Joliet Mayor Terry D’Arcy started as mayor with a cleaner slate than he would have liked, saying he walked into an office emptied of almost everything but the American flag.
Looking back last week at his first 100 days in office, D’Arcy said one of the biggest surprises was his first day when he found all files – even the file cabinets – had been removed. Computer files, too, were deleted.
“All information was gone,” D’Arcy said, although city staff has been able to retrieve many of the computer files since.
Even the furniture had been moved out, although four flags that stand in the Joliet mayor’s office were still standing.
“What it’s done is it’s given me so many surprises that came at me that I didn’t know about that we should have known about so we could give them immediate attention,” he said.
Former Mayor Bob O’Dekirk did not return a phone call seeking comment on how his office was cleared out.
One of the biggest issues facing City Hall these days is something D’Arcy said was delivered to him on three days notice: a redevelopment agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Riverwalk Homes housing complex, formerly Evergreen Terrace.
“I was told on June 6 that I had to sign something on June 9 or we’d be in violation of the agreement,” D’Arcy said.
The mayor said he refused to sign without more information. He has been able to push back a decision by going to HUD and state officials and asking for more time.
Meanwhile, D’Arcy said he has been making headway on other issues raised in the campaign or that emerged since taking office.
Councilman Larry Hug, who has been at odds with D’Arcy over some issues and was an O’Dekirk supporter, said D’Arcy “is giving it his best.”
“It’s only been just over three months,” Hug said. “This is his first attempt at governing. I think he admits himself that he’s still learning.”
D’Arcy during the campaign for the April election said he wanted a city manager search, and Joliet is doing one.
Former City Manager James Capparelli resigned before the search started, and Rod Tonelli, a private consultant, has become interim city manager. Some view Tonelli as having the inside lane as a D’Arcy favorite.
“That’s not the case,” D’Arcy said. “I want the best CEO the city can bring in – the best city manager with knowledge about about operating cities like ours.”
D’Arcy said he also wants to bring back the deputy city manager position, which Joliet has had off and on over the years.
D’Arcy wanted a contracted attorney to come in as interim city attorney as Joliet looks for a replacement for Sabrina Spano, who left in July. The move faced opposition, and D’Arcy broke what was a tied council vote to bring in Todd Greenburg at the rate of $6,000 a week.
But D’Arcy said he wants the city to hire more in-house lawyers to bring back certain work, especially traffic cases, that the city has been contracting out for years.
After O’Dekirk during the campaign announced plans to redevelop the the long vacant U.S. Steel property for a car recycling operation, D’Arcy said the city should instead convert the site into a recreational location.
He suggested a Bo Dome, referring to friend Bo Jackson, who played both major league baseball and in the NFL, who has a business in youth sports complexes.
The council turned down the car recycling plan and no proposal has come forward for a sports complex.
But D’Arcy said he has had " a couple of conversations” with the head of real estate at U.S. Steel about converting the land to recreation: “His comment was, ‘I think we can work with you on that.’”
Youth and violence
The “43,000 people under the age of 19″ in Joliet were often mentioned during the campaign by D’Arcy, who said they need more attention from the city.
The one proposal that has come forward is the creation of a committee to address youth violence. The idea actually was prompted by the Non-Violent Cities Project-Joliet after Antoine Shropshire, 16, was gunned down in a city park.
D’Arcy said the city police and fire chiefs are spearheading the creation of a non-violence project.
“We’ve got community leaders that want to get involved,” he said.
During his campaign, Darcy, like many candidates for city council over the years, said Joliet needs to improve its appearance, especially at entry points into the city.
Nothing’s been done yet, but the mayor said it’s being worked on.
“We have some drawings on what we can do to enhance the entrances,” he said. “We’re looking at every entry point to the city.”
Preparing for the future
D’Arcy said he doesn’t want the City Council to have to react to surprises, pointing to his own experience on the Riverwalk Homes project as the wrong way to do things.
“The mayor I want to be is the mayor where everyone knows what’s going on before it’s sprung on them,” he said. “I want the City Council meetings to be proactive.”