In what may be his crowning achievement as mayor of Joliet, Bob O’Dekirk has now succeeded in keeping the alley running behind the home of Cunningham Neighborhood Association President John Sheridan open for the last year and two weeks.
This is no small feat and O’Dekirk should be proud of himself. That said, it’s not as if he realized this accomplishment all by himself.
No, O’Dekirk certainly had help. You might even say he was aided and abetted in keeping the alley open.
First, he had Jim Hock, who was city manager from 2013 to 2017 and returned on an interim basis in August 2020, just in time to get the alley open again.
City Councilman Terry Morris once remarked that some may have suspected a prior interim city manager, Marty Shanahan, was merely the “mayor’s puppet.” If Morris was right about those people, imagine what they thought of Hock during his short stint as the interim.
Hock not only assisted in keeping the alley open, but also gave back 25 days’ pay to Joe Clement, a former police officer who was disciplined for lying about another officer. Coincidentally, according to Al Roechner, who was the police chief at the time, O’Dekirk lied about the same officer, accusing him of drinking on the job to the point of inebriation before blood and urine tests showed otherwise.
The alley was still open when O’Dekirk and the city council replaced Hock with Jim Capparelli, who came to the job having never before managed a city or town of any size, but was apparently well experienced as a crony of the mayor. Capparelli has kept the alley open as well, despite a city council committee approving a formal policy for closing it and any other Joliet alley. Capparelli pulled the policy off a city council agenda and it hasn’t found its way back on since.
At the time, Capparelli explained he was “concerned with citizens necessarily being able to, more or less, just close off alleys at their discretion and basically take some of that property which rightfully belongs to the citizens of Joliet.”
That concern is completely unfounded, but that hasn’t stopped Capparelli from keeping the policy off the council’s agenda.
It’s worth remembering why the alley was closed in the first place. Back in 2012, one end was blocked off to limit access to thieves and others who had been causing problems. Eight years later, O’Dekirk had the barrier removed. He said he took action after he “got a handful of complaints,” but has so far failed to identify any of the complainers.
Sheridan, a frequent critic of the mayor, said O’Dekirk’s was actually motivated by spite.
“It’s just vindictiveness by the mayor,” Sheridan said. “Everyone knows it. But no one wants to take him on.”
It’s hard to argue with Sheridan about that. It sure doesn’t look like anyone in a position of authority wants to cross the mayor, whether it’s the members of the city council or some of the last few city managers, or if it’s Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow or any of the various prosecutors he turns to when he feels squeamish about things.
At this point, you have to believe O’Dekirk could even walk right down Jefferson Street, grab somebody by the collar and drag him away if he felt like it, and no one would raise a finger to stop him.
• Joe Hosey is the editor of The Herald-News. You can reach him at 815-280-4094, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JoeHosey.