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Joliet remedying city flag displays; proper ceremony, lighting in works

Discussion of an improper display of flags located across the city of Joliet prompted elected officials to take action in support of veterans and their service to the nation.

The matter, addressed last week by the Joliet City Council, puts plans in motion to take down and replace worn out flags and provide solar lighting, after testimony provided at the meeting brought concerns to light.

Wayne Horne, of Joliet, was one several members of the community who spoke of concern for the city’s flag display.

“I requested more than two weeks ago that the flags be removed out of respect, until it can be properly illuminated or can be raised and lowered properly each day,” he said. “Any flags that are not in serviceable condition and they’re displayed by the city should be removed, if they’re not in serviceable condition. I am not up here to be the flag police, but I know veterans believe proper respect for the flag is a civic responsibility. It is a symbol of our country and should command the highest respect from display.”

Horne, a veteran of the United States army, refuted the idea that state and federal codes are being followed.

Horne said he’s proud to know Joliet took on the effort to display and honor the nation’s patriotism but further city action is needed.

“I am unaware of any other city in Illinois that has such displays that were built solely by the municipality,” he said. “In doing so, we took on the responsibility to maintain the highest level of respect for the display, not to quote, ‘do the minimum required to comply.’”

Mayor Bob O’DeKirk agreed.

“You’re right when the city built those pavilions we took on the responsibility,” he said. “This will be corrected.”

Councilwoman Brooke Hernandez Brewer said officials have been working to resolve the issue.

“We were talking about it and I thought it would be a good idea if we got the locations of each of those flags,” she said. “We could find the nearest VFW and ask for a few volunteers that would be willing to take responsibility for that flag, so that is at half-mast when it should be. I believe that’s something that would be beneficial to our veterans and appreciated by them.”

O’DeKirk said the other issue is that if they’re not properly lit, that flags should be lowered at dusk and raised at dawn.

“I know this is a touchy issue,” he said. “There’s veterans here; there’s a Gold Star Mom here. This is something we have to make a commitment we’re going to get right. If the solar lamps don’t work, then we’re going to install electricity or we’re going to take the American flags down. I think it means a lot to people in the community especially veterans.”

Fire Chief Joe Formhals said he apologizes if veterans feel slighted.

“As far as the monument flags go, the fire department goes out and lowers those to half-mast when we get the proclamations,” he said.

Formhals, noting that staff might miss one occasionally, said more times than not they are diligent about going to the different monuments and lowering them to half-mast.

Hernandez Brewer said she would prefer to ask for lighting if the city is able to get it.

Denise Meehan, of Joliet, is a Gold Star Mother who said she’s dismayed the matter hasn’t already been resolved.

“When your child comes home and that flag is their last blanket, I assure you we take the flag very seriously,” she said. “Honor and respect for the flag is one of the most important symbols and signifiers of the honor and respect that we have for the fallen and for all those currently serving.”

Meehan noted that Exxon Mobile is willing to provide the labor if the city will provide the equipment to light the flag. The cost of all the solar displays will amount to a little more than $5,000, she said.

Additionally, Meehan requested that flags be properly retired and replaced and solar lights installed immediately.

Councilman Larry Hug, noting that he thinks further city action is necessary, said he would propose that they put together an ordinance to budget for the purchase of lighting and replacement flags.

In doing so, the matter will move to the legislative committee later this month.

Councilwoman Jan Quillman said she would like for the city to take action on the matter immediately, not hold off.

“I think right now we need to get these lit, get the new flags, get the solar panels up now,” she said.

Joliet mayor encourages unity, not divisiveness, in the wake of national protests

Joliet Mayor Bob O’DeKirk is calling on the community to unify in the wake of national protests.

O’DeKirk said an issue came to his attention recently that needs to be addressed by the greater community as a whole.

“We had an incident a couple weeks ago where a local high school where students on the football team refused to stand up for the national anthem,” he said. “Then, I was called in the mayor’s office last Wednesday after the election. There was a Joliet grammar school where numerous students refused to stand up for the pledge of allegiance.”

O’DeKirk noted that it was a one-time incident. He said he knows there are a lot of patriotic people in Joliet.

“I think these young people are obviously misguided, but I think there needs to be some responsibility from all of us here—from parents, from teachers, school administrators, coaches and us on the council as elected officials,” he said. “I think this is an issue that could unite both the left and right wing of this country of democrats and republicans, that there has to be respect for the institutions of our country.”

O’DeKirk’s call for unity followed concerns raised last week at the Joliet City Council meeting concerning the American flag’s significance and what it means to people who have personally served or have lost ones near them that have served. He said when you stop and think about it, veterans’ service was meant not only to protect the country, but also protect the institutions of this country, whether it’s the constitution or the election process or the pledge of allegiance to the flag.

O’DeKirk said he believes the issue was corrected but could serve as a talking point for future discussion of race relations in the nation.

“I do think it’s an issue that needs to be talked about, not just by me as mayor,” he said. “I think other elected officials across the state and the country should start speaking up on this, or the news media to say to people in our society what is tolerable and what will not be tolerated.”

Joliet OKs pact with IDOT for Des Plaines River moveable bridge interconnect project

The Joliet City Council approved an agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation for the Des Plaines River moveable bridge project.

The pact formed last week will centralize operations of the Brandon Road, McDonough Street, Jefferson Street, Cass Street, Jackson Street and Ruby Street moveable bridges at the IDOT moveable bridge office by equipping the structures with up to 12 video cameras.

Joliet intends to utilize feeds of video surveillance for heath and safety purposes. To satisfy this aim, the city will install a communications vault on the outside of the moveable bridge office.

Funding for Joliet’s share of the project will be charged in the amount of $15,295 to IT hardware and software.

Joliet City Council advances plans for Chicago Street corridor design

Joliet is moving forward with plans to reconnect and redesign Chicago Street.

City officials unanimously approved a measure last week that allows them to work with Chicago Metropolitan Agency For Planning to begin phase I engineering and secure an $86,000 Local Technical Assistance grant.

The matter was last discussed in August during a Land Use committee meeting.

The design work includes public right of way improvements along Chicago Street between Washington Street and the Ruby Street bridge. City staff also integrated the redesign of Van Buren Plaza, which Joliet will pay for in the amount of $40,000, into this project.

Joliet officials plan on working with Ginkgo Planning and Design to prepare conceptual design alternatives to be vetted by stakeholders. Cost estimates will be developed for final designs, the city said.

The project will be paid for using the planning professional services budget.

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