JOLIET – If you live in Joliet and don't know it, you probably live in District Three.
This is the City Council district that goes west into Kendall County. Many residents have Plainfield addresses. Plainfield South High School is in District Three.
But the district stretches east to the corner of Jefferson Street and Essington Road and includes one of Joliet's most familiar landmarks – Memorial Stadium.
"Walking through the district, a lot of people don't realize they live in Joliet," said Ray Polikaitis, running to represent the district on the City Council.
Councilman John Gerl said it's become more rare for residents in the district not to recognize they live in Joliet. He noted the city has a fire station and police substation in District Three.
Gerl, the incumbent councilman for District Three, said city finances have stabilized in the last four years, and Joliet is operating with a reserve fund of more than $35 million and general obligation debt of less than $10 million.
"We have some of the lowest debt in the area," he said.
Gerl said the district's primary needs are more basic city services, including police and street improvements.
"For the past four years, I've been pretty adamant about returning to core services," he said.
His goals for another term include the creation of a "Joliet Center for Economic Development." Gerl said Joliet needs to work harder on economic development for certain areas, including the interchange of Interstates 55 and 80.
"I think right now as a city we really need to start marketing those places," he said. "I want to see us continue to promote the core services. I'd like to see us market ourselves a little better – brand ourselves and distinguish ourselves from other local communities."
The two candidates have raised issues about each other.
Gerl this week sent out a mailer saying Polikaitis has only voted in one city election in the last 15 years and that one was 10 years ago.
Polikaitis did not dispute the charge, but said his commitment is demonstrated by the time and effort he is putting into this election.
A resident of the Kendall County section of District Three, Polikaitis said he, like others, felt alienated from the city before he decided to run for council. "I felt enough is enough. It's time I be proactive," he said.
Polikaitis early on in the campaign said many residents in District Three do not know that Gerl is their councilman.
"He hasn't been walking the areas I've been in," Polikaitis said. "They don't know who this man is."
Gerl disputes the charge, saying he prides himself on attending meetings of home associations and other community groups.
Polikaitis said if elected he would hold monthly meetings with District Three residents.
"I believe this portion of the district does not get the attention it deserves from the city," he said. One of his goals would be to "try to engender more of a positive feeling about the city of Joliet" in the district.
Polikaitis said residents would like to see some of the same effort placed into downtown development directed to business development on the city's far West Side.
Both candidates are accountants. Polikaitis said his financial experience would help on the council. He said he would advocate for zero-based budgeting.