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.
This last week I had an opportunity to attend a workshop that focused on racism in today’s culture. It’s a tough topic to discuss because the majority of our society recognizes its reality but denies it exists in our personal daily lives. That is, if you are not a person of color. The belief for many is “it’s not me” or “it isn’t a factor in my neighborhood.” The workshop was sponsored by The Anti-Racism Committee of the Sisters of St. Francis. According to the workshop definition of racial prejudice it is “a negative attitude toward a person or group, usually based on stereotypes and without knowledge of a group’s history or experience.” The racial prejudice is often applied to persons of color. A person of color is one who is not white or of European ancestry, according to another definition used in the workshop. Most racial bias is subtle and not even recognized when it happens to someone. Very often it is not even intentional. For example, have you ever assumed an African-American individual is exceptional at sports? Or an Asian- American has an exceptional aptitude in math or science? There is a term for that type of stereo-typing. It’s called microaggression.
Too many trucks on the road are a common refrain in the Will County area and it packs a lot of reality. The County’s road infrastructure is inadequate considering the amount of usage required on a daily basis. Any mention of adding to that truck volume often brings out protests from residents most affected by the additional traffic a new commercial development brings. Thus, the opposition to the proposed Loves Truck Center. Not every proposal involving trucks can be considered unwanted and unnecessary, however. The proposed site for the truck center is located next to a major interstate and opens up the possibility of additional development on the 300 acres of available land. There has never been any other probable use for that stretch of property that would not involve trucks. The zoning for the parcel supports commercial development. It is unrealistic that the land would remain vacant or used for residential.
Labor Day weekend has ended and that marks the official end of summer. Fall is supposed to bring crisp, cooler weather. That’s certainly not the experience of this last week and most likely we can look forward to another few weeks of outdoor weather enjoyment. The kids are back in school and elections are around the corner. It was an unusual last week of summer, though. Two major personalities passed away. The unusual circumstances, however, were not their deaths, but the elaborate celebrations of their lives that took place over the entire week. Most of the media outlets provided extended coverage of all the eulogies and flashbacks detailing their remarkable careers and accomplishments. It was awe inspiring. What struck me most, besides the accomplishments of these two people almost at opposite ends of life’s spectrum, was the look-back at history 50 years ago. Senator John McCain was a prisoner of war at the Hanoi Hilton and Aretha Franklin was an iconic star on the soul music scene. In 1968 the Vietnam war was at its peak. Almost everyone knew someone affected by the conflict. The civil rights movement was in the news on a nightly basis right next to coverage of the Vietnam conflict. I looked up a timeline of the events from that year. It was mind-numbing. Here’s a partial list:
Monday’s meeting of the Joliet City Council hosted another presentation from Holsten Development regarding the former Evergreen Terrace public housing complex, now known as Riverwalk Homes. The discussion that followed the presentation seemed to run in circles at times. In fact, at one point in the conversation, City Attorney Marty Shanahan in response to a question from the Council said “It’s complicated.” Indeed! It was August of 2011 when HUD (Housing and Urban Development) filed a lawsuit against the City of Joliet citing 35 factual allegations against the City’s housing plan. The lawsuit accused Joliet of violating the Fair Housing Amendments Act, which is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and the Housing and Community Development Act. The lawsuit was dismissed when the City agreed to a mandate that basically stated that Joliet would maintain the same number of units currently available at Evergreen Terrace’s current location. The reduction of any available units at that location would have to be replaced by units located at other sites within the corporate limits of the City of Joliet. A mandate known by other names is an order, command, directive, decree, dictate, obligation, or most importantly “you must do it.” It has taken the ensuing seven years to arrive at the juncture reached at this week’s City Council meeting. The final decision has not yet been determined and may not be reached for several more months. What seems most certain at this time is the final decision will look much like what was determined seven years ago: Riverwalk Homes will be maintained at its current location with the same 356-unit configuration currently available.
Good planning, we are taught, is essential for an endeavor to succeed. Of course, what is not always considered is whose success we are talking about. Success or failure in the private sector is often overlooked beyond the financial news in the media. Not so in the government arena. Two of those municipal planning endeavors have grabbed our attention of late. One is the re-purposing of the old Joliet Prison on Collins Street. The other is yet another proposed trucking terminal off of Renwick Road next to I-55. One is for fun and the other promises jobs and municipal revenue. Let’s go for the fun one first. The old prison finally closed as a viable penal institution in 2001. As a sustainable incarceration institution, it was over as far back as the 1970’s and maybe before then. It was built as an answer to overcrowding of the privately-run Alton prison located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. That prison was run like a slave-labor camp for the profit of it’s owner. The Joliet Prison opened in 1857 as a solution to overcrowding. The location of the prison was steered by a three-person committee. One member of the committee was Nelson Elwood, a former Mayor of Joliet with considerable political and economic influence. That’s according to the book “Joliet Prisons, Images in Time” by former area resident Robert E. Sterling.
