Saturday, November 27, 2004

Stock Market Tips

A little humor from my daughter Nancy who thinks I misunderstood the terminology my brokers were using regarding the financial advice I’ve received from them over the years:

Broker: What you are this year compared to last year.
Bear market: Where Smokie buys his grocers.
Bull market: A bar filled with horny guys.
Stock analyst: cow psychiatrist
Merrill Lynch: What you’d like to do to Merrill.
Market turnaround: Oops…I forgot the milk.
Schwab: What pirates do to the decks of their shwips.
Day trader: E-Bay obsessed.
Bonds: Helluva baseball player.
Prime rate: What a good steak sets you back.
Allan Greenspan: God.

Thanks, Nancy, now I know why my portfolio investments are moving forward like “a herd of turtles in a windstorm”.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

No Seniority in Sports of Life

Reading about the termination of Illinois football coach and the search for a new coach brought back memories of my first year of coaching. I was hired as head basketball coach at Colusa High School. The school had won a total of three varsity games in the previous two years. Tradition was that since most of the players lived on the farm, practice was held during Physical Education time because the boys were need to help with the chores. I told those who wanted to play team basketball that practices would be held after school hours and not during P.E. No one showed up for the first practice. I called a meeting the following day at P.E time and told the boys “we practice after school or I cancel the season”. I guess the farm families got together because everyone showed up the next day for after school practice.

The captain of the team was a senior who was dating one of the cheerleaders who was the daughter of the School Superintendent. The tradition had been that if you were a junior and a starter last year, as a senior you would be you could expect to again be a starter. To shorten this story, near the close of the season, my starting lineup included a freshman, two sophomores and two juniors. We won five games. Three years later, Colusa High School won their first ever Hancock County Championship with the freshman a senior the star of the team. They never went back to practice during physical education. I was not asked back the following year because as one board member said “we didn’t like a stranger coming into our community and making changes”. (Each year I get invited back to their alumni reunion. This year I plan to go).

Fortunately I was playing that summer in the Bloomington-Normal Municipal baseball league were I played with a couple of kids from Heyworth who asked me to play on their team in the Sangamon Valley Sunday afternoon league.(We won the championship that year). The coach of this Sunday afternoon league was the principal of Heyworth High School, who later asked me if I would be interested in the head basketball coaching job at Heyworth as they wanted to make a coaching change. To shorten the story I became head coach of high school basketball and head coach of all grade school sports at Heyworth. My varsity team had 46 wins and 27 losses and my grade school teams won 27 trophies including a 2nd in the state. (Two years after I left Heyworth to coach at McLean-Waynesville, Heyworth won consecutive McLean County High School Championships). The sports editor of the Bloomington Pantagraph wrote that I was the most successful grade school coach in Central Illinois. One of my wins was over Armington (84 to 42) where Joe Stowell was head coach. Joe later became a successful head coach of Bradley University.

Now back to the Illinois football and a new head coach to be named shortly. One of the returning starters for next year is quoted as saying he once had a new high school coach who didn’t play any seniors and he was worried about his playing time next year under the new Illini coach. Not to worry, I say, just forget what year of school you are in and go out and “make” the team. Varsity sports are not intramural activities where everybody that shows up plays. The after school hours varsity sports programs should have a goal of using the best players who can win games. Sometimes the players, who start, are not the best individual players but the best team players. Team play is what counts. I’ve followed that practice all my life and it has worked and is working now. Freshman often times are starters. No one should come to practice thinking they have secured a starting spot on the varsity just because they played last year. I suggest this returning Illini football player had better work hard between now and next year and he probably won’t have to worry about a spot on the team. But he better adjust his attitude because Illinois has tolerated mediocrity in their football program for too long a time!!

That’s why I believe that people who have played sports under good coaches often turn out to be some of best leaders. There should be no seniority or tenure in sports or life. Bill Gates said in a speech on November 7, 2001 to some high school students “Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they will give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life”. I suspect this returning football player will next year learn one of the best lessons of his entire college career.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Racetrack Denial

Probably the toughest decision I have had to make on my four years service on the Peoria County Board was my vote to deny the Racetrack to be built on prime farmland west of Brimfield. My decision was based on the following criteria:

The unanimous denial by the Peoria County Board of Appeals.

The denial by a 5-1 vote of the Peoria County Land Use Committee.

Illinois House Smart Growth Task Force Findings and Recommendations dated 1/12/99, Final Report.

2002 Household Survey Findings on Behalf of Peoria County (Bradley University, Dr. Bernie Goitien).

Growth Policy and Strategic Survey Results, Peoria County Comprehensive Plans (1992, 1996, and 2003).

A study by the Pew Foundation in 1993 called “Making Community Coalitions Work”.

Strong opposition of residents within a 21/2 mile radius of the proposed site.

The racetrack would be built on some of the best farmland in the United States.

Over 100 articles I have read on controlled growth plus five books on the same subject.

Various meetings I have attended dealing with controlled growth and community planning.

