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Local News

Joliet again eyes emergency powers for mayor to close businesses

JOLIET – The city again will consider a proposal to give the mayor emergency powers to shut down businesses.

The mayor would be able to shut down food stores and other licensed businesses for up to seven days if continued operation is deemed a threat to the welfare of the community, according to the ordinance amendment.

The Joliet City Council Land Use and Legislative Committee will consider the proposal when it meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the planning conference room at City Hall. The committee last reviewed the ordinance in April 2016 when it was put on hold.

Questions at the time included whether the authority should be placed with the mayor or a city administrator. The committee also suggested a definition of what constitutes a threat to community welfare.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said he has not sought the authority to take away business licenses but believes the issue arose out of the police department.

“I think the police are in favor of this,” O’Dekirk said Monday. “That’s the genesis of this.”

The mayor now has the authority to shut down liquor establishments in his role as liquor commissioner. But he has no role in other business licenses.

The amendment was first proposed last year at a time when the city was investigating a drug deal that was connected to an employee at a neighborhood grocery store. There have been no changes to the amendment that was proposed nearly a year ago.

“That’s how it was proposed, so if there’s any committee discussion we’ll consider it at that time,” City Attorney Marty Shanahan said Monday.

Shanahan said there was no particular incident that prompted reconsideration of the amendment. But it had been “in the hopper,” and it was time to take another look at the proposal, he said.

He did note that there has been a change in committee membership.

“There’s since been a change of committee members,” Shanahan said. “Before we send it back to the full council, we want clarification from the committee members.”

Most of the questions raised came from former Councilman Jim McFarland, who resigned in September.

McFarland was replaced by Councilwoman Brooke Hernandez Brewer, who was appointed by O’Dekirk with the approval of the city council and sits on the land use and legislative committee.

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