Joliet Council continues to press for more powers
By Bob Okon bokon@stmedianetwork August 20, 2013 10:16PM
Updated: September 22, 2013 6:43AM
JOLIET — Joliet City Council committee rules and membership have become increasingly dramatic matters at city hall as some council members wrestle with the mayor for political power.
Mayor Thomas Giarrante won one and lost one this week, as the council debates on committees took controversial turns for two nights in a row.
Giarrante was successful Tuesday in appointing himself as chairman of a new economic development committee that also includes council members Larry Hug and Michael Turk.
The council in July rejected the mayor’s appointees to the committee after Giarrante left out Hug even though it was Hug’s idea to form the panel. This time, Giarrante pulled Councilwoman Jan Quillman’s name off the short list, saying Quillman failed to support the appointments last time around.
“I think what you’re doing is ignoring the will of the council,” Councilman Robert O’Dekirk told the mayor, saying Giarrante should not have appointed himself.
Giarrante responded that he should be on the committee because he works on economic development matters with the city manager.
In the end, the committee membership was approved by a 4-2 vote, with two council members voting “present.” Hug voted present, saying later that he did not want to vote against himself or the committee but questioning how committed the mayor was to the committee.
Hug said that in a conversation, Giarrante described the new committee as “overkill” that would duplicate the mayor’s Committee to Attract and Retain Business. Giarrante differed, saying he was concerned that the new committee would take on work previously done by the land use committee and city plan commission.
All of which may seem to be petty bickering to an outside observer but does reflect an increasing jockeying for position on the city council.
Council members previously persuaded Giarrante to create a committee to review matters at the Housing Authority of Joliet, which gives the council a new voice on housing agency matters that traditionally were left in the mayor’s hands.
On Monday, at a pre-council meeting, Councilman Jim McFarland called for a new rule that would allow two members of any committee to call a meeting without the chairman’s permission.
Giarrante resisted that, saying, “it’s the authority of the chairman to call the meetings.” He also wondered “if we’d have this discussion if Councilman McFarland was chairman of a committee, which he is not.”
The council backed McFarland’s proposal with a 7-2 vote, and McFarland got in a jab of his own, saying the new rule simply puts in writing a past practice that he described as “inside baseball.”