Joliet City Council Candidate Suzanna Ibarra Interview
It’s not about titles, it’s about purpose is something Suzanna Ibarra deeply believes in. She is a City of Joliet Precinct Committeewoman, 3rd Vice Chair of the Will County Democratic Executive Board, Chairwoman of the Will County Progressives, and Co-Chair of Our Revolution Illinois State Organizing Team. Suzanna cares deeply about her community and takes great pride in tripling voter turnout in her precinct during her reign as Precinct Committeewoman District 29. She has deep concerns about the warehouses in Joliet, the environment, providing first responders support they need, helping the disabled, and bringing a large grocery store to the southeast side of Joliet.
Guzman: Suzanna thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. You are running for Joliet City Council District 5.
Ibarra: Thank you so much for the opportunity. I greatly appreciate it. I am a lifelong resident of Joliet and have been involved politically for the last four years. I want to make a positive change in the City of Joliet.
Guzman: What do you feel are the most pressing issues in Joliet and especially in your district?
Ibarra: My district has issues with affordable housing. The warehouses are a big issue with the roads being torn up with all the increased truck traffic. My district has the truck stop issue which my neighborhood has tried to fight because of the overpass over 80. There is a homeless issue, a heroin issue and disparaging differences between the west side and east side of the district.
Guzman: The increased truck traffic on the far southside of Joliet because of all the warehouses has and continues to damage our roads making them unsafe. CBS channel 2 reported Interstate 80 over the Des Plaines River was in such bad shape it may need to close. What can we do?
Ibarra: I have a great idea. This is one of the first ideas I came up with after I decided to pull for City Council 5. We have a huge intermodal area in the district. 3.5% of the US GDP goes out right here in this area. We have fortune 500 Companies who we need to be making better agreements with. Instead of huge half a million-dollar tax abatements, all the exceptions we are giving them to come here I feel like we have something that they want by having this hub here. We have a rail system, we have the largest inland port. Everything that we have here is set up to have businesses come here. If we had community benefit agreements those would be ideal situation. Those would include money for the parks, infrastructure, roads, bridges, water, all the issues we have right now. If we had those agreements and the fortune 500 companies can definitely afford that. I believe Amazon paid zero in taxes last year. I know plenty of Joliet residents who paid thousands of dollars. It’s the agreements that we need to be making because I feel like we have something they want here in Joliet by having this hub, it’s not the other way around.
Guzman: You mentioned the poverty and drug epidemic in District 5. What can we do to lesson those effects and give people hope? More jobs would really help.
Ibarra: I believe development needs to continue and that’s of all sorts. I also believe we need to make agreements to allow our warehouses to unionize. That’s a huge issue because those warehouses employ thousands and thousands of workers. A good percentage of those jobs are not permanent. We need to bring permanent jobs and allow workers unionize. There are some warehouses in Chicago Heights that are unionized. If we allow those workers to unionize it is a proven fact by having more union jobs you elevate the social floor of the entire economy. That’s how you boost an economy. People having permanent jobs they don’t have to have two or three jobs. They don’t need to have a warehouse job and another night job. They have a job where they can support their family and take them out for a night at the movies, out to eat. When you have good permanent jobs and I believe the unions can unionize those warehouses. I believe when they do that it will elevate the economy for sure. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We had a huge boost in unions here in the 60s and 70s. It really elevated a lot of people’s lives by having these unions. I actually think what can happen is not a heavy lift. There are certain ways of doing it. One can be a card check where they just go in take a vote to see how many workers want to do it.
Guzman: You come from a union family.
Ibarra: Yes, my dad was Labor Local 75. My grandpa was Labor Local 75 my brother was 75. I been around union jobs my whole life. My dad was very involved in union politics. I grew up around that. Everything we had good growing up in my life was because my dad was in a union. My mom was very involved in bringing Afscme to the Will County Health Department. During her 30 years at the Will County Health Department she would go out on her lunch and on her breaks picket for that union, which they were successful in bring Afscme to the Will County Health Department. I grew up around unions and politics my entire life.
Guzman: You feeling strongly about the need to take bold action against climate change. What are your ideas confronting that challenge and what can we do as a city?
Ibarra: The Joliet City Council passed the greenest region compact. Those are line items that you can cross off to make your city more environmentally friendly and a healthier place to live. The idea with that is to have someone to push to aggressively pursue each one of those line items. The fact that it is passed is just ceremonial. As far as how fast they pursue those items that is completely up to the council. I would like to see those items aggressively pursued. The environment is in trouble. We have about 12 years to turn it around. There are a lot of ways to do that.
Guzman: The Joliet Patch recently published an article stating over 60 shooting victims last year in the city. What is the current state of the Joliet Police Department?
Ibarra: I think there need to be a lot more advanced training for our first responders specifically when it comes to police involved shootings. There needs to be more training, more strategies used so that loss if life is the last and final course of action. I would like to see more community policing. The faces of the people that patrol your neighborhood should be very close to the level of diversity of the neighborhood itself. When people see more faces that look like theirs they feel more comfortable and confident with their officers.
Guzman: How do you feel about the eight districts?
