Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Great Expectations

You drive a Lexus, Mercedes, Jaguar, or other expensive car. I am not going to ask you if it’s paid for or how much it cost. I’ll say it’s a great looking car and probably wish I could afford one similar. You live in a gorgeous mansion, I’ll tell you it too is beautiful and wish I could afford one similar, but I won’t ask you if it’s paid for or how you are going to pay for it. Not my problem or business!!

You administer or serve on the board of a public tax supported body and you have or want a beautiful building or complex, I, as a supporting taxpayer for this project, want to know how you are going to pay for it and how much of the cost will I bear. Then I would like the right to determine if it is something I want or is in great demand for my community, say perhaps a more modern school. The promoters tell me or tell the media how great the new project is and the media and I are eventually seduced. The media and the project promoters keep saying how much this needed and if we don’t build it, someone else will build it and we will be the big losers. We will be the same old town we were before all these people started saying “build it and they will come.”

Then of course it’s built and they do come but not enough numbers to meet the financial projections. The local taxpayer who supported it says, so what, I like it and I don’t mind paying more taxes. The local taxpayer who didn’t support it says, I don’t care how great looking it is, I didn’t want it, I didn’t think the community could afford it and now I find out that you can’t pay for it and you’re going to raise the fees on what I did want and do use, plus raising my property taxes to boot . The people who “come” will say it looks great & that they enjoy it. But the outsiders aren’t paying property taxes for these projects. The “out of the area” people (Think across the river or Dahinda) usually pay less to use the public project than the private project because the public project can lower admission fees. (Think RiverPlex) Public tax supported projects hardly ever go broke, because all the public project administrators need to do is raise taxes or sell new bonds when the project doesn’t meet their poorly thought out projections. When the private sector doesn’t meet projections, they usually go broke.

Of course I’m talking about Peoria. Let me list a few of the bigger projects that didn’t meet projections:
· An article in the JS on 8/31/04, said that the Peoria Chiefs Baseball team had projected attendance of 300,000 and with just three home games left have drawn 200,738. Looks like quite a miss! You say this was and is a private venture. Not quite. Ex-Governor Ryan and Illinois First put millions of dollars in this project. So did the City of Peoria. Where did this money come from? Taxes, of course!
· One Technology Plaza was highly touted by the developer and eventually the Peoria county Board bought space in this building for $940,325.00. They really didn’t need this space but the County Administrator recommended it and pressure was put on the County to cooperate with EDC, the City, the movers and shakers and the prominent developer. They cooperated and now that space sits empty because the project never lived up to its projections.
· I’ll pass on the RiverPlex for now with only these facts. Board member Jim Cummings said “if the RecPlex loses significant money, it could impair and limit current programs. Board President Tim Cassidy said the “RexPlex will be able to support its operations and up to 6,000,000.00 in public bonds and most, if not all, of the bonded indebtedness will be paid through RexPlex operations.” (Journal Star 3/21/99) Actually $10,000,000.00 in bonds was sold for the project and the RiverPlex, (New name because of adverse publicity, has never been able to cover all its operating costs and none of the bond repayment without selling new bonds. Did taxpayer dollars go into this project? How about approximately $4,700,000!! All of this is public information and I have the documentation to back every word said about the RiverPlex and I will some day publish the full story called “The Saga of The Riverplex.
· The highly touted Gateway Center. Missed projections to the tune of $500,000 a year. Ask your City Councilperson.
· Moral of this story. Just because it is beautiful, doesn’t mean we should have it to keep up with the larger cities. If you can’t afford it don’t do; it usually works well in the private sector. It’s called capitalism. Soon it may be called socialism in Peoria.
· For every failure to live up to expectations, there are success stories. Let’s hope the zoo expansion people have a better handle on how all this is going to be paid for and maintained than the above projects. Same for the Museum project and the Civic Center expansion. But don’t count on it. The track record isn’t looking very good for the property tax payer in Peoria.
I’ll sign off with this thought: “Facts do not cease to exist, because they are ignored.”

Words of Wisdom

“School performance can only be effectively and honestly measured by using a wide variety of factors, including, but in no way limited to, standardized test results” (Jay Rehak) Terry Knapp, please comment!

“As we’ve stated from the beginning, Edison is not the answer to public education. The answers are competition and accountability – which Edison and other have helped introduce. Inner city kids should not be written off – they that can, do and will learn if given the proper opportunity.” (Wall Street Journal) Listen up, Peoria.)

“If only Americans stayed out of casinos, quit buying foreign made cars, quit playing the lottery or stopped renting several movies a night, they might have enough resources to pay for such priority items as health care. Alas, people prefer to “invest” their money in entertainment and the like while wanting the government to be their parent” (Wyman Dickerson.) Surely, he is not talking about anybody in Peoria!!

“Even if Americans elected Michael Moore as president, O. B. Laden would remain implacable.” (Niall Ferguson) Niall, you mean those terrorists wouldn’t become puppy dogs and love us if we are smart enough to elect Michael or John & John?? Wow!