The City of Joliet faces some major challenges over the next few years. For instance, needed infrastructure improvements to accommodate the increased truck traffic from the largest inland port in the country, re-inventing downtown Joliet, developing the old Collins street prison into an entertainment venue, and finding additional uses for the baseball stadium. These are but a few of the challenges that will occupy our attention for a few years, maybe longer. Some challenges take much longer. The city took decades to face the mandated combined sewer separation project. When the project was originally mandated the city council at the time used the now well-worn “kick-the-can down the road” option to let future councils deal with it. When the current council committed to the project last year the cost had more than doubled and the city had to borrow money for the project. The City faces other, more daunting undertakings. One of the most important challenges facing the city, and surrounding communities as well, is where will we get our water supply for the future? Joliet Councils have been debating this issue longer than any issues mentioned above. When Walt Kelly of the Illinois Water Survey made a presentation to the Will County Board 18 months ago, Joliet decided it was time to get serious. Kelly said the well may run dry in as little as 15 years from now.
After 165 years the Joliet Fire Department has hired its first female Firefighter. If you believe a new wave of diversity is occurring don’t hold your breath. According to the website DATAUSA female firefighters account for less than five percent of the 1.1 million firefighters in the country. Diversity in firefighting is a long way from reality. It’s one of the last bastions of white male employment. Approximately 85.5 percent of firefighters are white males. It’s also one of the best paying jobs in municipal government. Average pay for a Joliet firefighter, including overtime, exceeds $100,000 annually. The new firefighter, Carissa Smith, can look forward to substantial pay and excellent benefits. At age 59 she can retire with a generous pension and free lifetime health insurance. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 165 years to recruit more female firefighters. While we’re on the subject of benefits, a couple of weeks ago the City of Joliet settled a lawsuit originally brought by a retired Joliet firefighter that will cost the Joliet city coffers in excess of $700,000. The city must reimburse employees who retired prior to 2010 for an increase in premiums for their guaranteed lifetime health insurance. The premiums, according to the settlement cannot increase until 2030. It’s possible they won’t increase then either. The final cost of the settlement will be determined by the addition of the legal expense for the lawsuit.
The City of Joliet baseball stadium is now in it’s 16th season and has been continuously occupied since opening day in 2002. The first occupants were the Joliet Jackhammers. The initial season saw over 180,000 fans attend the games played. The fans came to see the team play, have a couple of hot dogs, maybe a beverage and they were kept amused with between inning entertainment. Success seemed assured. The city used casino revenue to pay cash for the construction of then named Silver Cross Field. The original cost was somewhere around $27- $29 million. There never was a plan submitted by the city, or anyone else, that projected how much revenue would be necessary to maintain the structure and the grounds. There was never any consideration made for paying back to city coffers the revenue used to build the stadium. Quite the contrary, it was said to be a “quality of life project” that would enhance the downtown and its environs. It was also said that no taxpayer money was used in its construction. In those days casino revenue was free money, not taxpayer dollars, according to city officials at the time.
The last day to fill a vacancy in nomination for the November 6, 2018 General Election was June 4. If no candidate for an established party runs in the General Primary, the established party managing committee can appoint a candidate to be placed on the ballot for the November 6 General Election. This candidate must file the correct documentation along with collecting the same amount of signatures required for candidates running in the General Primary. The candidate list for the upcoming November 6, 2018 General Election is available with the appointed candidates listed at thewillcountyclerk.com. To find the candidate list on the website, use the link under the What’s New section on the homepage.
The summer of 2018 officially began with the Memorial Day weekend and is on the books. Proper complaints against the weather can now begin with “it’s too hot” in place of “it’s too cold.” Just as the summer is beginning the Illinois Spring legislative session ends this week on Thursday. Expanding gambling is again up for discussion in the legislature. Opposition to any new gaming positions is quite strong among those who believe any expansion of gaming only diminishes existing gambling operations. Senator Terry Link, a Democrat from Waukegan, disagrees. He was quoted as saying: “They build new casinos next door to one another in Vegas, and none of them are going out of business.” He may have a point regarding Las Vegas but it hasn’t panned out in Illinois over the last 10 years. In 2011, before video gaming spots were legalized for locations outside the state’s 10 casino sites, the State of Illinois’ share of gaming receipts for the year was $400.8 million. The revenue had peaked in 2007 at $718.2 million. Then in 2012 video gaming was introduced in September. Only $3.1 million was produced in the four remaining months of 2012. The next year the State’s share of revenue jumped to over $75 million from video gaming and more than doubled that to $164.9 million by 2014.
The official arrival of summer occurs in about ten days but the temperatures have been warm enough lately to jumpstart the summer season for many.
