering in their hometowns to celebrate, much in the same way families gather in the USA for Christmas or Thanksgiving. Before the Tet holiday begins Vietnamese try to get rid of any "bad fortune" by cleaning their homes, buying new clothes, resolving disputes, and paying their debts. The Vietnamese spend much of the holiday paying respect to family and friends. They also court lady luck because they believe that events occurring during Tet can determine what happens during the rest of the year. It seems almost ironic that the State of the Union address was held on the first day of the Tet holiday. Especially the idea of “resolving disputes” and “paying their debts.” Good advice. The Tet holiday also holds an indelible memory for the United States, particularly for those who served in the military during the Tet offensive in 1968 Vietnam. The occasion that year was supposed to begin a cease-fire in the shooting war that would last several days. Instead, the government of North Vietnam used the event to begin an offensive that turned out to be a turning point in the war that eventually ended Americans popular support of the war.
Now that the year’s first snowstorm has past and we’re in the first real cold snap of the winter, it’s time to start thinking summer. One of the best preoccupations of summer is baseball. Joliet is a baseball city but it’s not the only locale in the region with a minor league team. The “Bigs”, otherwise known as Major League Baseball, have two Chicago teams, the Cubs and the White Sox, but there are five other professional baseball teams in the region. One, The Kane County Cougars, lays claim to being the only affiliated Class-A Major League Baseball team in the Chicago area. Since 1991 the Cougars have welcomed over 11 million fans to their home games. They have been affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks since 2015. They will play 69 home games this year starting on April 6.
The City of Joliet has embarked on the mission of finding a sustainable water source that will last 50 years or more and capable of remaining free of contamination for the duration of sustainability. Oh, and it must be affordable. Affordable means different things to a diverse demographic. The City of Joliet’s Phase 2 water study will focus on cost. That focus will determine whether Joliet will be a regional supplier of water in partnership with other suppliers or the owner of the system that controls water purchases by other municipalities. Phase 1 of the Alternative Water Source Study is contained in a 264-page draft report. The report’s recommendations identify three major sources of water that meet criteria studied and discussed by the Environmental Commission. The three are the Kankakee River, Illinois River and Lake Michigan. The Kankakee River offers four variations of source and Lake Michigan has three variations. The report is available on the City of Joliet website. By way of full disclosure, I am a member of the Environmental Commission.
The big story for 2019 could be Joliet’s quest for a sustainable source of drinking water for the region. The City’s Environmental Commission is scheduled to submit recommendations to the City Council regarding the most viable alternatives for future water resources. The Commission has identified 14 possible sources. Five have been eliminated for various reason, mostly for viability and control issues. The remaining nine are potential solutions, cost notwithstanding. The Commission has broken the process down into two phases. The first phase only considers viable resolutions to a sustainable water source. Phase two will consider the cost of the viable solutions. Basically, phase one has identified three possibilities for a minimum 50- year solution starting in the year 2030, the Kankakee River has four variations possible, Lake Michigan with four possible variations and the Illinois River which offers a high volume of available water but the lowest quality of the three possibilities.
The workings of government are a common focus of most media outlets. This column, while not exclusive to any particular focus, is often looking at local government doings. Oftentimes the attention I put forth is from an outsider’s point of view regarding news happenings, thus the title of the column, “Wayne’s Words.” The idea is to point out pertinent information by using public information sites, various forms of media, and personal observation. In pursuit of that goal, I sometimes check past columns to see if certain issues have been resolved. A column I wrote December 11, 2014 concerned the 2015 budget being proposed at the time. The issue then involved insufficient budget revenue to pay for additional Neighborhood Oriented Policing Team (NOPT) personnel. After some discussion it was decided that money would be taken from another portion of the budget. That’s not unusual, in fact it’s done all the time in order to properly manage budgets. Where did it come from? The Fire Department overtime budget.
