New Joliet Mayor D’Arcy looks to next 4 years

Mayor took office on Monday

New Joliet Mayor Terry D’Arcy in his first week in office said he has not been persuaded that a youth sports complex cannot be built on the former U.S. Steel site.

“I’m an Ameri-can, not an Ameri-can’t,” D’Arcy said in an interview at City Hall this week, indicating that he will not give up on his campaign proposal to put a youth sports complex on Collins Street.

D’Arcy discussed what he’d like to see accomplished during his term as mayor.

Much of what he wants to see done already has been initiated but not completed.

One thing is a Des Plaines River levee that would take a large section of downtown Joliet out of a floodplain, which was created in 2019 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of a nationwide remapping.

“There are people paying flood insurance that shouldn’t have to,” D’Arcy said. “We need to flip the switch and make it happen.”

D’Arcy follows former Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who was able to get a number of things done, ranging from the construction of the Houbolt Road bridge to the arrival of an Olive Garden Restaurant that for years topped residents’ wish lists of businesses that they’d like to see.

One challenge for D’Arcy will be to show that he, too, can bring new development to Joliet.

“I still have my eye on a youth sports complex,” D’Arcy said when asked what he wants to see done in the next four years. “My first thought is the Collins Street property.”

O’Dekirk dismissed the D’Arcy proposal during the campaign, saying contaminated soil on the site makes it unfit for youth sports. It took eight years for O’Dekirk to develop a proposal for the U.S. Steel site. But the plan for a recycling complex for used auto parts was set back when the City Council in April tabled a vote on an auto salvage yard that was to be part of a future “eco-campus.”

The youth sports complex is not the first item on the D’Arcy agenda.

“First and foremost is a comprehensive long-term plan for the city,” he said.

The last long-term comprehensive plan for Joliet was done in the 1950s. The city was to be well on the way to developing a new one by now, but the project was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

D’Arcy said it needs to get done “to make sure what we do today and how it affects people 20 years from now is best for everyone in the city.”

A comprehensive plan, which is to be developed with community participation, could come to grips with ongoing city issues over where warehouses are going and the need for more commercial development on the east side.

D’Arcy said he also believes the city needs to reexamine residential zoning standards to create the kind of housing communities for 55-and-older residents that have been built in neighboring towns.

D’Arcy campaigned with a promise of more equitable development throughout all the neighborhoods of the city. Now, he has to find a way to deliver.

He said he will look to the City Council members who represent five districts in Joliet for guidance on what needs to get done.

“I’d really like the district council members to identify the most important needs in their district and get going on those things,” he said.

D’Arcy said he also will turn to City Council members for their views on the future of the city manager job.

City Manager James Capparelli, who was brought in with O’Dekirk’s backing, is working under his third short-term contract since being hired in January 2021. His current six-month contract expires in July.

Mayor candidate Terry D’Arcy talks to a guest at the Joliet Mayoral Candidate Panel luncheon hosted by the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, March 8th, 2023 at the Clarion Hotel & Convention Center Joliet.

During the campaign, D’Arcy said the city should open the job up to applicants while also giving Capparelli an opportunity to reapply.

“I need to talk one-by-one with council members about what to do next,” he said.

One thing D’Arcy said he will change by the next City Council meeting is that the mayor again will vote on every agenda item.

O’Dekirk when he took office changed that practice by voting only to break ties. D’Arcy noted that previous mayors voted on all items, and he will, too.

Although this is D’Arcy’s first elected office, he has served as an appointed member on a number of boards, including at the Illinois Toll Highway Authority, and it was customary for the board chairs to vote, he said.

Still unsure whether he could vote, D’Arcy did not at his first City Council meeting Tuesday.

“It almost felt strange,” he said, “for me to set in on that first meeting and not vote on anything.”