With the consolidated election less than four weeks away, Joliet’s mayoral candidates Wednesday discussed their top priorities if elected, including the continuation of major development projects, improved public safety, civic pride and stronger collaboration with constituents in the city and beyond.
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk along with challengers Terry D’Arcy and Tycee Bell each attempted to make their case for why voters should put them in Joliet’s top elected office. The panel was hosted by the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry and held at the Clarion Hotel and Convention Center in Joliet.
Bell, D’Arcy and O’Dekirk are on the April 4 consolidated election ballot.
The candidates were asked about their top three priorities.
Bell said her top priorities were neighborhood infrastructure improvements, investing in pride in Joliet and safety in the city.
“I want to definitely think about investing in safety and how we can do that together,” Bell said.
D’Arcy said his priorities were improved safety and health in Joliet, long-term comprehensive planning and restoring communication with residents, neighboring communities, state and federal officials.
“We’re the brightest star in the state of Illinois of 102 counties right now and we need to take advantage of that,” D’Arcy said.
“This is the first real effort to try to draw the truck traffic on the east side around intermodal, to try and draw it off of local roads and give trucks a direct way in and out of the intermodal,” O’Dekirk said of the Houbolt Road Bridge project.
The candidates were supportive of development along the Route 53 corridor but had different ideas on how to approach it.
O’Dekirk said he also supports those projects, but the city itself cannot build an airport or an expressway because those are done at the state and federal level. He noted former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner killed the Illiana Expressway project, and Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker has not show interest in reviving it.
When it came to the issue of Centerpoint, O’Dekirk once again said the railroad yards inside it constitute the largest inland port in the North American continent. He said the intermodals there are growing and the development around the area will continue.
“What’s critical and I think what we’ve done, you’ve seen in the last three or four years, is to try to maintain these developments. Not simply send it away to another city, but do so in a responsible manner,” O’Dekirk said.
All three candidates said they support free parking in downtown Joliet.
“Parking needs to be easy, painless and free,” Bell said. “I think we can all agree.”
For public safety, Bell brought up other ways to address the issue, such as more lighting and more sidewalks in some areas in the city. She said safety also can be improved by addressing access to education, improving neighborhood safety and sanitation, and improving access to food.
“If we give people a safe place, or an opportunity to get food, they will feel better about making those choices for their family members,” Bell said.
D’Arcy recommended more neighborhood-oriented policing and expanding the use of Flock and Ring doorbell cameras. He said there’s a way for the city to “tie into everyone’s Ring cameras.”
“If there’s something going on in an area of the city, they can fire right into that, they can see immediately what’s going on and try to avert any problems,” D’Arcy said.
O’Dekirk said there was an exodus of veteran police officers following the social unrest and anti-police sentiment in 2020, but Joliet has managed to hire more than 70 new police officers.
“What we need to do and what we have done is focus on attracting candidates, qualified candidates and hiring them and I think our city has done a great, great job doing that,” O’Dekirk said.