Heartland Partnership, which is over the Tri-County Economic Development Council and the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce originally endorsed this project but backed off this position in a letter addressed to the Peoria County Planning and Zoning Board on June 2, 2004 and signed by the Partnership’s President.

The Peoria County Board Strategic Growth Plan calls for expansion within the urban area before using up more flat farmland. During my service on the County Board, no subdivisions or apartment building have taken place on land within the jurisdiction of Peoria County. The recent move outward is on land annexed by the City of Peoria. Peoria County has no control over what is built in the City of Peoria. The city has the power to keep annexing. The city has actually lost population while greatly expanding the number of square miles requiring public service. This suburban push has financially strained the city,(TIF Zones, tax abatements and other financial incentives) the county, school districts and sanitary district services.

Planning for controlled growth in Peoria County takes total cooperation of coalitions of governmental bodies, the public, and private enterprise. Planning and cooperation among all concerned entities will bring tax dollars into Peoria County.

I wish Mr.Hellyer eventual success in his endeavors.

Peoria County Budget 2005

The County of Peoria passed its 2005 Budget on 11/18/04 with no change in the estimated property tax rate. The owner of a $100,000.00 home should see either no change or a slight reduction in the county portion of his or her tax bill in May, 2005. While the budget is approximately five million more than last year, $1,750,000.00 comes from an increase in retirement funds and health care costs - 15% increase in health care premiums alone. Another $1 million in funding for probation and juvenile detention staffing that was cut by the State of Illinois. Right where we need it most!! Also, as a result of a new property tax relief law, many seniors will pay less taxes amounting to an estimated $850,000.00 meaning less revenue to the county.

Since Patrick Urich, County Administrator came on board in 2000; the County Board General Fund has improved from a minus$1,500,000.00 to an estimated $7,000,000.00 positive balance at the end of next year. The General Fund is mandated by law to be approximately equal to one month’s expenses.

Many changes have been made in the way Peoria County is run and these changes appear to be paying off. The county does take the responsibility of handling your tax dollars seriously. Our County Board Chairman states “the policies, procedures and the discipline of the board members have put the county in much better shape than a few years ago.”

I serve on 7 committees; the Illinois River Valley Council of Governments, Landfill, Growth Policy, Health and Environment, Judicial, Management Services and Tax/Economic Development. The county differs from the city by having a committee form of government with a County Board Chairman elected by the full board and an Administrator hired by the full board. Each committee meets once a month to determine an agenda for the monthly full board meeting. A summary draft of each committee meeting is mailed to all board members to review or question in advance of an Executive Committee (all committee chair people) session with the County Board Chairman and the Administrator.

This committee form of government allows all board members to be involved in several committees and most of the agenda is thoroughly discussed and studied before coming before the full board meetings. This results in an informed full board making decisions without a lot of controversy. In this way, we differ considerably than some other governmental bodies in Peoria County.

All meetings are open to the public except those that involve personnel or litigation.

Full board meetings are held the 2nd Thursday of each month on the fourth floor of the County Courthouse. Meetings start at 6:00 P.M. and are usually about an hour in length. Come visit.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Highway to Chicago

On 3/16/97, an editorial from the Journal Star reiterated what the JS Editorial Board had been saying for many years, build a highway from Peoria to Chicago stating that “The Tri-County planning Commissions thinking was that an interstate highway from Peoria to Chicago would funnel development and jobs to this part of Illinois. Nothing has happened since then to suggest the commission was wrong”. This highway had a projected cost of $800,000,000.00. (Now eight years later, the cost would be closer to one billion dollars).

In an article in 1995 appearing in the Bloomington Pantagraph, our then IDOT engineer Dale Rissinger (now our State Representative in Springfield) was quoted as saying that “none of the four proposed routes showed any outstanding economic benefit because jobs created along the corridor would be at the expense of other Central Illinois communities”.

Another IDOT study “Heart of Illinois highway feasibility study”, dated August 1995, states “of the total passenger vehicle trips to and from the Peoria area east and north, only 8% were found to be through trips, with an origin or destination in the Chicago area”.

In a “Letter to the Editors” edited and printed by the JS Editorial Board on 9/16/1995, I stated 10 reasons why this highway should not be built. On 10/7/1995, the Bloomington Pantagraph published this same letter in its unedited version and as a “Guest Commentary”, identifying me as the former owner of a string of office supply stores and indicating that I traveled Illinois extensively. I pointed out that since 1980, many articles had been written based on reputable studies that USDOT had changed their interstate building philosophy from “mobility and efficiency” to the “feel and function” of a community.

An article dated 1990 in the Washington Post stated that the State of Maryland tripled their spending on innovative programs that encourage transit use and make roadways friendlier to pedestrians. They understood and saw that you might arrive close to your destination more quickly but then you were blocked by huge traffic jams.

In an article appearing 4/28/1999, in the JS, Washington,D.C.- based group called “Taxpayers for Common Sense” released an article about this proposed highway from Peoria to Chicago as one of the countries most wasteful road projects. The article called “Road to Ruin” labeled the Peoria road as “unneeded and dictated by business interests. There is no federal entitlement to a new road wherever one is wanted. There are other ways to get to Chicago that are acceptable…It is not worth a billion dollars to run a road from Peoria’s front door to Chicago”.