Ibarra: I think it’s such a good idea and I love that. If you look at this district that I’m running in for example it goes from some of the poorest neighborhoods in Joliet all the way to some of the nicest neighborhoods backed up all the way to Shorewood. I see despairing differences between the eastside and the westside. The eastside if definitely suffering. I feel if we had eight equal districts it would keep focus on certain part of the district. I honestly think that District 4 and 5 have pretty much the same issues but if we go a little further west the Reedwood area has completely different issues than the Cathedral Area. The Mary Crest area has completely different issues than the area of Houbolt Road. They all have different and unique set of trouble that they need help with. If we had eight equal districts the districts would be smaller and easier to manage.
Guzman: If we moved toward eight equal districts what should happen to the three at-large council seats?
Ibarra: I feel the at-large seats are just practice for being the mayor. If you are at-large you take care of the whole city and this is a huge city. I honestly do not know how the at-large do that. That is a huge outreach and this city is amazingly large. I would like to see them phased out. I would like to see eight equal districts. The districts would be smaller and easier to manage.
Guzman: You speak of bold ideas. Name one of your ideas that you feel can really move the City of Joliet forward.
Ibarra: Community benefits agreements that’s a huge idea. Not something that happens overnight. I did meet with some of the heads of economic development at the City of Joliet. I started that conversation already and got a pretty good reception to it. It just takes one person to start the conversation and push it. The community is going to see that if Amazon has paid zero in taxes and they have paid thousands of dollars in taxes what’s wrong with this picture here? Our roads are falling apart and they are using our roads for their trucks. I consider that to be a bold idea. I am also very interested in gardening. I been gardening now for more than 30 years. I thought it would be a great program to institute. Maybe we can even find some federal or state grant money for gardening. I do my garden every year, cost about $30, and something that could be easily taught. I could teach that myself. I have plenty of time and opportunity to do all of the things that need to be done in my district. Be a person who is easily reachable and accessible. My interests are not business interests. My interests are the voters and everyday citizens. The small businesses that would like to see a change in the City of Joliet.
Guzman: It has been documented the City of Joliet is running out of water and we will need to find a new water source soon. What are your thoughts?
Ibarra: We have to be very careful about the decisions we make. There are currently three alternate sources of water being looked at. A study is being done. Three of those sources are going to be presented very shortly that’s phase 2. I did meet with Allison Swisher the Head of the Water Department a couple of weeks ago who did tell me that the alternate sources were the Kankakee River and Lake Michigan. I’d done a lot of studies on that and the issue is if we outsource from Lake Michigan then the City of Chicago will control the price we charge for our water. There are 18,000 residents right now from another municipality that are without water because they can not afford water. We need to keep the source that we go with keep it in the hands of the City of Joliet to keep it affordable, accessible, and that our water is safe to drink. You use water for everything that you do in life. To bathe, wash clothes, cook, drink, we definitely want to make sure none of our residents have to do without water because they cannot afford it. The decisions that are going to be made at the council level are some of the most important decisions that we have recently made. Safe, accessible, affordable drinking water is definitely one of them. I would like to be there to fight for all of those things.
Guzman: What do you like to do for fun?
Ibarra: I love to sing, but I’m not very good at it. I love to do karaoke. I love music. My passion is definitely gardening. I love to garden. I also like to see movies. I like to go to events all over Joliet. Some of the most amazing events are some of the lowest cost. I went to a very nice Art from the Ashes presentation at the Joliet Historical Museum. Five dollars and I had a great night. There was food and entertainment. There are so many things to do around Joliet and plenty of things that are very affordable. Me and my daughter love to go to the parks and we go to Pilcher Park all the time. We like to take our dog. I have a small dog named Panda Marie that is a rescue. I love nature, I love animals. I love the festivals in the summer in downtown Joliet. Including You Festival, Fiesta En La Calle, the festivals are always fun. New Orleans North where a bunch of people get together listen to music, enjoy each other’s company, meet some new people and have a have a nice time in the downtown area.
Guzman: Early voting has started and the election is April 2nd. Why should the voters of the City of Joliet District 5 vote to make Suzanna Ibarra their next Councilwoman?
Ibarra: Everything I’ve touched I’ve made better. Ever since I was very young anything I got involved in I get involved to a thousand percent of my ability. I am highly motivated. I have bold ideas and get results. If you keep electing the same people you are going to get the same thing. I am chair of the Will County Progressives. I am Co-Chair of Our Revolution Illinois State Organizing Team, 3rd Vice Chair of the Will County Democratic Executive Board, I am a Joliet Precinct Committeewoman. Everything that I have done has not been for one dime. It’s been volunteer. My passion for my community, my passion for my city, I would like to make a positive change. I am highly motivated. I have a lot of bold ideas and I do get real results. If you keep electing the same people you are going to get the same thing. If you want to see a change in Joliet you will elect someone new. I am motivated, almost never sleep. I am very personable and not afraid to talk to anyone. Attracting new business, attracting the kinds of things we would like to see this this area especially the eastside of district will not be a problem for me. I have plenty of time to dedicate to the residents of the City of Joliet. They really deserve someone who can do this full-time, opportunity to address all their concerns, and to make a change in this district.