The Consolidated Election is less than three weeks away. There is very little evidence that an election is on the horizon, save for a few candidate signs scattered around in various locations in the county. This election has all the makings for a low turnout on April 6. Having just come through one of the most contentious national elections in recent history, I doubt there is much appetite for another election in less than three weeks. But there is one and it’s time for a little campaigning background.
Most of us, myself included, often use quotes we have heard to make or to emphasize a circumstance or opinion that makes a point seem more profound than our own words can accomplish. One of those quotes came to mind and seemed appropriate in light of another item in the local media last week. Abraham Lincoln used the quote on more than one occasion probably because it fits so many occasions. He said: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
Joliet decided last week how it plans to access Lake Michigan as the sustainable source of drinking water for the next 100 years for Joliet residents. They have partnered with the City of Chicago for the solution. What could possibly go wrong?
Should the exception to the rule get the best solution? Many small businesses are struggling to make ends meet. Separate from actually contracting or battling the COVID-19 disease itself, many small businesses have suffered substantial financial losses. That includes job loss in the industries affected. The hospitality industry seems to be experiencing some of the worst of the pandemic economy. Hospitality businesses primarily include restaurants and most venues that rely on travel. Many small businesses, including those in hospitality and travel, have been able to take advantage of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help with the loss of revenue.
Peace prevailed at Monday’s Special Joliet City Council Meeting. This last Monday the Joliet City Council received the annual proposed budget presentation for the upcoming year. There was no bickering, no outraged concern and no disagreement among the Council members or objections from the Mayor regarding the budget. Actually, there was almost no discussion or questioning of Finance Director, Jim Ghedotte during or after his presentation that proposes spending $334.4 million during fiscal year 2021. That’s almost as much expenditure as last year’s budget that sparked a year-long City Council feud. The Council also approved Herb Lande as the at-large council member to replace Don Dickinson who resigned the elected position last week. Again, no disagreement. He was sworn in right after the near-unanimous vote to be the Council Member-At- Large. Bettye Gavin abstained from the vote. Is it going back to a more congenial problem-solving atmosphere? Perhaps. We’ll see.
Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season. The Thanksgiving Day holiday is the most American of our holidays but the annual tradition of gathering friends and family for a feast may take a hit this year for many of us. The pandemic will alter many plans for indoor gatherings, but the meaning of the holiday should not be lost because of COVD-19. The Thanksgiving Day holiday should begin by being thankful for what we have, but, more importantly, for what we have been able to share with others. It’s also a time to reminisce about past Thanksgivings and the meaning of the holiday. Thus, reminiscing about some past Thanksgiving occurrences seems appropriate for this column.
This past Wednesday was Veterans Day. In past years there were many public celebrations in and around the Joliet and Will County area honoring veterans and their military service. That didn’t happen this year but you can always thank a vet for their service anytime of the year. Most vets don’t give a lot of thought to their military service once they return to civilian life. The veteran population has been declining in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs the vet population is about 19.5 million. The Gulf War era makes up about 50 percent of all war veterans. The World War II vets now total less than 325,000. More than 50 percent of all veterans are age 65 or older. The veteran population is expected to decrease by 30 percent over the next 20 years or so.
This time next week the presidential election will be over, but at this moment it is obviously unknown who will be sitting in the White House on January 20,2021. Speculating on the outcome from this vantage point seems unnecessary and pointless. I can live with that and, instead, choose to shed a little light on the local elections that will take place next April 6. Currently, there are 16 people who have requested nominating petitions for one of the three At-Large City Council positions. That doesn’t mean they will necessarily be on the ballot. That’s only the first step to become a candidate. Lots of time remains before ballot names are assured. The next step for the petitioner is to find a minimum of 95 qualified signatures on the nominating petitions. That’s one percent of the total votes cast two years ago at the last Consolidated Election. That’s a small turnout in a city of 147,000+ people. Most likely there will not be long lines of voters casting their choice for a candidate on election day next April.
The Joliet city budget for fiscal year 2021 has had very little, if any, public mention by City Council Members. The reason may be the realization that the 2020 budget could miss its expected bottom-line result by as much as $20 million. The biggest hole in the budget will come from the loss of approximately $10 million of gaming revenues. Based on current projections, gaming revenues may not reach a $6 million total for the year. Revenues were projected to be over $17 million for budget year 2020. One of the current mayor’s long-term objectives when he was elected for mayor was to wean the city budget from a dependence on gaming revenue to achieve annual budget goals. This year’s budget result is probably not what he or any of the Council Members had in mind.
Sometimes I enjoy looking back on past issues to see what was going on a few years ago. The news cycle changes so fast that we sometimes forget the recent past. For instance, it was just about three years ago that Joliet’s last City Manager, David Hales, was hired. He started in November of 2017 while he was still City Manager for Bloomington Illinois. The whole hiring process was done behind closed doors to protect his privacy, we were told. The entire procedure took place without regard to the much-touted process of transparency. He was gone in less than one year. Since then Joliet has entertained three interim city managers. No public disclosure has been released to indicate who will be the new city manager, but after more than two years, City Council is still looking for one. Transparency aside, we are promised a hiring decision before the next at-large City Council Members are elected in April, 2021.