City manager and activist swap complaints about ‘town meeting’
By bob okon firstname.lastname@example.org December 18, 2012 10:28PM
Updated: January 20, 2013 6:23AM
JOLIET — One of the activists opposed to the idea of an immigration detention center in Joliet this week criticized city council members who did not come to a community meeting, while the city manager called the event “offensive.”
“When your community requests and organizes, it’s kind of disappointing that you don’t (show up),” Alicia Morales told the council at its Monday workshop meeting.
Morales said another “town hall meeting” would be held on the topic and that she hoped more council members and Mayor Thomas Giarrante would attend.
A few council members said they had other commitments when the meeting was held on Thursday. The meeting was attended by three council members and City Manager Thomas Thanas.
Thanas was critical of how the meeting was conducted.
“It’s an unusual town hall meeting when you don’t want to hear the other side of the story,” Thanas said.
Speakers at the meeting all were opposed to idea of bringing a privately run immigrant detention center to Joliet. The meeting at times took on the appearance of a rally with the crowd of about 300 being encouraged to stand up an cheer for certain speakers.
“It really preyed on the fears of immigrants,” Thanas said. “I think it was very offensive.”
Thanas complained that while he had told organizers of the meeting that he was available, he was never invited to speak. Meanwhile, his name was mentioned by speakers critical of his meeting with U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement and Corrections Corp. of America to discuss the prospects of locating a detention center in Joliet.
“It was clear that I was just window dressing for the event,” Thanas said. “It was clear that I was there to be seen and not heard from. I was very frustrated by it.”
Morales later said that Thanas’ position on the detention center has been reported widely and that speakers at last week’s meeting were “reacting to his proposal. We want him and all of the city council and the mayor to hear from the community.”
Morales is among several people who have come to council meetings to speak against the detention center. She told the council that opponents may continue to come to their meetings.
“Now, you have to listen to what we have to say,” she said. “You won’t come to our meetings, we’re going to come and speak to you.”