One of the best ways to express patriotism in the U.S.A. is to show how much veterans are appreciated.
A haunted house will open in part of the former Collins Street prison this fall but some residents are forgetting the other haunted house that the city owns.
Just five years ago, in December of 2012, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred. According to reports at the time, the incident was the deadliest mass shooting at either a high school or grade school in U.S. history and the fourth-deadliest mass shooting by a single person in U.S. history.
This week’s Joliet City Council meeting sparked what could be identified as a ‘balance of resource and need’ debate. In the name of efficiency, the city is considering the use of one piece of fire-fighting apparatus that would replace two pieces of equipment.
Balance is a word sometimes used to explain the “challenges” of issues that are difficult to resolve and not everyone is satisfied with the solution. The most common definitions of “balance” can be found in any dictionary.
This week Wayne talks about the Tet Offensive and parking in downtown Joliet.
Wayne makes sense of 2017 or as much as it can make sense before the calendar clicks over to 2018.
It has been several years since the Joliet City Council has received much hue and cry relating to the Joliet City Budget and this year doesn’t seem any different.
The start of every holiday season should begin by being thankful for what we have, but, more importantly, for what we have been able to share with others. The Thanksgiving Day holiday is the most American of our holidays.
Veterans Day honors past and present veterans who served honorably during war or peacetime in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard and includes Reserve and National Guard veterans.
This week Wayne discusses the current debate regarding the Affordable Care Act which has been going on since its inception.
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.
Two years ago, then newly elected Mayor Bob O’Dekirk issued a report titled the 2015 Mayoral Transition Report.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Wayne Horne – firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
email@example.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.
firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. It was formerly known as Decoration Day and traditionally observed on May 30. Decoration Day has evolved into Memorial Day and it is this weekend. It was officially declared a national holiday in 1967. It is the traditional holiday that starts the summer. It is always a three-day weekend since the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect in 1968. The holiday moved from its traditional observance on May 30 to the last Monday in May. Families and friends gather for picnics and numerous outdoor events in observance of the holiday weekend. There are also the incessant holiday sales hyped by businesses big and small. But that’s not really what this weekend is about. The purpose of Memorial Day is commemoration of soldiers who died in battle. The grateful phrase “Thanks for your service” should be reserved this weekend for those service members who paid the ultimate price-- they died fighting in battle for the United States of America.
email@example.com We all have expectations that our public sector employees will possess the ability to perform their duties in a safe environment and in a manner that does not jeopardize their own safety or that of others. For instance, it is a given that police and fire personnel will be drug and alcohol-free when they are on the job. The reason for that expectation is obvious. The same holds true for airline pilots and public transportation drivers. An inebriated bus driver is a danger to all around their vehicle, not just the passengers entrusted to the driver’s care. Most private employers require some form of periodic testing to ensure their personnel meet safety standards necessary to safeguard passage from point A to point B. Those standards include vehicle inspections as well. Many employers also require background checks of their employees. Annual background checks, even simple ones, include criminal record searches, a nationwide sex offender search and a routine motor vehicle record search. The motor vehicle record search reveals speeding tickets, accidents and DUI convictions.
Last week’s arrival in the mail of the property tax bill probably delighted no one when it was discovered most, if not all, taxing bodies showed an increased amount due. Most homeowners have their property taxes escrowed as part of the monthly mortgage payment and don’t always scrutinize the amount due unless it increases their monthly mortgage payment. The property tax bill is calculated by combining the Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) with the tax rate of each government unit. In Illinois, of course, there are a multitude of government units on a property tax bill. Many times, you may hear from the taxing body that the tax rate was not increased. “Why did my tax bill go up”, you say? Because the assessed value increased. This year, in some instances, both increased. That’s been less likely the last few years because property values have fallen, but that trend has reversed itself the last couple of years. Local governments face increasing costs and the tax bill reflects those increases. The biggest percentage increases on my tax bill this year came from Will County, the Will County Forest Preserve District, and Joliet Junior College. The biggest dollar amount of the tax bill goes to the various school districts on each homeowner’s bill, usually from 60 to 70 percent of the total dollar amount.
The calendar says it’s the beginning of May and that means all of the summer activities we all look forward to are set to begin. The beginning of April felt that way, but the weather isn’t cooperating at the moment. After taking a week’s vacation in sunny Florida, I’m ready to enjoy all that summer in the Midwest offers. The weather’s not cooperating yet, but like most things it will, eventually. One of the things most of us do when we travel around the country is sample the local cuisine. In Florida that means seafood is offered in most eateries. I certainly tried my share of those offerings, but I’m not a food critic so all I can say is what I tried was good. The kind of fare that is universal in the U.S, though, are hamburgers and hot dogs. Particularly universal is the “Chicago style” hot dog. Even in Florida that’s the enticer. Why do I mention hot dogs? One of the first “news” pieces I read when I returned home was in Crain’s Chicago Business magazine. It reported that Oscar Mayer, the top-selling wiener in the U.S., has developed a hot dog without nitrates, nitrites, and artificial preservatives. The company says they did this without compromising the taste or raising the price. We’ll see. Anyway, the change does raise a couple of questions. What took them so long to do this if it is in the best interest of the consumer? Secondly, what’s so bad about the demonized ingredients removed?