In an article written by JS transportation writer Omar Sofradzija on 9/20/03, Omar asks “Is the so-called Peoria to Chicago highway – only a slightly more direct road link - really worth the cost to save a few minutes on a Chicago bound drive”? This was the last article Omar wrote for the JS, departing for a newspaper job in Las Vegas calling it “his own one way trip out of Peoria.”

For my now proven correct stance I suffered the undying enmity of the Journal Star, the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, some of the prominent road builders and financiers, some unions and many elected officials, including Dave Leitch and Ray LaHood.

We recently mostly wasted $12,000,000.00 on studies beating “a horse that died” over 20 years ago. USDOT was still funding mobility and efficiency at that time. However, at this late date and after a change of philosophy, the government is not going to build an interstate from Peoria to Chicago. If our leadership efforts many years ago didn’t get funding, we aren’t going to get it now. If some want to blame me, that’s flattering, but I really didn’t have any real power one way or the other.

Most recommendations I hear today is that that we continue to improve our local transportation systems and maintain what has been already built. However, we should continue to develop better linkage between (western and southwestern Illinois) so they can more easily access parts east and northeast and vice versa. These ongoing projects I support. I believe we all support improved road maintenance through out the State of Illinois.

We didn’t get left out of highway funding as approximately half a billion is or will be spent before Highway 74 is completed in future years.

Park Board Secrecy

On 12/15/03, Jenny Davis of the JS wrote a column “Park district old records still sealed”. She states that the Peoria Park District refuses to release executive minutes that are 20 years old. This is usual if these sensitive records are personal discussions about employees. However, it seems the records the PPD refuse to release are “executive session” minutes regarding land deals – either the acquisition, trade, sale or lease of land – dating back to February of 1991”. Of the 93 total sessions regarding some sort of land deal between Feb. 4, 1991 and Oct. 29, 2003, only 21 were recommended for release. And all 21 to be released were from the recent past, from Feb. 2002 to Dec. 15, 2003”.

Interesting?? The JS reporter contacted the Springfield Park District and she writes “guess how many outstanding executive session meeting they have”?


Over the past couple of years I’ve received phone calls regarding the property formerly named after local baseball legend “Dutch Meinen” then renamed for another baseball legend “Pete Vonachen”, Vonachen Stadium and now named Shea Soccer Stadium. This land was once a part of Laura Bradley Trust and when sliced by US 74, it is alleged the Trust deeded the northern sector to the PPD and a governmental body. The PPD at some point leased part of this property to a minor league baseball team (according to PPD documents) for $30,000.00 a year starting somewhere around 1991. Some people believe this was quite a bargain to the ball club ownership. (Both Pete & Rocky Vonachen served on the PPD Board of Trustees, Rocky resigning in August 2001).

The calls I’ve received claim that this property has some revealing paperwork that is not known to the general public. These people claim to have copies of an original Laura Bradley Trust where it allegedly states that “no liquor” was to be sold on that property plus some other provisions to take place in 50 or 100 years, including reversion of ownership.

Allegedly, records of this land swap have never been publicly revealed. Why not? That’s what Springfield attorney Don Craven says, an expert in media law, stating “that it is unusual that a park district would be hanging on to executive minutes regarding land deals. There aren’t many real estate deals that take 13 years to negotiate”.

An article appeared in the JS on 9/04 congratulating Bradley University and the PPD for a land swap for the former Meinen Field, for 80 acres near route 91 and Fox road that the university bought to give to the park district. The article continues “more public and public minded organizations should take a cue and find out what cooperation can do for them”.

The PPD operates in secrecy and is like an oligarchy. Why would land swap records from 1991 be kept from the eyes of the public? Would the wording of the Laura Bradley Trust make good reading for some enterprising reporter or is the old saying that “those who have the gold, rules” allow our public officials to deal in secrecy? This is not the first time the PPD has been accused of dealing in secrecy.

I refer you back to one of my early “blogs” entitled “Conceptions, misconceptions, perceptions, truths, subtle falsehoods and outright lies”. Some of what I said fits in this story. Maybe someone will continue to pursue the whys of this secrecy.

Monday, November 15, 2004


A few years ago, I made a purchase at Famous Barr Department Store in Peoria. The clerk asked me if I had a credit account with them and I said no. I was told that if I applied for a credit card, I would get a discount on the purchase I was making that day. I filled out the forms, paid for my merchandise and received the discount.

A couple of weeks later I received a letter from a financial institution saying they had received my application and were denying me a credit card. The letter said I would need to call Famous Barr to find the reason for the denial as they could not give the reason over the phone. I called Famous Barr at 682-2600 and was answered by a voice recording. I was given four options. I tried each option but each recorded voice asked for my account number which or course, I didn’t have. I then called the financial institution again and told them since I didn’t have an account number I couldn’t get thru to a human voice to find out what erroneous information had been submitted to them. They told me I could write them verifying who I was and they would send me a printout of the reason for denial. They did give me the telephone number of the headquarters of Famous Barr and I called this 800 number only to get the same messages; enter your account number. No opportunity to talk with a human voice!!

