With all the hoopla surrounding Chicago and its politics, it is easy to forget that there are many other important elections all over the Chicago Metropolitan Area. One really big one is in Joliet. Naturally, this election affects me personally. Of course these are strictly my endorsements and I am not involved in anyone's campaign, but I do have some preferences. First off, I believe we desperately need a change in Joliet, particularly on the far west side which has been largely ignored. We need some new blood in District 1 and 3 as well as a proactive mayor. The council seats, though, are a little more difficult based on the number of candidates running, but, I definitely wouldn't go with any of the incumbents in those two far west districts. As I see it, that would just be asking for more of the same old, same old. What we really need is representation!
Joliet politics has many similarities to that of Chicago; a long time mayor, Art Schultz has decided to step down creating a wide-open election. And like Chicago, the next mayor will have to deal with falling revenues, an increase in city payroll as well as having to renegotiate their collective-bargaining contracts. Residents, meanwhile, will have to decide if they want Schulz' personal pick Tom Giarrante, to succeed him or someone that will work for the whole city. Hopefully, it will be the latter since Joliet politics has had its own issues with a good ole boys rubber-stamp club that strangely mimics King Richie II and the Chicago City Council. So as it goes, Joliet must decide whether they want to shape a brighter future or if they prefer to break the city bank with business as usual?
As a resident of Joliet, I sure hope the people will choose a new direction, one that is built on transparency and a willingness to serve the entire city. Joliet, you see, had grown by leaps and bounds during the housing boom, especially on its far west side. The far west side bears Plainfield postal addresses, but don't kid yourselves - we are every bit within Joliet's corporate limits and we have the tax bills to prove it. Sometimes, though, they must really think we do live in Plainfield proper for as often as we see city services around here.
Although we pay higher taxes, on average, than those in the older part of town - we get less services per tax dollar. And because the city is down some 35-50 policemen, we also get far less regular police patrols than in other parts of the city. Hell, sometimes we even get a woefully long response time when 9-1-1 is called. That, of course, is unacceptable.
Since living here, I had tried to address those, and other, concerns with our former councilman Anthony Uremovic, however he also taught at Joliet Junior College and he would plan his return calls between classes, I think, in an effort to keep the conversation short. Either way, those calls never resulted in any improvements. Uremovic, like Mayor Schultz, has decided not to run again, but, he decided to resign a number of months early which gave the outgoing mayor the opportunity to appoint John Gerl as the incumbent for our district.
Sounds like Chicago, huh? Of course, that is an old trick but generally an effective one. My only hope is that there is a large turnout for once on the far west side and a flat out rejection of the way it was. Therefore, I urge people not to vote for Gerl. I personally do not like the idea of any hand-picked successors being chosen to align the city council one last time. We have been victimized enough with inattentiveness in District 3. I believe, that Richard Rodriguez would make a better representative for the west side than John Gerl.
As I alluded to above, Tom Giarrante is another "chosen by Schultz" candidate, but he is running for mayor. I am sorry, I have to use the same logic as above, we have been victimized enough since Giarrante was a sure vote for Art Schultz while serving as city councilman. There is only one current council member that has worked for the residents of the far west side consistently, and that is Jan Quillman.
Jan Quillman is an at-large councilwoman and it was her that I had contacted when Anthony Uremovic couldn't find the time to address my, or my neighbors, concerns. Jan Quillman has always found the time to respond and act whenever I have called. Unfortunately, many of those entrenched in the city council view her as a rebel. However, I view her as our Lone Ranger and because of that she deserves the opportunity to lead Joliet, at least for the next term. The fact that the "club" tries to keep Quillman at bay tells me that she is being proactive, not only that - she has not been a rubber stamp. She believes in a cooperative environment but will not hesitate to insist on a forensic audit, if elected, to show the taxpayers where the money comes from and where it is being spent.
That is something I can embrace. I don't always see eye to eye with Quillman, but, she has never once ducked a question regarding her vote or explaining why her vote was the way it was. That shows me she is not only an independent thinker. but she is a leader willing to stand up for a principle, even if it angers her constituency from time to time. I respect that.
In another far west side election, we have the incumbent councilman from District 1, Joe Shetina. There are six challengers besides him running. District 1, like District 3 has been ignored over and over again. Meanwhile, Shetina has proven to be a staunch ally of outgoing Mayor Schultz, and that my friends, tells us that that needs to change. Art Schultz may have improved "Downtown," but don't the residents in other areas deserve a fair shake for their tax money? The residents of the far west side want their streets cleaned in a timely manner, just as much as Downtown, and I don't think we should have to call and complain about it before someone comes by. Police patrols are woeful, as is the snow plowing. The far west side is literally last for every city service and if a Joe Shetina can't get that changed, given his long association with Schultz, well, then it is time for him to go. Besides, that district is adjacent to mine and if they don't get service, then we don't either.
District 1 is a tough call however. Like I said, there are six challengers, besides Joe Shetina. They are: IIona Vaughn, Larry Hug, Vanessa Romeo, James Lipinski, Donald West and Steve Cammack. Quite frankly the first five are too inexperienced from what I have been able to gather on the Internet or local newspapers. That is not to say their hearts aren't in the right place, but I think the district will need someone capable of stepping right into the fire. Given that, I believe that would make Steve Cammack a good choice.
Steve Cammack was elected to the Plainfield Township Board in 2009, has served on the Joliet Plan Commission and is actively involved with the Illinois Special Olympics since 1996, which is admirable. Most important, though, Steve Cammack understands working with taxpayer money and budgets as a member of the Plainfield Township Board. That Board, by the way, has figured out how to stay in the black and produce a surplus. So, enough said.
So, there is my analysis in an election that involves me personally. As they say, all politics is local and as much as I write about my longtime, former home of Chicago and its' politics, it is time to drop an article or two on an important election where I now reside. The politics are much the same, so we do need to look for candidates that will offer us forward thinking ideas while still holding the line fiscally. The taxpayer doesn't need any more burdens. It is a delicate balance for sure and Joliet, like Chicago, is at a precipice. I hope people come out in large numbers, especially on the far west side. Actually, they must come out.
Well, that's it for now. Here is a recap of my choices for Joliet and better representation on the city's far west side: Joliet Mayor - Jan QUILLMAN, District 1 - Steve CAMMACK, District 3 - Richard RODRIGUEZ. PLEASE VOTE!