Wayne Horne

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Wayne's Words: Welcome to the new City Manager

The City Council has hired a new Joliet City Manager. The buzzword in local government today is TRANSPARENCY. Its talked about a lot and always promised by our elected officials. It helps prevent surprises when the process is open.

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Wayne's Words: How about a new direction?

Two years ago, then newly elected Mayor Bob O’Dekirk issued a report titled the 2015 Mayoral Transition Report.

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Wayne's Words: The City of Champions

The subject of sports, particularly youth sports, is deeply imbedded in the City of Joliet and its environs. The slogan “City of Champions” is part of the city’s moniker. Joliet has developed many successful athletes throughout its history. High school sports are highly regarded and area schools provide excitement with the many rivalries that have evolved over the years. A couple of weeks ago, Time Magazine ran a story about the exploding youth sports industry that has grown into a $15 billion business. They weren’t talking about high school sports either. The star athlete of the article was a 10-year-old kid who plays baseball for nationally ranked teams, with jewelry and clothing companies asking him to endorse their products. He’s not the normal example of a child athlete according to the piece, but he is the paragon of what the Time magazine story called a new reality for America’s aspiring young athletes and their families. Really, a 10-year-old boy! Kids’ sports have gone big-time. Around the country local sports leagues are no longer attracting large numbers of kids in the community. Little League participation is down 20 percent from its peak less than 20 years ago. However, youth sports are being played hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles, away in tournaments that cost parents of the participants thousands of dollars per year. The young stars receive private lessons, attend sports academies and actually play for different clubs depending on their skill level.

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Wayne's Words: City Budget

One of the easiest complaints to make about government is that it spends too much money. “My taxes are too high” is the refrain heard from almost everyone. Belt tightening at all levels is what’s needed according to most people. One step towards “belt tightening” has been taken by the City of Joliet. When the State of Illinois finally passed its budget, effective retroactive to July 1, one of the provisions reduced the amount of tax revenue that comes to municipalities. The impact on Joliet’s revenue will be approximately $2.6 million less per year than was anticipated in the city’s coffers. The city’s immediate response has been to eliminate all “non-emergency overtime.” The current city budget shows almost $6 million is allocated to overtime for all city employees. The most current status report for overtime shows city employees have used almost half of the budgeted overtime. The report reflects just under six months of the current budget year. All city departments, except two, have used less than 40 percent of the OT budget. The Finance Department is over budget, but it accounts for only $7,300 out of the total six million dollars.

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Wayne's Words: TIF: What happened to Small Business Development downtown?

According to all published reports, the City of Joliet government is committed to redeveloping the City Center, more commonly known as “downtown Joliet.” The idea of the downtown revitalization has been talked about, written about, planned for and studied ever since all the major retail establishments left City Center almost 40 years ago for the Louis Joliet Mall. Since that time, downtown has become primarily a government campus. Most all tangible redevelopment has come about through government spending, totally reliant on taxpayer dollars. The city has redeveloped the train station (twice) and built a ballpark, Will County built a new jail and will soon be building a new $200 million courthouse, and the Joliet Junior College put up an eight-story campus building at a cost of $58 million. The only other major development that has occurred downtown is Harrah’s Casino and Hotel. Harrah’s evolved into a permanent structure when the State of Illinois deemed land-based gaming was legal in Illinois when it replaced a riverboat gaming operation.

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Wayne's Words: Move forward with caution on high-tech incubator

Columnist Wayne Horne cautions the city to take a step back and proceed with caution before investing city funds in a proposed high-tech incubator proposed for downtown.

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Wayne's Words: Different times, different players, same results

By Wayne Horne – whorne@thetimesweekly.com History is, sometimes, a good indication of what may occur in the future if circumstances in the present are similar or remain substantially unchanged. For instance, about 30 years ago a rock concert was held in what was then the Soviet Union. It was characterized as evidence of the new relationship with the United States. Then Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, had promised economic and democratic reforms seemed to portend a new and less antagonistic relationship was possible. Thousands of armed guards at the concert that did not allow concert goers near the performance stage indicated promised reforms would not occur. Many diplomatic efforts since 1987 and before have attempted to bring the U.S. and Russia closer to little or no avail. The big positive to date is that no nuclear buttons have been pushed. There have been several displays of machismo since then but in spite of attempts to spin perceived success, not much is different today than 30 years ago, just the players are different.

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Make America dangerous

whorne@thetimesweekly.com Gun violence is an everyday topic of news these days. That’s especially true if you live in certain areas of Chicago. Terrorism is another topic that’s hard to avoid in today’s world. Seems like the terrorism tool of choice in London are bombs and trucks running over pedestrians. Terrorism in our country is usually from home-grown individuals. The weapon of choice here in the U.S. are firearms, usually handguns, but not always. Last week, when the shooting occurred at a baseball field in Arlington Virginia, the weapon used, according to reports, was an AK-47 assault weapon. It is a weapon used in conflicts around the world. It was the preferred weapon used against U.S. troops in Vietnam. My point is, the AK-47 has been around a long time. It’s accurate and deadly, even in the hands of an amateur. I can attest to the fact of my own experience in Vietnam that it is difficult to defend one’s self from an individual well positioned and without warning. An untrained individual using a handgun is at a distinct disadvantage and without much chance of responding if they are pinned down by rapid fire from an assault weapon. Trained law enforcement personnel did an outstanding job of overcoming the shooter and saving the lives of those targeted. They were in a position to react and were not the initial targets. They took advantage in the situation because of their training and firepower.

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Wayne's Words: Careful planning doesn’t always workout

wayne@thetimesweekly.com It happens to every homeowner with a lawn. Sooner or later the lawnmower needs to be replaced. A few weeks ago, my 25-year-old mower was showing signs of old-age and I decided to replace it. Being a modern type, I googled “lawnmowers.” After reviewing several in my price range I decided on one with all the features I liked, for the price I was willing to pay. Plus, the free shipping was to my house or the retail store near me. I chose my house. It worked out well. I was home when the delivery truck came. The driver was happy to see me because he was uncertain how he was going to lift the awkward size box off the truck and to my front door. I helped him scoot it right into my garage. I proceeded to unbox the machine, perform the minor assembly, fill it with oil and gas. It looked great, had an electric start, one lever to adjust the blade height and it was self-propelled. I was happy with the purchase and moved my old mower to a storage shed in the yard. It was actually a few days later before I could mow due to rain and by then the grass had grown higher than usual. I set the mower to a high setting to accommodate the growth. Too make a long story short, the mower did a lousy job cutting the grass.

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Our Government at Work

The world of ‘news’ these days is very cloudy. I try to write an article each week that attempts to connect the dots of varied interests into something that makes sense for all concerned. It’s not always easy and, sometimes, not possible. So, this week I wanted to share some random thoughts that don’t necessarily warrant much consideration and aren’t really connected. They portray our government at work for us. One item I came across this week regarded passage of an Illinois legislative bill that would allow the Secretary of State to put advertising material on license plate renewal notices. According to the requested legislation that is awaiting the governor’s signature, this would offset the cost of sending out the reminder. I don’t know about your own situation, but the last two or three years my renewal reminder has come by email. I’m trying to understand how much it could cost to send an email to individuals that directs you to a state website to order a small weather-resistant sticker about the size of a quarter. I’m sure there could be some one-time costs initially but it’s hard to fathom how much help this will provide to a state that is $14 billion behind in paying its bills and has not had a budget for almost two years. Go figure.

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