I had to make a trip to the Peoria store and talk to their credit department and was told they had misread my Social Security number and that they could correct the error and I could start the process over again. I suggested to them that their recordings should be changed so at some point a potential customer could talk to a human voice. They said they would pass on my comments to management. Did I reapply for a credit card? NO.

It wasn’t that I thought errors don’t happen; it was the absolute irritation of not being able to talk to a human voice. Before I wrote this article today I thought I would give Famous Barr another opportunity to see if they had changed their telephone procedures. Nope, same old run around, no human voice without an account number.

I suspect many companies lose business through their ignorance or arrogance to not let the caller speak to a human voice. Another irritation is when a human voice does answer the phone only to ask the caller “who may I say is calling” and then come back with the answer “I’m sorry he or she is not in. Do you want their voice mail”? How does that make the caller feel? I feel like the person is really “in” but my call is not important.

One sometimes very effective way to answer the “who’s calling or may I tell them who you are” is to give the name of some person who is in the news like Osama Bin Laden. That usually gets me through!! Why should anyone ask your name if they know the person you are calling isn’t in the office? If they don’t know whether that person is in or not, it is their job to find out and tell you or pass you on to another human voice, before asking the personal question of “who are you”?

Since I work for Peoria County, please let me know any way we can improve our communications with you the taxpayer. You can reach me at Fax 692-6711, Http:// or I’m in the phone book.

I understand School District #150 is reviewing phone answering systems as a result of my suggestion. Let people know how we can improve our communications with each other. As we get older our patience is tested!!

I leave you with this thought “society need defense of common sense”.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Body Abuses

The article in today’s JS about the 6 time Olympic swimming champion being picked up on a DUI charge and the recent deaths of young “binge” drinkers renew my beliefs that the most dangerous drug on the market is alcohol. When I was in grade school our teacher made an impression on me that I never forgot. She explained the difference between “chronic” and “acute” use of alcohol. She advised us not to get started drinking but she also warned us that “acute” use of alcohol could cause immediate death. She explained that a person who did not drink at all could one day poison their system with a lot of alcohol and the bodies systems, unprepared, could not fight off this attack of alcohol and would react in such a manner as to sometimes cause immediate death.

I note that most of these deaths, the few that even make the news, could in part be prevented by more emphasis on keeping our bodies healthy and that this not only be taught at home, where it often isn’t, but thru indoctrination classes in middle schools, high schools and colleges. I’m sure much teaching is done as a warning of consequences of poor health habits, but I’m also sure that much of it is not effective or not even being taught.

In Sunday’s edition, on 9/26/04 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that paper thought enough about our health crisis to devote 14 full pages or an entire section of the newspaper under the title of “OUR OVERWEIGHT KIDS; A SUPERSIZED CRISIS”. In an article dated 11/08/04 in USA Today, reports that the United States is in a “fragile state of health” and Illinois is 29th out of 50 states making progress toward better health. It states that “driven partly by smoking reduction, the nation became 17% healthier since 1990 but since 2000, the improvement leveled off and is rising only 0.02% a year”. It also gives three of the most common causes of the health of our citizens is, the higher percentage of people without health insurance, declining high school graduation rates and increased child poverty. (We would graduate more if we finally understood the mistaken assumption that all our kids are going to college and have high paying desk jobs).

I recently wrote a “blog” about removing sugar loaded soft drinks from the public schools and selling only diet drinks with no sugar, bottled water and milk. This has been done in some schools with great success. I suspect by observation that #150 has the greatest number of overweight kids. Examples should be set by everyone in positions of leadership. Examples should be set not only in the schools but by all who are considered to be in positions of leadership.

It’s way past time to start doing more than we are doing towards improving this communities health and the educating of children and adults about the problems of health abuse with it’s resulting higher cost of medical and drug treatments and the consequential rise in health insurance premiums.

I’d like to hear from my readers what their thoughts are on the matter of health issues.

I love those old Burma Shave roadways signs such as “PASSING SCHOOL ZONE TAKE IT SLOW LET OUR LITTLE SHAVERS GROW.” Let’s also start doing a better job of looking after kids health by warning them of the dangerous effects of the abuses they subject to their bodies!! And repeat these warning as few listen the first time told.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Unpleasant Realities

Many people who write letters to “the editor” understand the situation about which they are writing, quite well. Here are quotes taken from the WSJ on 10/7/04 and written by Allen Weingarten Morris Township, N.J. “I submit that Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush are savvy enough to recognize the resentment toward America by Arabs, Muslims, Europeans and most nations in the U. N. Yet it would be politically damaging to acknowledge these hostilities, while it is advantageous to pretend a supportive world, open to virtue, rather than one guided by interests and resentments.

