The workings of government are a common focus of most media outlets. This column, while not exclusive to any particular focus, is often looking at local government doings. Oftentimes the attention I put forth is from an outsider’s point of view regarding news happenings, thus the title of the column, “Wayne’s Words.” The idea is to point out pertinent information by using public information sites, various forms of media, and personal observation. In pursuit of that goal, I sometimes check past columns to see if certain issues have been resolved. A column I wrote December 11, 2014 concerned the 2015 budget being proposed at the time. The issue then involved insufficient budget revenue to pay for additional Neighborhood Oriented Policing Team (NOPT) personnel. After some discussion it was decided that money would be taken from another portion of the budget. That’s not unusual, in fact it’s done all the time in order to properly manage budgets. Where did it come from? The Fire Department overtime budget.
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.