“The problem lies with the “extremist element that controls the Republican Party,” Holton said, “which has polarized this country.” (Statement by Virginia Holton former Virginia governor,” referring to “Come Back to the Mainstream” advertisements which moderate Republicans are starting August 31. (Amen)

“If we would learn what the human race is at the bottom, we need only observe it in election times.” (Mark Twain)

“It is important to note that the malpractice insurance companies indicate that the underwriting market has been highly unprofitable since 1995. Even if you include investment income this line of insurance has been unprofitable since 2000.” (Dr. Rida Boulos, Peoria, Il., 8/28/04, JS Opinion Saturday Forum). “Given that the typical obstetrician/gynecologist will be sued once for every three years in practice simply by virtue of our limited numbers and very high rate of unavoidable complications “Answer to John “Tort” Edwards’s platform of blaming the insurance companies for our medical problems.

“Drug companies currently spend upwards of $33,000,000,000.00 annually on R& D, (if you don’t know what that is don’t bother to read further), investing a far greater % of sales than any other industrial sector.” See “The Truth About Drug Companies by Marcia Angel”.

“As the wealthiest country in the world, you would expect us to pay a larger share of the tab for new prescription drugs.” (Letter by Jeffery Duncan in the Chicago Tribune.)

“What we spend clearing this land will come back to us many times ,through development and will prove to be a wise investment for the City” (Mayor Grieves in a Letter to the Editor, 3/21/99 talking about the ballpark and surrounding area.) Hmmmmm!!

John Kerry wants to raise taxes while he travels between his wife’s five mansions on a Gulfstream V jet. Her family fortune is worth an estimated $750,000,000.00 while paying an effective tax rate of only 15% on much of her income by using (legitimate) tax-avoidance provisions. (Forbes, 9/6/04.) Kerry says “sock it to those rich people, I’ve got mine.”

“Without question, we should disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime… He represents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculations…And now he is miscalculating America’s response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction…So the threat of S. H. with weapons of mass destruction is real ..! Sen. John F Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23,3003

Bed time! Talk with you tomorrow.


Monday, August 30, 2004

Zoo-illogical #2

Let’s dig a little deeper into the figures to support a $32,000,000.00 Glen Oak Zoo expansion. Let’s play with some figures: Current ticket prices are $4.75 for adults and $2.50 for children 3 years and up. Let’s say that after the zoo is expanded, adult prices go to $7.00 and children go to $3.50 and that attendance goes from 100,000 to 170,000. (These are figures given by Polly Barton in the 9/04 issue of the Peoria Woman – she should have a pretty good handle on it as she is co-chair of the Zoological Financial Campaign.) Figuring the 70,000 new visitors are halved 35,000 adults and 35,000 children, revenues would increase from $371,000.00 (2003) to approximately $895.000 the first year of the new expanded zoo. “The zoo has been traditionally heavily subsidized by the park and is expected to run a deficit of $400,000.00 this year.” (JS 4/24/04) If, the JS editorial in August of this year is correct, they support Polly Barton’s 100,000 current attendance figures. Then the JS 4/24/04 article stating “about 157,500 people visited the zoo last year,” is incorrect.

Even if you can only balance your checkbook, you can see something isn’t adding up here. If attendance is currently 100,000, or 157,000, we don’t know many fell under the scholarship or pay nothing category. (Think RiverPlex.) Or how many were under 3 years old? So how can anyone project future revenues? If admission is priced to high, you eliminate a lot of kids and locals, plus people who can see an even better zoo in Chicago or Saint Louis.

Let’s look at this from another perspective. I believe the new $32,000,000.00 figure includes the conversion of the pavilion, current Park Headquarters into a new children’s museum called the PlayHouse. Also, I believe it includes $2,000,000.00 for a maintenance fund to keep these museums operating (@6% interest. That adds up to only $120,000.00 and the old zoo is losing around $400,000.00 a year!!

Many of us believe the Peoria Park District under “Queen” Noble, so called by the “Journal Star” in some issue I can find if I need to, is going to become the most bloated bureaucracy in any community our size in the country.

Will it be a great zoo? You bet for that kind of money!! But once it’s built, and it is going to be, and once the exotic animals are brought in, there is no holding down yearly costs if the economy goes “south”. (Think Caterpillar).

Once wealthy women, weary of bridge, tennis & golf, turn to bringing “us people” what’s best for us, there is no end of delights that can be conjured up. Aren’t most of you glad you only have to pay more taxes?

Also, don’t forget that a new headquarters building will be needed. The Knoxville building bought from IDOT for $1 has only 22,000 sq. ft. and “a study indicated that the administration needed 30,000 sq. ft.”

What about the 1998 & current traffic problems in Glen Oak?? Remember the 1998 letter circulated by Bonnie Noble about “major traffic congestion and a serious accident in Glen Oak Park”. And where does the city figure in for infrastructure and traffic control and at what projected cost?

And what about more intrusion of a tax supported body on the private sector? “Ultimately this will be more than a zoo. Families will be able to eat there, to have banquets, wedding receptions and other after hour events”.

I leave you with these comforting facts:
The Park District collected $11,474,366.00 in Peoria property tax alone last year not including grants of taxpayer dollars from the state.
Long term debt was at $15,530.00, actually $22,275.437.00 at maturity.
The Park District spent $33,605,722.in 2003.
The Park District has not been able to fund principal & interest from taxes & revenues for the RiverPlex borrowing. They must sell new bonds each year to make the payments to the bond holders.