I doubt that Mr.------would be willing to face the unpleasant realities of: an Arab-Muslim world committed to our destruction; a willingness by Europe and the U.N. to let it happen; a domestic and radical aim to find America at fault, and a population that wishes to pretend that we are not in a war to defend our civilization. Imagine how unpleasant it would be to consider that we have been in a losing war, which will not be taken seriously until America experiences heavy losses on her own soil; and that we have been mistaken in our political analyses for decades”. Well spoken!!

With U.N. leaders like Kofi Annan, a man who can’t take action in North and Middle Africa, that section of the world in chaos or near anarchy, and being his own fellow men, a man who speaks publicly against our pursuit of the anarchist rebels and terrorists in Fallujah, the U.S. as the only remaining super power in the world must do what must be done without the support of many of the world’s former powers. That includes the U.N. as long as it has relatively incompetent “leadership.”

The election is over, accept the results and offer your help to the winners, if they ignore it, there are elections again in 2006 and 2008. I for one will continue to keep files on past, present and future promises and actions taken or not taken and with whose support or do not support the efforts of the U.S. to bring terror to justice, educate all who are willing and bring stability to the world. In the meantime, approximately 95% of all citizens of the United States of America are on American soil right now. If you are one of us are you doing your part?? In my small ways, I am trying.

I am reminding you again that 42,000 Americans were killed in vehicle accidents last year and over a million injured. 16,000 in alcohol related deaths, including 2300 teenagers. This compares to 1100 Americans who have died from all causes in Iraq since the war on terror began. If you say “what about all the Iraq people killed since the war started then you must have put out of your mind that most of these Iraq’s were killed by their own people and I’m sure you have put out of your mind the 300,000 unclaimed dead so far discovered in Iraq, killed by the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein.

I leave with this old Burma shave saying “The One Who Drives When He’s Been Drinking, Depends On You To Do His Thinking”.

More on Faulty Projections

This “blog” ties in to my last post “Missed Projections”. I need to correct a statement I made on my “blog” titled “Park Budget Buster”. On item number 6, I indicated that the Zoological Society would need to “raise $10,000,000.00 to pay the PPD back.” The correct statement should have been that the Zoological Society has reported that they have raised $17,000,000.00 toward their goal of $32,000,000.00 and are advancing $10,000,000.00 of these fund to the PPD to put in their proposed $44,700,000.00 budget for 2005, a budget they will present to their board on Wednesday, November 10, at 6:00PM.
An article in the JS on 10/03/04, states “Zoo is still $15,000,000.00 short” of funds needed to reach their goal of $32,000,000.00. On 10/21/04 the JS reported that “construction would not start until 90% of the money is raised”. That leaves an approximately $13,000,000.00 still to be raised before any construction starts.

An article dated 11/29/00 in the JS states “Glen Oak Supporters Seek $25,000,000.00” to expand the current zoo by 13 acres. Somewhere between that date and 10/21/04 the amount sought leaped $7,000,000.00!! An article in the JS on 10/31/04 states that the zoo’s size will increase from 7 acres to 24 . That’s 17 acres, not 13!

An article in the Wall Street Journal dated 5/30/03 titled “A Bear Market for Zoos” says “From Nevada to Philadelphia, zoos and animal parks are taking some unusual steps to cope with budget cuts. Indeed, nearly half of the country’s zoos are facing cutbacks this year, according to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. Attendance is down about 3% nationwide.”

The current Peoria Zoo lost approximately $400,000.00 in 2003. New losses won’t be available for public view until the 2004 year end financial report is released in June of 2005. Since no “business plan” is available from those connected with the fund raising, and projected zoo attendance guess-estimates range from 170,000 to 400,00, I will go on record to suggest the new zoo with its expensive and more expensive to maintain inhabitants and employees, will lose more than the RiverPlex loses each year.

Current admission is $4.75 for adults and $2.50 for children 3 to 12. Admission is free on Tuesdays. The JS article previously mentioned quotes Zoo Administrator Jan Schweitzer as saying “about 120,000 people a year now visit the zoo with some school children coming from as far as 50 to 60 miles away.” Zoo officials say the expanded zoo could attract up to 170,000 people a year. I’m told by school administrators that if the admission fees for these kids are raised, these financially strapped schools may not be able to afford school time visitations.

Just to sum up:
The appeal of zoos nationwide has declined. That should be obvious with the advent of more sophisticated technology; kids can see more interesting things while seated in their own living rooms.
The cost of the new addition has jumped in cost by $7,000,000.00 and construction hasn’t even started.
A perpetual maintenance fund of $2,000,000.00 doesn’t hold water. The maximum return on an investment this size yearly contributed for maintenance would be approximately $130,000. The current zoo loses approx. $400,000.00 a year. With a $32,000,000.00 add on to the existing zoo, costs to maintain will be far in excess of $130,000.00 a year. To make up the losses, guess who will be stuck with higher property taxes?? And golfers, if you think $20.00 a year if all you’re going to get in season passes, think again.

