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.
Every year about this time the Joliet City Council is subjected to one of the more boring responsibilities of municipal government. The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, or CAFR, is the affirmation that the City’s financial records are in order. The City of Joliet was, in fact, awarded the “coveted” Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. They have received this award for the umpteenth time and evidence that the city reports an accurate and fiscally responsible set of books. Accurate accounting is one of the necessary elements of any business, public or private.
“What’s past is prologue”. Have you ever heard or read that phrase before? I have seen the expression used many times and have often relied on its usage over the years. The basic origin of the phrase is actually from Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”. I’m not a Shakespeare scholar, so I had to look it up. According to my source, the phrase that Shakespeare invented came to mean that the past is a preface to the future – we can’t forget the lessons of history. Why bring this up? Because it can also be a predictor of the future.
Political partisans are in their realm for the next couple of weeks with the start of this week’s Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention starting next week. Both conventions are being conducted remotely due to restrictions imposed by COVID-19. There are many complications associated with the November election making it almost impossible to condense into a few words for this week’s column. Therefore (notice, I didn’t say “So”), the best advice I or anyone can give is to vote the earliest and most convenient method available. Also, vote your interests based on your own circumstances. Party votes should take a back seat to the leadership needs of our country.
Axioms are statements that, according to definition, are “regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true.” When referring to commercial/industrial development, for example, infrastructure follows development and is seldom the other way around. Will County has experienced that in the past and is very aware today that the explosion of warehousing developments in the county has led to the need for highway improvements to handle the increased volume of truck traffic to and from warehouses.
It is not a great stretch of imagination to understand we humans face a worldwide crisis that threatens all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated almost all aspects of our lives for the past six months and that is unlikely to change very soon regardless of who is doing the talking. We have witnessed peaceful protests, partisan quarreling and unwavering stances on some of the simplest of things such as wearing a mask in public places. With all of the serious business going on in the world, Joliet managed to make headlines by paying four city employees overtime wages on a holiday for providing a porta-potty for nurses on strike at Amita St. Joe’s hospital. Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk ordered up the portable facility by directly calling the public works department to set-up the city-owned property. The part-time interim City Manager Steve Jones, who has resigned but not gone, was not happy over the incident and let it be known Mayor O’Dekirk has no authority to do that.
Life continues from day to day no matter what struggles or victories are presented to our specific circumstances. The past few months have tested most of us in one way or another. Many (too many) have lost their lives from the COVID-19 pandemic and other causes that seem avoidable and unnecessary. Many more have lost jobs and income necessary to maintain our daily lives. All of the life issues that we faced prior to the current circumstances still exist, we are just paying less attention to them. Obviously, I don’t have any answers for the current state of affairs that have not already been articulated. I am prompted to write my column this week but Instead of weighing in on some of the serious issues of the day, here are a few tidbits of news that probably don’t have a big impact on most of us.
The Fourth of July is this weekend. It will be a three-day holiday that will probably be somewhat calmer than past years due to COVID-19. Most States, including Illinois, will be more open for celebration than has been possible the last three months. While many restrictions on businesses have been lifted, social distancing and wearing a mask covering are still in place and recommended. The Fourth of July is the celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The day celebrated as Independence Day is fixed on the Fourth of July, but like many historical events it’s an arbitrary date chosen to accommodate the celebration of our independence from Great Britain. John Adams, the second U.S. president, refused to acknowledge the Fourth of July as Independence Day. He recognized July 2, as the date of the official birthday of the new nation. He did, however, host the first Fourth of July party held at the White House in 1801. Perhaps he’s the original “flip-flopper.”
The role of leadership in Joliet seems to be very muddled in the minds of many of its citizens. It is no wonder. The City Manager is leased from a third party, the Mayor wants to play policeman and the city council is split on most items that are not routine. Coverage of the incident has been widespread in the local media, including The Times Weekly. There has even been mention of the incident in other media locations around the nation. In light of Mayor Bob O’Dekirk’s altercation last week with two protesters, perhaps it is time for those elected and appointed officials to review their roles.