We are years behind East Peoria, Morton and Bloomington-Normal on softball fields so look for more spending. 99% of the kids and parents don’t know where the touted new skateboard park is & couldn't get there anyway unless they can drive. Do you know where it is? It’ located at Becker Park behind the softball backstop and next to the high brush. They do not have a "beginners" slope raising the possibility of more injuries. If the kids are old enough to drive, they will go to Pekin Park District Skateboard site which is far superior. (And can be seen by the public)

Sorry this is so long and too late. Talk to you soon!!

Thursday, August 26, 2004


Some observations about the Glen Oak Zoo expansion;

An Editorial in the Journal Star this month says “To be honest, an expanded Glen Oak Zoo would not have topped our list of priorities for Peoria. At some $32 million, the five phase expansion is one of the more sizeable projects we’ve seen in Peoria for a while.”

“Bielfeldt Foundation donates $5,000,000.00 to the $25,000,000.00 Glen Oak Zoo expansion.” (JS 9/6/02).. “The overall campaign is $32.1 million.” (Quote Polly Barton, 9/04, in the Peoria Woman.) A $7,000,000.00 jump in two years!!

“The Zoo is expected to draw visitors from a 60 miles radius, bringing in up to 400,000 visitors annually, an increase from 110,000 current averages.” (Quotes from Jan Schweitzer, Times Newspaper, 11/7/01)

“The expanded Zoo will attract upwards of 170,000 people each year an increase of 70,000 over current attendance.” (Quote from Polly Barton, 9/04, in the Peoria Woman.” (Polly is Co-Chair of the Zoological Capital Campaign.)

“Attendance is expected to immediately double and ultimately triple, some 100,000 people annually pass thru the gates now.” (JS Editorial, 8/04.)

“Without looking at the agreement, PPD Board members approved a $2.7 million dollar contract with a New Orleans firm to design an expanded Glen Oak Zoo.”

“Admission is $4.75 for adults and $2.50 for children 3-12 and younger visit free.” (JS 7/04)

“The Zoo has been heavily subsidized by the PPD and is expected to have a $400,000.00 deficit this year. About 157,000 people visited the Zoo last year. (JS 4/24/03)

“We are currently experiencing a major traffic congestion problem and in fact had a serious traffic accident on March 28. The use of Glen Oak Park has increased dramatically.” (Written statement issued by Bonnie Noble on 3/30/98.)

“A Bear Market for Zoos” is a headline in the Wall Street Journal on 5/30/03. The article further states that according to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, attendance is down 3% nationwide.

According to the 2003 year end financial statement, the Glen Oak Zoo had revenues of $370,882.00 and only $360,190.00 in 2002.

Can you make any sense of what is going on here, except that we are going to have another beautiful facility that we really can’t afford? Can you understand the double speak in the numbers & projections? I can’t. I tried to tell you what a financial burden the River Plex would become and it is to the tune of $6,000.00 to $7,000.00 a day in losses. (PPD Financial Statement dated 12/31/03.)

A lot more facts about what is going on in this community will continue to appear on this site.

Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Congerville Nostalgia

Did I tell you I was born on a farm located between Congerville and Carlock in Woodford County? That I attended a one room grade school as did my seven sisters and one brother? That I had the same teacher all thru grade school? And that grade school was located in McLean County? That I graduated from the eighth grade with ceremonies held in Carlock grade school in Mclean County and three years later, graduated from Congerville High School in Woodford County. And one year later, graduated from Normal Community High School in Mclean County yet lived in the same house all thru grade and high school? Congerville was closed in 1946 as a three year high school and is now an elementary school.

However, Congerville continues to have a yearly school reunion, the latest this past weekend. The oldest attendee was Carl Scheiber at 97 and his sister, Emma, at 95. Familiar names like Kauffman, Hoffman, Steffen, Knapp, Schrock, Romersberger, Reeser, Reaba, (Koch) Zook and Bauman to name a few were in attendance. Russel Oyer is the historian; Dave and Lois Greer keep the alumni lists current and handle the mailings. The Irons heritage, Kenny, Keith and Joyce handled the ceremonies this year and Claire and I will handle the ceremonies in 2005.

Our get together trip down memory lane was enjoyed by all those who were able to attend. Any of you who might be reading this, I look forward to another Congerville Alumni gathering next year!!

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Water Company Buyout Mess

WATER LOGGED” was the title of one of my recent BLOGS. I stated that a group of individuals had lent the City of Peoria $1,000,000.00 to study the possible buyout of the local portion of the Illinois-American water company. Some of my information was incorrect at least at the present time. After hearing the dialogue at the last Council meeting, re-reading my files, talking to the City Attorney and a couple of Council members, I believe the following information to be basically correct:

Many people including some of the “power structure” in the community thought water costs were too high, service was not that good and too much profit was leaving the area. (Think Peoria Civic Center Broadway Productions.) “Bud” Grieves, who was Mayor at that time, most council people and other prominent people in the community believed that they had a legal right to buy Illinois-American (Here after known as IA.) So steps were taken to proceed. The time frame was approximately 1998 but discussions of the possibility of a buyout were started in earlier years.