The private funds being donated to this more than likely major money loser are being diverted away from the new softball fields the Park President promised in 2003. Too late, my softball playing friend say that with Eastside, Bloomington, Morton and Pekin ahead of Peoria, new fields would be major money losers.
These private funds will detract from donations for the museum and civic center addition.
These private funds will detract from greater social donations, most of which have a far greater impact of the well-being of our community than “enhancements”.
What about the cities use of your taxpayer dollars to create the traffic infrastructure for expanded entries into the zoo? My councilman says as far as he knows the city will not be involved. Want to bet??

Will $32,000,000.00 get you a nicer zoo? Absolutely!! Look at the new ball park and the RiverPlex. Beautiful, but have they ever even come close to projected attendance and break even points? But relax, we still have the $55,000.000.00 Civic Center expansion, the New Children Playhouse, the New $65,000,000.00 Museum and the new PPD headquarters building. Plus a lot more!

Does anyone care about the condition of some of our cities roadbeds and road ways? I know our Director of Public Works does but his budget is not adequate. I suggest our leadership take their out of town visitors to see the condition of streets below say Lincoln southward all the way to the southernmost city limits. But those residents lack power to get much done and don’t get too much help from their city council representatives.

Peoria lost 4300 more people moving out than moving in or being born in the last three years according to JS Business writer Paul Gordon.

Expect more.

Missed Projections

An article I wrote in early March of 1999, while running against the incumbent Zan Ransburg for a seat on the Peoria County Board, reads as follows: “There will be more requests for tax money than we feel ready to spend. Elected officials must carefully examine these requests, especially when that money is used to support private enterprise or public enterprise that is in competition with existing business. Tax dollars should be spent on a strong infrastructure or “core” so businesses will want to join our community and we will grow naturally. We believe that taxes must be reasonable and tax dollars are to be spent for the benefit of all. Elected officials should be careful in handing out “loans” to grow and improve our community. This is no simple task but the criteria should be relatively simple. “Loans” must be based on how well the “borrower” presents the package, are its financial projections reasonable, does it have broad community support, is it for the common good, can we afford it, does it have a proven track record and is it financially stable”.

The city, and sometimes the county have given financial support to many private and public projects since 1999, many of them that did not meet the above criteria. Let’s see how your money they spent is doing. Let’s start with the most controversial project the city was involved in; the Riverplex. It’s short approximately 2200 full year memberships projected by the Park Board and the Benfield Group from St. Louis, both of these market studies were used to determine the feasibility of this recreational and fitness facility. (JS article 6/99). These projections were what the PPD used as their profit and loss projections and the community need for this facility. These studies showed the RiverPlex as losing $152,639 with only 3000 members and a profit of $521,381 for 5000 members by the 4th year. Bonnie Noble, executive director of the PPD, is quoted in this article as saying “recruiting 5,000 members or less than one third of the target market, is a fairly safe bet”.

An article in the JS dated 7/01/02 says that the facility was already above its capacity of 7500 members but needed about 600 more paying customers to break even. On 5/1/03 in an article in the JS, the PPD is quoted as saying the number of paying members had dropped to 3,789 plus 1,724 non paying scholarships.

The contract signed by the St. Francis Medical Center, Tim Cassidy, President of the PPD and the State of Illinois, states “memberships”, meaning contracts, not members. One contract could cover any number of members using the facility but paying only one contract charge. I know one family of nine that use this facility but are all on one contract. According to PPD sources, the current number of actual paying contracts, many of which are less than a year, range from 2200 to 2800. This is far below the premise of 5,000 or more on which this tax payer supported facility was built.

Figures taken from PPD documents show payments of $3,270,946.00 in principal and interest are being met by the sale of new bonds sold in 2022, 2003 and 2004 with $782,000.00 projected to be sold in January of 2005. These figures only include the Riverplex and the PPD is expected to approve the sale of more bonds for next year, expected to total over $3 million.

On 3/21/99, Park President Tim Cassidy said that “if the growth of this community continues at only a fraction of what it has in the past five years, most, if not all, of the bonded indebtedness will be paid thru RecPlex revenues.” Fact - not one thin dime of revenue has been generated yet and losses are on schedule to escalate when the 2004 year end figures are released in June of 2005. The cost of a contract is scheduled to rise in 2005 but these possible additional revenues are too late to help 2004 figures. So far, RiverPlex deficits of $3,270,946.00 plus another $466,890.00 in operating costs have been put in new bonds not including any that might be put in to cover 2004 operational deficits. (RecPlex was the original name, changed to the RiverPlex after a storm of bad publicity over the building of this facility.) In the years 2002 and 2003 , $466,890.00 of RiverPlex operating costs were put in new bonds making the exactly traceable RiverPlex losses thru year 2003 at $4000.00 + a day. The PPD takes funds from other park sources of revenue to reimburse the RiverPlex for the free scholarships and covers other RiverPlex costs from other sources so the estimated loss per day since inception is in the $5,000.00 -$6,000.00 a day range. This includes the fitness partner’s loss of $577,000.00 loss in year 2003 but does not include the projected $600,000.00 fitness partner’s loss for 2004.