One of the major issues that propelled the mid-term elections was health care. The elections are over, now what? The Affordable Care Act, some called it Obamacare, was implemented in 2010 and has been demonized by some, praised by others, misunderstood and ignored by most. The original concept of the ACA was to provide health insurance coverage for everyone at an affordable rate. The ACA has met stiff resistance since its inception. Many believe it is akin to socialized medicine. It’s not even close. According to healthinsurance.org, socialized medicine is, by definition, a government health care system which owns and operates all the medical facilities and employs the health care professionals. For instance, the Veterans Health Administration is a socialized system according to that definition. The VA does coordinate, in some instances, with private sector healthcare providers when appropriate. Medical schools and teaching hospitals' have partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for over 70 years, dating back to the end of World War II, to ensure all veterans receive the care they need and deserve. The VA has become a vital part of U.S. physician training, with more than 40,000 residents and more than 20,000 medical students receiving some or all of their clinical training at a VA facility per year. Medicare, on the other hand, is a single-payer system. The federal government pays private sector doctors and hospitals, but does not employ or own the facilities used for medical care. Medicaid is similar but the various states partner with the federal government to provide funding. The promise of a better way to provide resources to pay for medical care has been around for some time, but a few have become more visible by touting lower cost. There are two major factors that determine the cost of health insurance. One is the plan. What does the health plan pay for incurred medical cost? The other is who are the providers and where are they located? Sounds simple, but it’s not. A low price usually means less coverage (more out of pocket), a limited number of providers that will accept the plan or both. That important consideration of pre-existing conditions is an element of price. For a comparison, consider the cost of a car. You will pay a lot less for it if there are no wheels or an engine, but can you use it? The old adage “you get what you pay for” comes to mind.
Next week begins the traditional holiday season. Thanksgiving Day, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Day are major holiday celebrations for most of us. The Thanksgiving holiday provides an opportunity to pause and reflect on the blessings and good fortune many of us enjoy. It is also a time to remember those who may not be as fortunate. The first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three days. Most Government agencies take the Thanksgiving holiday very serious since they close up for a full four days. Elected officials in Federal and State government are “home for the holidays”. Local officials will conduct some meetings through the holidays but, generally, not much gets done. It was Abraham Lincoln who first formalized the celebration of a national day of Thanksgiving to be held on the last Thursday of November. That date endured as Thanksgiving Day until President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the day to the Fourth Thursday of November in order to add a few more days for Christmas shopping in 1939. It’s a time to review the good fortune we are thankful for the past year. Below are a few items this columnist is thankful for because they provided topics for comment and analysis… Last year (2017), the City of Joliet installed lights at all of the city-owned flag pavilions. This was a project that was first brought up more than seven years ago. The lights allow the U.S. flag to be displayed 24/7. The city also committed to replacing the worn and tattered flags when necessary and to present the flags at half-staff when appropriate. The Joliet Fire Department is in charge of the responsibility for the flags. Thank you.
Wayneswords@thetimesweekly.com Since I began writing this column it has been traditional for me to opine regarding voting in elections, and the issues and people involved, at election time. Given the past week’s events I decided to pass on the election this time. There is plenty of info around regarding candidates and issues in the Times Weekly and other media outlets. Instead, this topic seems more appropriate. About six years ago I wrote a column about gun violence. The mass killing at Sandy Hook grade school in Connecticut had occurred about a week before and gun control was a hot topic. That was in December of 2012. Since then there have been more than 1600 mass shootings. A mass shooting is defined as an occurrence where four or more individuals are killed or wounded with guns. Add the victims of last week’s shooting inside Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue to the list. That’s a staggering statistic but, even under this broad definition, it’s worth noting that mass shootings make up a tiny portion of America’s firearm deaths, which totaled nearly 39,000 in 2016 alone. The idea of protecting one’s self with a gun is a long-standing conviction among many in America. We are the only nation in the world that makes owning a gun a right guaranteed by our Constitution. Americans are 4.4 percent of the world’s population but have possession of 42 percent of the civilian-owned guns around the world.
What’s the weather like today? That is a common question just about everybody contemplates for a few moments every day. There is, however, rarely a weather deliberation that does not include the mention of water. Much of the weather damage from the two most recent hurricanes was from water. While wind also causes significant damage, it’s usually the water that causes the most long-term damage. Water can have a downside, for certain, but on this planet, it is essential to sustains life. Most of us never give much thought to water. But what if we ran out of fresh water? It may seem unreasonable considering 71 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water. Approximately 97 percent of that amount is in the oceans and another two percent is in the ice caps and glaciers. The rest is in the earth’s underground aquifers, rivers and lakes.