ROAD BLOCKS immediately arose from many different sources. Some council members, Jim Ardis, Patrick Nichting & John Morris expressed their outright opposition to the idea, as did most of the public. Gary Sandburg believed there should be a referendum (Dave Ransburg, who was running for Mayor at that time, was quoted by the JS “He vaguely said he favored some kind of public input” to see how the taxpayers & users felt.) Realization set in when no one knew how much the IA was worth. Pretty hard to ask me whether I want to buy something before telling me what I’ll be paying for it & how I’ll profit from the purchase. It was then determined that the City would need to have an appraisal to determine what the IA was worth. While they debated how to continue a group the Journal Star called “wealthy investors” stepped in said they would form a company named Peoria Area Advancement Group LLC (Hereafter known as GAAP) and lend the City up to $1,000,000.00 at 9% a year interest. The GAAP said the City had to conduct an appraisal of the worth of IA and whether or not the City ever bought IA, the City would not have to pay any money back, not even the interest. Evidently the PAAG did not want the names of their investors made public (The JS called them “secretive business people”)& on 2/7/01, a blowup occurred in a public setting, in which Sandburg accused the then candidate for Mayor, Dave Ransburg, of being member of the PAAG. After heated denials & accusations, Sandra Birdsall of the Peoria Chamber of Commerce stated “I can tell you he not a member”. The members names were made public two days later. (See my previous post named “WATER LOGGED).”

Meanwhile, IA made it positively clear they did not want to sell, even filing a lawsuit against PAAG. Now, the six year term of the PAAG loan is up, the City has spent the money and the appraisal is not finished. The PAAG says it won’t lend the City any more money but they will lower the ongoing interest to 6.9%.

So now what? If the City stops the appraisal now, they have to pay the PAAG all the money the City borrowed plus $184,000.00 interest. You know the old saying “The Captain would rather go down with the ship, than to admit it is sinking”. On 8/17/04, the City Council voted 9-2 to borrow $500,000.00 from the capital fund reserves to continue the study. Mr. Nichting voted no, the position he has taken, and the right one, since the issue first came up, & Mr. Sandburg, because he didn’t like the City reserve fund where the new appraisal money is coming from.

Where does all this leave the taxpayers & other citizens? Forget the referendum, by the time the appraisal is completed, which Mayor Ransburg “says could take weeks or months”, by the time all the lawsuits are settled, none of those in power will know whether the City can even afford the price let alone know whether the City can make a profit.. Then as this “sinking ship” tries to right it, it will do so with more of our money, and the city will try to move into private enterprise while other cities across the country are doing the opposite.

When the PAAG established the fund for the City to use, they required a committee of five to be created to make recommendations to the Council. I believe they are called the Select Committee. The PAAG has two representatives, Rita Kress & Sandra Birdsall. Mayor Ransburg, John Morris & Gary Sandburg, represent the City. Aha!! Even the makeup of this committee is interesting!!

There is a saying “everyone has the right to be wrong, just don’t abuse the privilege. The “wrongs” are adding up fast in Peoria with more on the horizon. The “bills” are coming due and they will keep rising. Those that can afford more taxes and assessments don’t worry, but a lot of us do.

Talk with you soon!!

Friday, August 20, 2004

Election Referendum Revisited

When the Referendum to “Eliminate the City Election Commission” was defeated in March, 2004, the winners, Peorians for City Elections, (“Vote NO” supporters) thought that would be the end of this ridiculous tax, prestige & job saving idea. Not quite! I recently received from the State of Illinois a Schedule B expenditure disclosure document headed, Peorians for City Elections, showing that a company called Roger Monroe Marketing located at 2708 W. Overbrook Dr., Peoria, Ill., was the beneficiary of an expenditure of $3472.00. The payer was Peorians for City Elections. (“VOTE NO” supporters) The date of payment is 3/9 -3/11, 2004. The purpose of the payment is listed as “media ads”. So what, you say? Well, a Roger Monroe, who lives at this same address, is a paid writer for a small local paper called the Community Word. In the February issue of this paper, before the March election, Mr. Monroe wrote a lengthy scathing article about the Referendum to Eliminate the City Election Commission, stating that the referendums “objective is not to save taxpayer money but to add more power to the County Clerk’s office held by a Democrat.” (Mr. Monroe served as a Republican on the Peoria County Board for 22 years). He ended his error-filled attack on everyone who could possibly support this “politically inspired taxpayer saving idea”, by advising his readers to “Vote NO on this referendum.” In the April edition of the Community Word, Mr. Monroe continued to berate all who were in favor of this tax saving referendum, stating “This referendum was really an election scam motivated by a desire for power, influence & recognition”. So Mr. Monroe used his paid position to try to influence the voter to support the “Vote NO” people who where paying him!!

The referendum was initiated by a petition circulated by the League of Women Voters which is non-partisan. The League supporters gathered enough signatures to put the question of eliminating the City Election Commission on the ballot. (All 6 Republican members of the Peoria County Board voted to support the position of the League even though the present Peoria County Clerk is a Democrat).

Now for the rest of the story!!
Schedule B of the Disclosure report filed with the State of Illinois shows the following contributions that were made to Peorians for City Elections, (the “Vote NO” people).
Craig Mitzelfelt donated $500.00. He is the husband of the Executive Director of the City Election Commission.
Rebecca A. Kelley donated 300.00. She is Assistant to the Executive Director.
John Kelley donated $200.00. He is husband to Rebecca Kelley.
Robert G. Day donated 250.00. He is the attorney representing the City of Election Commission.
Donna J. Day donated $450.00. She is directly related to Robert G. Day, the above attorney.
Carol L. Lawless donated $500.00. She is directly related to Martin Lawless, a paid commissioner to the City Election Commission.
Nancy Wittry donated $350.00. She is directly related to Gene Wittry, a paid commissioner to the City Election Commission.
All of these people were connected in a SIGNIFICANT way to someone who would have either lost their jobs or some income they were collecting from the taxpayers, jobs that when eliminated or combined, would have made government smaller, reduced duplication & saved taxpayer money. Also contributing $200.00 each were a James G. Green, Jr. & a James Hitz whose address is listed as 628 Shoshone Dr. “Peorians for City Elections” expenses totaled $7243.00 and donations totaled the same to run a campaign to keep an expensive local bureaucracy.

