Candidate Interview: JR Patton; 6th Ward Alderman (Calumet City). In an interview with The Southland Journal, JR Patton, current 6th Ward Alderman of Calumet City, talked about his background, his life, and why he feels he’s the right man for the job. Dr Marlon Haywood is challenging JR Patton.
History & Life
JR Patton was born and raised in the Southland, first in Crete and then Chicago’s south side neighborhood of Beverly. He attended college at the University of Illinois, and finished up with a degree in Political Science from Eastern Illinois University. He is an avid Chicago Bears fan (Go Bears!) and enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. Since 2017, Patton has been partner and co-founder of a political consulting firm. He said that he has spent his entire adult life working on political campaigns. Patton was appointed to 6th Ward Alderman of Calumet City in 2017. He successfully ran for the unexpired portion of his term in 2019.
Working for Calumet City
Before being appointed as Alderman in 2017, Patton spent 4 years working for Calumet City. He credits this experience as a major reason why he should be re-elected as 6th Ward Alderman. The years he spent working for the city have provided him with what he called, “a vast wealth of experience.” Continuing, Patton stated that he “worked in every facet of the city government,” including spending 6 months as the Interim Director of Public Works, 1 year as acting Director of the Building Department, and finally as the city’s Purchasing and Personnel Director. In addition, Patton spent time working closely with the police department, fire department, city clerk’s office, and treasurer.
Patton stated that he would use that experience to look at issues that come before the council with a unique perspective, since he has seen how things work on both sides. He emphasized that he is the only council member or candidate who has spent time working inside the city. He says that he has full knowledge of how things work and how government functions.
Changes…Good and Bad
When asked about the changes in the city that he has seen since being appointed to the council, Patton described the challenges and successes of the city. He said that over the last 12-18 months, the city’s government has done well with economic development. They have worked to re-develop many vacant storefronts. He happily announced a new, innovative business: a vertical indoor farm. Patton emphasized that this farm would be able to provide residents and area stores with locally grown produce.
Moreover, Patton was excited to discuss the Blues Water Run Canoe and Kayak Park. According to Patton, Calumet City has secured about $2 million in funding to develop a new river walk and dog park. The proposed Blues Water Run Canoe and Kayak Park will span the area of Torrence Ave., south of Ring Road along the river. This project is slated to start in the spring.
Patton also brought a disappointing aspect of the economic fabric of Calumet City, and the Southland in general; the abandoned properties. He said that the number of abandoned and vacant homes is growing. Especially amid the COVID pandemic, more and more people are in danger of losing and abandoning their homes. On the other hand, he did mention that Calumet City has been working diligently to ensure that these properties do not become an eyesore, and more importantly, a danger to the community. Calumet City currently has a process in place to try and ensure the properties’ exteriors are maintained. Currently, any seemingly abandoned property get checked to see if it is a danger. Then, the property is boarded up and the grass is maintained. Any city-maintained property has a lien placed on it for the cost.
Patton was also excited to talk about bringing a grocery store to the 6th ward. According to Patton, there is a vacant former grocery store that has become blighted over the last 15-20 years. There hasn’t been any interest in developers or grocery stores to take on the damaged and outdated property. He worked with the city and Mayor Qualkinbush to get the building town down. There is now a vacant lot that can be shopped to potential developers. Patton said that the closest grocery stores to the 6th Ward are in Hammond and Munster. Bringing a grocery store to the 6th Ward would make sure that community tax dollars stay in the community.
What’s Next for Calumet City?
Patton was proud to speak about the new water delivery system coming to Calumet City in the coming years. Calumet City has put into motion their plans to stop relying on outside sources for water. He hope that in about 5 years, their new water delivery system will be in place.
Patton was also happy with recent efforts put into partnering with the Southland Water Agency. According to Patton, the Southland Water Agency would help to make it so that the south suburbs would no longer be reliant on Chicago and Hammond for water delivery. He said that this would allow for communities to set their own prices, making drinking water more affordable for residents. “The residents will ultimately win. If you look at the water rates in the south suburbs over the last 10 years, the rates have increased exponentially, because Chicago and Hammond set the rates. We have to pay what they charge.” He explained further by adding that they hope to get the water flowing in the next 5 years, and that the Southland Water Agency has secured nearly all the rights needed to move forward.
Furthermore, Patton was hopeful that Calumet City’s bid for the highly sought-after south suburban casino license would be approved. He said that it would, “be a huge win for Calumet City and for all of the surrounding communities.”
JR Patton; 6th Ward Alderman