Oh yes, what was your investment in this project other than rising property taxes: $4,700,000.00 of your tax dollars, compliments of the City of Peoria!! Plus loss of all the tax revenue from privately owned recreation and fitness centers who are being undercut in pricing by the PPD!! And approximately 40% of the users of the RiverPlex, come from outside the PPD tax district paying no taxes to support the RiverPlex!!

My next “blog” will detail more places where your tax dollars went without producing the projected return. Brace yourself, there are many!!

I leave this site with this old Burma Shave sign that once dotted our roadways “Don’t Loss Your Head To Gain A Minute; You Need Your Head Your Brains Are In It.”

Well, maybe.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Super Senior Tennis News

The Super Senior Tennis News November/December issue received today has an article about this “blog” site. Doug Crary, a ninety year old tennis championship player is the reporter for this news letter which covers tournaments and other news about tennis players 55 and over. Doug recently participated in the USTA National 85 and 90 grass court championships at Longwood Cricket Club, Chestnut Hill, Maryland. There were fourteen entries in the 90 year old division. Doug covers most major tennis tournaments in the USA as well as the International Tennis Federation tournaments. The ITF World Championships in Philadelphia this year drew over 700 players from 25 different countries.

Senior tennis has regularly scheduled tournaments all across the country every year, all year long. Every five years players move up into the next age group. A player may play down in age but you cannot play up. Since I will be 80 in June, I will be eligible to play in the 80’s age group on January,1,2005. I plan to play more tournaments in 2005.

I didn’t take up tennis until I was 55 but I caught on fairly quickly and have won over 200 awards since1983. Locally, I won the Tri-County 65 doubles three times and was runner up twice. My best local wins were singles titles in 1996-7 at the Twin City open in Bloomington –Normal defeating formerly 17th nationally ranked and Bradley University coach John Moorhouse (now deceased) and former Bradley star, Bob Orr. In 1999, Bob Orr and I won the Midwest national 70 doubles in Lansing Michigan winning 8 matches in three days. I have been a finalist in both singles and doubles at the World Senior Games in St. George, Utah. I have 12 first or finalist titles from the Midwest Hard Courts Tournaments in Danville, Il. I also won the Phoenix, AZ. Senior Open in the 70 age group. My highest ranking in the Midwest has been #4, but I have not played enough national tournaments to get a national ranking and the players are too good! Maybe in 2005 I’ll earn a ranking.

In 2002 I was selected to play on the Midwest intersectional tournaments at Tucson, AZ. playing singles and doubles, a total of 8 matches in four days. Unfortunately I was the only one to win a match in the 75’s from the Midwest. I’ve also been ranked # 1 several times in Middle Illinois. I have also been a finalist on the Florida Grand Prix circuit that attracts some of the best player from the USA and Canada.

I’m planning to play two tournaments in Naples, Fl. Starting January 17-30. I’m in need of a doubles partner so if anyone is looking, contact me.

Some outstanding players regularly enter these tournaments including many times World Champion Jason Morton from Phoenix. Jason sat in the umpires chair during the famous Bobby Riggs-Billy Jean King match in Houston many years ago. I had the good fortune to be Jason’s doubles partner in Seefeld, Austria in an ITF tournament. We only made it to the quarters but Jason lost in three sets in the semis, losing to an Austrian he had previously defeated four times. I’ve played with and against Tom Brown who won the U.S. Open with doubles partner Jack Kramer and lost to his partner in the finals of the singles that year. I’ve played the legendary Pancho Segura, Torben Ulrich from Denmark, Bob Howe and Hugh Stewart from Australia. I’ve played Bob Sherman who is another Santa Barbara legend winning 60 or more World Championships. Since we seniors have National tournaments on four surfaces, indoor hardcourt, outdoor hardcourt, clay and grass, it is possible to win 4 Nationals in one year and players like Morton, Sherman and Fred Kovaleski of New York and Florida, have done that many times. I’ve played against other famous names like Ed Kauder, King Lambert, Wayne Hippenstiel, the Seymour’s, all national and international Champions. I’m friends of Irv Converse and his wife Mary(Irv is Peorian Ralph Converse’s dad),and his doubles partner Dan Miller (I’m sorry to hear Dan is off the tour taking care of his wife Mabel) both of which I have played against or with. Irv and Dan also are national and international champions now playing in the 85’s.

But back to my friend Doug Crary who keeps the Super Senior News interesting and up to date. Doug travels the country in his trusty Volkswagen, plays in as many tournaments as he can, takes pictures, writes all the articles and he is at least 90 years young!! The great part of playing the senior tour is the meeting and making new friends, playing at the great clubs who are hosts to these tournaments such as the Foothills Country Club in Santa Barbara, the Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va. where I was playing on 9/11, Naples Bath and Tennis Club where I’ve run into Peorians living there, Pinehurst, NC and Danville, where the folks are very friendly and the Saturday picnic at Danville is fun and the home cooked food is excellent.

I know I’ve missed writing about many of my friends like Jim and Linda Grossman from Michigan, James Anderson from Colorado and Oscar and Millie from Florida. Hope to see you soon!! I’ll catch up with more names, news and tournaments in another “blog” on another day. You can post a comment on this page so I hope some of you read this and contact me.