I’ve saved the best for last! A company, Election Systems & Software, 11208 John Galt Ave., Omaha, NE., donated $2500.00. This company sells the City Election Commission all their paper supplies, ballots, etc., & sells their service to keep the cities outdated voting machines running. A question keeps being asked. Is there a family relationship between any of Election Systems & Software employees and anyone directly connected with the Peoria City Election Commission, and if so, what is it? And why would they donate such a large amount?
I see conflicts all over the place and skewed information was given by these people and their supporters to the confused voter. The “Vote YES” people lost the referendum by only approximately 1900 votes.

If the local media will now bring this information to all voters, I believe another attempt will be made to combine Peoria county voting into one authority where state law says this authority is the County of Peoria. Only politics has kept these offices separated in Peoria. Sangamon County was the latest to combine & they report saving $1.5 million since consolidation. (Journal Star, March 9, 2004). Ninety three Counties in Illinois currently have one voting authority and that is in the hands of their county elected officials & under the law of the State of Illinois.

When I sold my business in 1992, (Widmer Office Products) had a 3A1 Dun & Bradstreet ranking, which I was told was the highest ranking a $10,000,000.00 company could receive at that time. I brought my successful business experience to the Peoria County Board, where I now serve. I serve not for any personal financial gain but for the purpose of keeping this community one of the best affordable places to live. My business background qualifies me to recommend to this community to consolidate all bureaucracies that will save taxpayers significant amounts of money & improve governmental services mandated by law.

Check all this information out. Talk to you later!

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Politics and Culture

You know I am a politician. The dictionary describes a politician as “a person engaged or concerned with politics”. That’s me. A teacher, coach, businessman & tennis player, turned politician. Politicians are sometimes regarded with the same contempt as trial lawyers, (think asbestos & silicone), or some stockbrokers. Sorry, I left out some baseball promoters. I’ve listened to stockbrokers who were great on telling me when to buy or sell. Half of time they were right; it was the half that they were wrong that may cost my kids their inheritance. (Just kidding, Mark, Mary Jo & Nancy). I’ve always said “I don’t suffer fools gladly”, which means I’ve been pretty angry with myself many times, especially when I keep hearing the siren song “the market has bottomed out, buy now”. Or “don’t worry about the stock I just sold you just because it’s falling through the floor.” Your stock will come back because this company is in a “niche “market”. (Think Adelphia, World Com, & Lucent). I’ve heard of great success stories & fortunes made in the market, probably not realizing that with all those stockbrokers guessing with your money, half of them could be right. I dealt mainly with the ones that guessed wrong. But hey, I’m an Optimist!! Most successful business owners are optimistic which later may become a liability when you turn over your money to someone who probably never earned an honest dollar in their life. (See U.S. News & World Report – August 16-23, Page EE8, 2004). On a serious note, I did enter politics because I was & am concerned about what has happened and is happening in my community. I wouldn’t be taking the abuse I get from some of the arrogant elite or poorly informed people, take your choice, if I didn’t enjoy it or feel I wasn’t making a difference. Thanks for your support!

Many people aren’t sure what the word “cultured” means but they just know they meet that description. So, I looked it up in my relatively new Oxford Dictionary & Thesaurus. (Don’t ask me what Thesaurus means). Your turn to look this word up!!! Anyway it says culture is “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.” It also says, +-“a refined understanding of this; intellectual development”. I don’t know about those of you reading this but I recognized myself immediately, but the word “collectively” stumped me. There are a whole bunch of people out there who think they are “cultured” but I sure don’t want them all lumped in with me.

Speaking of School District 150, I really wasn’t but I am now. I was dialoging with some of the people you might see on a Monday night on Channel 22. Those at the podium, I mean, not those on the Board of Education who are duly elected & set the policy & direct hired folks to administrate & enforce these policies . Anyway, I really wasn’t dialoging with one of “those people”( Eric Turner’s phrase) when he changed his mind the other night at a City council meeting when he thought the protesting neighborhood was putting disadvantaged people down (which they weren’t.) I was suggesting that some of the problems with discipline in our school systems might be approached by the school telling the arriving students in the fall that they may be entering a different setting from the one they have at home and that this year, the school was going to take a no nonsense approach to their behavior from the time they arrive until the time they leave. I suggested advising these kids that they might be entering a different “culture” from the one they just left & will return to. Mistake!! I was immediately confronted by a person (think District 150 Monday nights at the podium) who informed me she had at least one doctoral degree and her “culture” was as good as mine. I don’t know, or care, what degrees she earned because no where in the dictionary does it say that “culture” has anything to do with the color of a person’s skin. Shows what a doctoral degree gets you if you don’t even know the definition of culture!