According to final totals from “Vote by Mail” and “Provisional” ballots counted By the Will County Clerk’s office last Tuesday results have not changed from election night. The election results from two weeks ago are not official until April 28. The closest election night margin in the area was for Village Clerk in Bolingbrook. Only two votes separated Carol Penning and opponent Jaime J. Olson on election night. The additional ballots counted on Tuesday increased Penning’s vote totals making her the unofficial winner. As expected, there were no other substantial changes affecting other races. Another report due this week is the Quarterly D-2 form required of all candidates who had campaigns that raised and spent more than $5,000 money on their campaign. Most candidates for local municipal offices spend relatively small amounts on their campaigns, but there are always campaigns that exceed that threshold. Newly elected Joliet City-Councilman at Large Don “Duck” Dickinson for instance, raised $9,560 and spent a little over $8,200. Two incumbents on the Joliet council also reached that threshold. Jan Quillman raised and spent over $8,000 for her reelection bid. Mark Turk raised almost $20,000 and spent about $13,000. The last Joliet mayoral election in 2015 exceeded $200,000 in expenditures. It was the costliest election in Joliet’s history. That’s unusual in Will County, except in Bolingbrook.
Campaign promises are easily made when a candidate seeks a political office and often times those promises are forgotten after the election results are in. Usually they are forgotten because they are verbal in nature and the candidate who gets elected didn’t put them in writing for someone to follow-up. Two years ago, Bob O’Dekirk was elected Mayor of Joliet. Once in office, he put together a transition team that actually published a report that could be gathering dust on a shelf. It’s never mentioned in a formal sense, but I pulled it out to see if any of the findings are being considered in practice. The report was summarized into a top ten list. I was interested to see if any of the ten priorities were being worked on. Some have progressed to being worked on and some remain in the “not yet” category. For instance, one finding suggested a Department of Senior Services should be created along with an initiative for a youth-senior interaction program that would mentor youth programs. Interesting idea, but that seems more like what parents and grandparents provide for their own family. Nothing so far has happened with that and probably shouldn’t anyway. Another item that hasn’t seen any formal movement is the idea of streamlining basic government operations. I’m not sure what that means. In the report, it is coupled with the concept of redeploying casino revenue from day-today operations to support future economic growth and development. Seems that is happening anyway, because casino revenue continues to decline every year and it is no longer revenue that can be depended on for daily operations.
When you read this week’s column, election results are known and probably analyzed as to why the small number of voters who turned out, chose candidates who won. Usually, incumbents are returned to the office they ran for and most referendums are defeated. How do I know this the day before results are known? History tells us so. Incumbents are reelected about 90 per cent of the time. Referendums are usually defeated unless it’s the second or third time they’ve been offered to voters. Finally, only a small percentage of registered voters will cast a ballot. The precinct I vote in, for instance, has approximately 1400 eligible voters. During last November’s election, approximately 1000 people voted. Presidential elections typically draw about 75-80 per cent of registered voters. Local elections, like this one, usually generate about 12-15 percent of the voters eligible. That equates to less than 200 votes at my polling place in Joliet. I was number nine when I voted at 9:30 Tuesday morning. That doesn’t count anyone who voted early, absentee or by mail. One possible reason for low voter turnout is the fact that elections occur quite often. How often? They occur annually. We just had an election this last November. Here it is five months later and another election. The next one? March 2018 will be the Primary Election for Republicans and Democrats to choose who will be on the ballot in November of 2018. The following April, 2019, will be for local races again. In Joliet, we’ll be voting for Mayor and five City Council District members. The campaigning for political office never stops.
A little over two weeks ago, Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, was granted emergency powers to close a business for up to seven days. As previously reported the term “emergency” was not defined. The stated reason for the action was police had a difficult time making arrests and controlling criminal activity on private business property. It was also noted at the time, that street cops were “clamoring” for the ordinance giving the mayor the power to close businesses that made controlling criminal activity so difficult. The police were again thrust into the limelight this last week by Michael DeVito, President of the Joliet Fraternal Order Police Union. He addressed the mailing of a political campaign letter by a candidate for City Council, Rachel Ventura, to a number of police officers at their residences. The nature of the letter was apparently a rebuttal of information previously given to union members that was misleading, in the opinion of the candidate. The contents of the letter were not being disputed by the union official. What DeVito questioned was how candidate Ventura obtained the mailing list.
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.