Joliet council has economic committee; OKs firefighters’ pact
BY Bob Okon bokon@stmedianetwork,com June 18, 2013 10:50PM
Updated: July 22, 2013 5:12PM
The Joliet City Council on Tuesday agreed to form an economic development committee amid a controversy over the mayor’s economic development committee.
The council also approved a three-year firefighters’ contract that freezes pay for two years before giving a 2 percent raise in the final year — modeled after other contracts with city unions that clamped down on pay raises after years of 4 percent increases for city workers. Both votes were unanimous.
Mayor Thomas Giarrante and council members said they believed the council’s economic development committee could work with the mayor’s panel of advisors.
“This committee will work, and I think it will work well with CARB (Mayor’s Committee to Attract and Retain Business),” Giarrante said while joining the rest of the council in approving the new council committee.
Giarrante formed CARB after being elected mayor in 2011, something he said he would do during his campaign. The group consists of business people and other citizens who advise the mayor on economic issues, but it got almost no attention until Giarrante mentioned recently that Corrections Corporation of America had presented an idea for an immigrant detention center to the panel months ago.
That news riled opponents of the detention center and even a couple of council members, who questioned why the company would make a presentation to CARB but not to the council at a public meeting. The presentation to CARB became a simmering issue from the detention center controversy after the plan for the center was dropped two weeks ago.
Councilman Larry Hug, who previously said he was “embarrassed” by the news of company representatives meeting with the mayor’s committee, proposed the council economic development committee. He said the committee would cooperate with CARB.
Hug made his comment after Councilman John Gerl said he hoped the new council committee would not become a rival to CARB.
“I don’t want to see competing interests,” Gerl said, noting that many of the business leaders in CARB should be helpful to the city. “I want to see the mayor and city council really start to utilize that CARB committee.”
As for the contract with International Association of Firefighters Local 44, it covers 150 rank-and-file firefighters and is retroactive to January. It provides no raise this year or in 2014 but has a 2 percent raise in 2015.
Local 44 approved the contract Monday. It comes months after contracts with the same economic provisions were reached with the firefighter supervisors’ union and two police unions.
“This is probably the first time in three decades that there hasn’t been a pay increase for the bargaining units, which I think is their recognition of the city’s financial situation,” City Manager Thomas Thanas said.
Two other contracts are pending, one with the city’s largest union — American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 440, which represents 250 city workers — and one with a small union of three building engineers that typically agrees to terms comparable with the Local 440 contract.