I grew up being taught that the character of kids I associated with was the only thing that was important. Mom called it having good manners & an education. (She didn’t know what “culture” meant and she didn’t care). Did I mention I grew up during the Depression & Mom knew at least three different ways to make mush? (Today’s generations think “depression” is how you feel after someone has hurt your “self esteem”). If mush was set on the table; we ate it or went hungry. It was called choice. Even back then kids had “school choice”, either walk to the one room school on the hill or go to work. Mom & Dad said, “Your choice”. Today, kids won’t eat food that is palatable (I know because I’ve eaten school lunches), even though these lunches may cost their families nothing.

Back to some of the people who appear at the podium. I am a strong supporter of free speech, although I would rather hear speech from people that can educate and assist in the decision making process. I suggest these podium speakers dialog with our own Sharon Crews, who has taught English at Manual for at least thirty-five years, ( thanks very much, Sharon), listen to what people like Bill Cobsy, Leonard Pitts, William Raspberry & Ward Connerly are saying, and take with a large “grain of salt” what Don and Ernestine, Pam, and Martha are saying & writing.

I’ll leave you with a statement made by the great African-American leader & columnist, William Raspberry who wrote, “We have too often allowed our children the easy explanation of racism when we might have pushed them to personal exertion.”

Talk to you soon & enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, August 13, 2004

"Water Logged"

“Opening up City Hall & (County) to the competitive process must be the fundamental aspect of change”. (Statement made by the new Mayor of Indianapolis). Then the governing bodies in Indianapolis did just that, allowing private enterprise to bid on projects traditionally performed by the public sector. Hundred’s of millions of taxpayers dollars have been saved since the bidding process began. All over the country, governments are realizing the competitive private sector can usually render better service at less cost to the taxpayer.

Not here in the City of Peoria. Led by the encouragement of then Mayor Lowell Grieves, an organization called Peoria Area Advancement Group LLC (PAAG), lent the City $1,000,000 to study a possible buyout of the privately owned Illinois-American Water Company. Now, 6 years later, the million dollars is gone & Mayor Ransburg is supporting further funding to study this buyout. All this time, PAAG has been collecting 9% interest on their “risk free” loan. Now the taxpayer is stuck still owing PAAG $1,000,000, & these lenders have collected at least $540,000 of your money. Now the lenders say they will accept less yearly interest, 6.9%, but don’t want to lend the City anymore money. I will list these “Civic Minded” PAAG citizens so you who don’t come close to making 9% on your investments & would love to even make 6.9% for years & years to come, can call these “wealthy” (JS 2/9/2001) lenders & thank them:

Dale & Shirley Burklund
Michael Cullinan
Cullinan Companies
Underwood Furniture Galleries, Inc.
D.A. Hoerr & Sons
Ted Fleming
Otto Baum Co.,Inc.
Wayne Oberlander
South Side Bank
Gerald & Helen Stephens Foundation
(Source) Peoria Journal Star 2/9/2001

“We are weeks & months translate (years) away from even knowing what the buyout price will be, but I think most of the council believes this is, POTENTIALLY, a very attractive thing”. (Quote by Mayor Ransburg – 8/13/04 JS)

You make your own conclusions as to what is going on in Peoria. Look for property taxes to probably rise even further in 2005, as well as well as every other type of tax, local government will need to assess to keep growing their bureaucracies.

I’ll leave you with a statement attributed to Margaret Thatcher –“Governments have the usual socialist disease: they have run out of other people’s money to spend”

Also, know that “when enough bureaucratic prestige has been invested in a policy, it is easier to see it fail, then to abandon it”. You’re going to see a lot more than what you have already seen (of both quotes), in Peoria over the upcoming months (and years.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Greed and the Demise of Common Sense

Today, I traveled to New Jersey and talked to the arrogant elitist, THE DONALD. No, I’m “just kidding”. I saw enough of him today when CNBC reported that one of his casinos had just filed for Chapter 11. THE DONALD wanted it emphasized that this was only one of his companies, not him personally. Interpretation – The shareholders, bondholders & everyone else this casino owed, got hosed, while THE DONALD sold his stake & got out early. While in business & in my personal affairs, I paid all my bills. (Maybe not always on time but all paid in full.) How dumb could I have been!! THE DONALD said he felt good about filing Chapter 11, & the publicity it will bring him, should help his TV show. I’m sure all those people left holding the bag, feel good about that, especially when they watch his mindless show!!

I know I strayed from my Peoria Watch theme but maybe not. Seems to me I read in our local media about bankruptcies being declared with resulting loss of jobs, retirement & medical benefits right here in our own community!! The media mentioned that some of the owners got out early & left their employees with nothing. I guess it’s a blessing we still have “parks & circuses”. However, even parks aren’t cheap anymore and Peoria parks are going to get a lot more expensive. (Think more taxes.) More on that subject later when we cover the RIVERPLEX!!

I’m going to print a copy of an obituary many of you may have already seen or even attended. If so, move to the last paragraph.

Died 24/7/365 in America’s Heart, USA
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend by the name of Common Sense who had been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such value lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm and that life isn’t always fair. Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not kids, are in charge).

His health began to rapidly deteriorate when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer aspirin to a student; however, they could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. Finally, Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; churches became businesses, and criminals received better treatment than the victims.

Common Sense finally gave up the ghost after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot, she spilled a bit in her lap, and was awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust, his wife; Discretion; his daughter; Responsibility; and his son; Reason. He is survived by two stepbrothers; My Rights and Ima Whiner. Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. (Author anonymous)

A couple of years ago, I was asked to address my social club, The Noon Optimists, and my subject was the “Demise of Common Sense”. Wish I had received this mailing sooner but I did touch on some of the above idiotic happenings, in my talk.

