A couple of years ago, the Journal Star Editorial Board (in all future blogs this group will be referred to as JSEB) listed a number of disappointments regarding the apparent inability of most involved in this community to get their act together. They wrote “This failure of many in the Peoria area to still neither recognize nor appreciate the obvious need for collaboration within the community so the region can do its own thing to its fullest potential”… No wonder; Peoria is a community of so many committees, a community that has listened to so many planners, had so many involved leave with Peoria leadership nodding their heads in agreement as the planners fly out of town, maybe to come back another year to pick up a paycheck so of course we all are disappointed. The JSEB has also cautioned the community to save money for the really important projects, but The JSEB has seldom seen a taxpayer funded project they didn’t like. They, along with most of the elite in this community, were in full support of projects like the Promenade; fortunately the City Council stopped this grab for money, losers like One Technology Plaza, The Gateway Center, the RiverPlex, the ballpark and more. They still support the zoo but are becoming cautious. They are not alone in their thinking.
To be seated soon will be a new mayor of Peoria and two new councilpeople, all promising to be inclusive and transparent. Sounds good but how do you get all authorities and egos together especially when there are so many different groups involved. Let’s count a few: City Council and Mayor and City Manager, Peoria County Board and Chairman and County Administrator, the public school systems, the park district, the library system, the Heartland Partnership with it’s “family of companies” of 16 different branches (four are listed as “service providers and the rest as direct management) that include the Chamber, the EDC and Civic Federation Vision 2020 (the “family chart” shows the Civic Federation and Vision 2020 as one and same), the Heart of Peoria, Heartland Water Resources, the Riverfront Committee and other committees too numerous to mention.
Many of these committees and part of the community that supported those who lost are skeptical of the ability of these newly elected people. However, most of the community does not or they wouldn’t have elected them to office. I suggest that everyone who considers themselves leaders in this community lay aside their disappointments and they and their committees become transparent and inclusive. Those who lost are actually winners if they swallow their pride and get back on the team where their opinions will still be respected by those who voted against them, if they learn to respect the opinions of others. The fact is Jim Ardis will soon be Mayor Jim Ardis, chosen by popular vote to lead this community. Jim is challenged to lead the “welding” of all this independent leadership with all these committees. In my opinion, Jim would do well not to form more committees to “study things” but to work with all existing entities and ask for their help in reducing the number of independent authorities and committees. All governmental bodies in Peoria would be wise if they stopped bringing in “outside experts and consultants” except where local expertise is lacking. This is a talent loaded community which may be part of the problem. Do we have a problem of too much talent with great ideas with not enough money and too much let’s do it “my way” or our way because we know better than others? It’s hard to have too much talent but I’d rather have less talent and more teamwork. Look at sport teams loaded with talent who never win the big games and corporations loaded with talent who lose stockholders money and even go broke. Great talent does not guarantee success if you can’t work with others who may not be as talented as you. The U of I was a good example of talent working together (not a bunch of individual stars) and for lack of a couple more inches, was the best team in college basketball. Maybe Illinois was the best; sometimes the best lose.
A business background is very essential to help guide a public entity but the public sector is far different than the private sector where decisions can be made quickly and with a the consensus of a small group, the private sector can move ahead. If the private sector makes money, they get to keep most of it and if they lose too much, they go broke. In the public sector, if you make bad decisions, you can raise taxes, fees, and sell bonds. The worst that can happen is you may not get reelected (but again, maybe you can if you can fool the taxpayer and voter long enough).
Okay, accept that the voters saw some flaws in the system and voted for change. They weren’t just saying; let’s change, to those elected. The community is looking for a lot of changes on many levels. Let’s work on at least reducing these flaws and work to realize the potential all these outside consultants say we have.
And please don’t tell me of all the great things community has done. Of course, many good things have been done; look at the hundreds of millions of dollars spent. Now many people feel overtaxed and wonder how we are going to do all the things this community has on its plate, not even including improved infrastructures..