Doug, thanks a lot for your great reporting!! You keep us all in touch. Hope your health is good and maybe I’ll see you in Florida. Do you have the schedule for the national tournaments next year? Maybe you can publish them on this site or e-mail me. Anyone wishing to reach Doug and Super Senior Tennis New can do so at

Thanks for reading this!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Illegal Use of Journal Star Logo??

All right, all right, I’m sorry but I overlooked a quote on election day in the JS that is attributed to Jack Brimeyer, Managing Editor of the Journal Star . Brimeyer is quoted as saying “the newspaper will consult with its lawyers regarding use of the Journal Star logo in this flier and other campaign literature. In my 20-some years here, I’ve never seen a candidate (Ricca Slone) use the Journal Star’s logo so blatantly.” Well, Jack, I say you and your Editorial Board must have forgotten about my campaign for the Peoria County Board in 2000 (which I won despite being assassinated by the Journal Editorial Board three times) in which my opponent blatantly used your logo, “JOURNAL STAR, a Copley Newspaper, Peoria, Illinois, U.S.A., Journal Star October 24, 2000” on both sides of the mailers? In other “blogs”, I have commented about media bias and the JS. Your newspaper is one of the most biased newspapers in the U.S.A.!! The quotes used in this mailer were taken out of context from your paper with your paper’s logo, yet your paper never said a word!!

Your paper strongly endorsed my opponent so it was OK for my opponent to use your logo, right? Your paper strongly endorsed Ricca’s opponent so it wasn’t all right for Ricca to use your logo, right? Ricca, if you or one of your friends see this “blog”, I saved a copy of these mailers so if Jack’s attorneys harass you, I’ll support you because the Journal Star has set a precedent of another candidate using their logo, despite the supposed advantage of the power of this logo, both of you lost your election. (Also these mailers used wording out of context.)

When I started writing, I said I would not be “politically correct”. I plan to defend myself and other people who are assaulted by any media. What their party affiliation or no party affiliation or whether I voted for them doesn’t matter. The Journal has tried and sometimes succeeded in destroying those they hate. If you agree with them orfollow their attempts to lead you can do no wrong.

Someone who knows Ricca better than I do should send her a copy of this document.

Election Commentaries

Okay, the election is over and this time the popular vote for the Republican President is said to be the largest vote total in history. The spread was significant so most of the lawyers can now go back to their clientele and defend and prosecute their usually non media worthy causes. (Of course the tort lawyers will keep advertising to find users of Vioxx who died of any kind of heart failure.) The candidates stated their accomplishments and outlined their plans for the future of the country. The media reported whatever was being said, put their own twist on these words or pictures and often showed their bias in support of the candidate they favored. And then suddenly it was over with the voter having the last say. Now we will see if the Republicans and Democrats can agree on the priorities that are in the best interests of the country and do what voters elect them to do. These party leaders say to us they plan to work toward these priorities without political affiliation getting in the way. We’ll see. In the meantime we can start looking forward to the 2006 elections. Oh boy!!

No, I didn’t forget our own mayoral races right here in “rivercity”. Three current City Council members are candidates for this position. Unfortunately they helped spend prodigious amounts of your money on such outstanding projects as the ballpark,(missed their attendance projection this season by 92,000), the RiverPlex center,(lost approx. $6,000.00 a day in 2003 and rumored this year to be 2200 contracts below the targeted number of 5,000 (JS 6/16,1999, quoting Bonnie Noble, Park Super), the Gateway Center,(losing $500,000.00 a year, One Tech Plaza, (vacant space) Damons (oops, gone ) Cubs Foods, who received a rumored $5.5 million in tax breaks from the city (guess the two grocery stores that closed up after the Cub store opened, didn’t get any city money), and tax rebates of $706,560.00 to a privately owned riverfront recreation center. (JS, Mike Bailey column 2/2/02.) A strong mayoral candidate should be a shoo-in, but probably not – we seem to love people who spend our money. But help is on the way (THE CUBS ARE COMING TO TOWN IN 2005!!).

Oh, and before I forget, two PPD board members are up for reelection in March, both probably will run unopposed, for who would want to face the wrath of the Park Superintendent. Besides, the PPD’s budget is only $44,700,000.00 next year, up approximately $11,000,000.00 from last year plus selling another $3,000,000.00 bond just like they have done the past four years. Chump change for our Peoria leadership!! (Just think what $20,000,000.00 of that money would do for the infrastructure of the City of Peoria!!) Paul Gordon stated in the JS on 11/02/04, that 4254 people moved out of Peoria last year showing a population loss of 1%. Remember when Peoria was the 2nd largest city in Illinois? But then, why live in the City of Peoria when you can live anywhere and drive over and use our Peoria taxpayer funded money losing facilities?

I voted yesterday, the candidates I supported were most all winners, the stock market was up, I won my tennis matches today and the world is good!! I’m not going to talk about elections for a long time---well at least not till next week.

It’s true we like beautiful things in Peoria, but remember that some people thought Attila the Hun was one of the best dressed people of the 5th century.