I leave you with a thought for today – Democracy is the worst type of government, except for all others. (W.C.)

Monday, August 09, 2004

Golden Eggs??????

Yesterday, I stated that Peoria had spent around $50,000,000 of taxpayer money on the downtown area in the last few years. Some of my friends say this figure is way too low. Recently, the Journal Star, in an Editorial stated “local governments should do follow-up to see that the taxpayer gets his (or her) bang for the buck.” Then later, a Journal Star Editorial asks “whether our economic developments efforts and strategies have been misdirected, gobbling up precious public dollars that would have been more wisely spent elsewhere?” Since gobbling was an interesting word, I wrote a letter to the JS Editor, stating it was a little late to be asking the “wisely” question, and that those who had freely spent all this taxpayer money had better hope that some of these projects lay golden eggs. “This City Council has a propensity to say yes to everyone who comes before them, asking for something special” (money), is a quote attributed to then Mayor “Bud” Grieves on 10/21/99.” So where are we in August of 2004? Who is doing the follow up? I’ll give it a try.

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite “golden egg.” THE RIVERPLEX!! LOSING ONLY $6,000 TO $7,000 EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR. Proof of this is in the Peoria Park District’s 2003 financial results released in July & available through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), for any one who can understand the creative bookkeeping involved. (Along with all the other records I have on file about this controversial project.) More on this later, as I intend to publish on this site the complete RiverPlex saga, what the Park Administration said & what the Journal Star said along with facts & figures & dates.

My next favorite “golden egg,” is the highly promoted ONE TECHNOLOGY PLAZA. Peoria County, not during my terms on the County Board, bought space in this building for $940,325. This space sits empty today.

How about the GATEWAY CENTER? The Journal Star has reported on the situation, so I’ll not comment further today.

I will just mention DAMONS, THE GRILL on Fulton Street, the vacancies at the old RIVER STATION BUILDING, as a few, & try to be optimistic about a number of the other downtown projects where the jury is still out..

I’ll close out on a joyful & sad note. Yesterday, we celebrated my brother’s 90th birthday & today we grieved at my 90 year old brother-in-law’s wake.

Talk to you soon.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

More conceptions

Conceptions – The dictionary defines “conceptions” as “the sum of a person’s ideas and beliefs concerning something.” On August 7, I listened to Representative Dave Leitch give about 45 Republicans his belief that the community should bail the Pere Marquette Hotel out of its most recent financial quandary. Not everyone in attendance was in agreement. His comments about the city’s financial role in this bailout & the obvious benefits to Caterpillar were strongly endorsed. Not everyone in attendance was in agreement with Dave including one potential mayoral candidate. Listen to what our new City Council & Mayoral candidates are saying about your tax dollars financing failing private industry that competes against struggling existing businesses. In a letter to the Editor several years ago, I wrote about the slow slide to total socialism growing in our country. The city fathers may already spent over $50,000,000 of mainly taxpayer dollars in the Downtown area with limited results, with a LOT more to be spent on the new Museum & the Civic center expansion. Take another look at your property tax and see where your dollars are being spent & by whom.

Also, a representative speaking for Ray Lahood, strongly endorsed fairly far right & carpetbagger, Allan Keyes, a citizen of, I believe, from the “great State of Maryland” . Again, not all Republicans agreed, privately asking why the “great State of Illinois didn’t have anyone qualified to run for Senate?” If Keyes is elected in Illinois, maybe he’ll wind up in New York running against Hillary when she announces for the Presidency in 2008. By then, surely the party will find someone who is not afraid to have some of his or her background exposed. Since today is Sunday & I’m heading to help my brother celebrate his 90th birthday, I’ll leave you with this thought - WHEN ENOUGH BUREAUCRATIC PRESTIGE HAS BEEN INVESTED IN A PROJECT OR A POLICY, IT IS EASIER TO SEE IT FAIL, THEN ABANDON IT.

Talk to you later.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Conceptions, misconceptions, perceptions, truths, sublte falsehoods, & outright lies

That’s what the news media claimed a couple of months ago. WHAT WAS LEFT OUT IS THAT THE RAISES DON’T GO INTO EFFECT UNTIL 30 MONTHS FROM NOW OR UNTIL DECEMBER 2006!! The County Board went one stretch of eight years WITHOUT a raise. Figuring from 1990 to the end of 2006, all raises total a little over 2% a year. Unlike the city, we get no car mileage or parking allowance. Also, I get no retirement benefits or insurance. I’m not complaining, just setting the facts straight. The saying is “unless the job means more than the pay, it will never pay more.”

Voters recently approved a small tax levy, the money to be used only to help keep the Bellwood County Nursing Home running. One feature writer for a small local paper accused the County of using that extra money by the end of 2003. To set the record straight, the county did not receive any of this money until June, 2004 with the balance due in September, 2004. The writer, a member of the Peoria County Board for 22 years, in his critical attacks on the County, on Bellwood & County board members, failed to note that lawsuits against the County were filled by Bellwood employees on during his tenure on the County Board. These lawsuits were recently settled for hundreds of thousands of dollars of added expense to the taxpayers. The writer did not run for election in 2002. It should be also noted that the county had $12,000,000 in the General Fund in 1997 & yet was $1,500,000 in the red when I was elected to the board. By the end of this year, we project the County General Fund will be $6,500,000 in the black.

Any comments regarding landscaping under jurisdiction of Peoria County will be appreciated. Especially your comments about landscaping around the Courthouse, County property on Gift Avenue, Bellwood Nursing Home, & the County Jail & Juvenile Detention Center. You can talk to me on this site or at 692-2591. Better yet, attend a County Board meeting, 2nd Thursday of each month, 6:00 PM, 4th floor of the Courthouse.

For thirty odd years, the County contracted with the Peoria Park District to do Peoria County landscaping. Attention was called to the rising costs of doing business with the Park, & dissatisfaction with the quality of some of the work done by the Park. Legally following the intra-governmental agreement in place, the County advised the Park that they were invoking the 60 day cancellation phase of the contract, & that the County intended to invite the taxpaying private sector to bid. The Park Superintendent immediately cancelled their service to the County, only agreeing later to give the County a few days extension. The Park also contacted the media with their side of the story claiming that the County had put the park in an unfair position because “the Park did not bid against the private sector” The County then received bids and accepted the bid of Classy Grass, a local taxpaying private enterprise. Projections show that we will save more than $30,000 this year & more than $30,000 in the second year of the contract. One well known Master Gardner called me recently to say the some county landscaping “never looked better”. Moral of this saga – just because tax collecting bodies have agreements to “scratch each other’s backs” does not mean this “scratching” is always in the community’s best interest!!

We encounter conceptions, misconceptions, perceptions, truths, subtle falsehoods, & outright lies. This site will always strive to present the truth. I never intend to say “nothing can be farther than the truth.”

Talk to you soon.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Day 2

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the attractive & talented Kimberly from WMBD TV. The question was would I support Allan Keyes for U.S. Senator from Illinois? Knowing that Keyes was from Maryland & had stated in 2002 “that he would never do what Hillary did”, I answered, “no”. (Log on peoriapunditcom for exactly what Allan Keyes said). In fact, log on this site & enjoy my friend Bill Dennis, who encouraged me to become a blogger. Bill has a most interesting site!

Just this March, I took my first computer class. In the early years I was in business, I relied on accountants. When the computer age arrived, we set up our own in house IT staff. I was pretty good at delegating, but I regret now that I waited so long to start learning even how to do word processing. You can see I have a long way to go!!

It’s been a long day, the market & Caterpillar, plus a sore shoulder from tennis & age. So look for me here tomorrow. I promise to more interesting!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

"and in the beginning...."

Warning – This is not a politically correct blog site

Since some of you visiting my site are not too familiar with my background & with this community of approx 113,000 people, I’ll start with Peoria as I see it. My early perceptions came from acquaintances with students from Peoria while I was attending Western State at Macomb, IL. Even though Peoria was then a wide open town with prostitution, gambling & union thugs running rampant, most of these students appeared to be in denial. At that time in history, much of Peoria’s population was employed by manufactures with more distilleries than any community in the Midwest. Peoria was a blue collar town with an elitist group of owners & managers. Fast forward to 2004 & Peoria has greatly changed, most manufacturing companies, (with the exception of Caterpillar & Keystone- both with greatly reduced workforces), are gone as are all the distilleries. The old money & elite are still here, the demographics have changed drastically, the union thugs are gone but the unions are still strong. The four public high schools are now approximately 70% African-American & most of the kids in the lower grades, qualify as poverty or below. Peoria is transforming itself into a community with champagne tastes to a community of caviar dreams. Since the successes of Peoria have been widely chronicled, this site will deal with some of the caviar dreams that became reality, but are still looking to be successful. Peoria is currently striving to be recognized as a shopping, convention, recreation, & medical destination. In recreation we had a large early lead, but are now being overtaken by East Peoria & other surrounding communities. Our shopping base has been greatly expanded, some gains being offset by some notable losses. Our reputation as a medical destination is strong & growing & makes us more unique than most other middle states communities of our size.

I was born on a farm in Woodford County & did not permanently locate in the Peoria area until 1963. My work ethic was developed by need & by hard working & loving parents & knowing that you either worked or you didn’t eat. Not much government welfare back then. Serving in the Air Force taught me discipline, participating in many sports at all levels taught me the value of teamwork, attending & graduating from college started my social skills development & school teaching, coaching & refereeing prepared my entry into the business world. I left teaching when offered a position in sales with a division of a company then known as Sperry Univac and was promoted to management serving in Kansas & Texas before returning to Peoria in 1963 to open my own business. This company, which I sold in 1992, known as Widmer Interiors, flourishes today located on Allen Road in Peoria.

In 1999, I made my entry into politics, defeating the nine year Republican incumbent on the Peoria County Board, doing so without the blessing of my party, media or the Chamber, many of whom worried I might expose the truth about some of our leadership. Or maybe I was too strident to just follow the pack. I am now serving my second term on a board that is probably the most cohesive of any in the community. Most board members feel we can “get the job done” without raising the property tax base. Most of us want to render the key services & keep the community affordable.

One of the favorite statements made by some elected officials start with “nothing could be further than the truth”, when in actuality, you can bet the truth has just been uncovered. What you will be reading on this site will be largely backed by printed sources but, of course, being a “strident” person I will also give you my opinion. However, my opinions will be backed by research.

This is just a beginning so thanks for logging on . Talk to you soon.