Everybody knows by now that the mining, processing, distribution and sale of the water in the City of Peoria will not be done by the public sector. There was never a question that Illinois-American was supposed to make a profit. That’s what businesses do or they go broke, sell to another company, are taken over by another company, ect. There was never any doubt that some money could be made if the city bought the privately held company. The major concern of the public and eventually a majority of 6 on the city council thought it was too close of a call to commit the citizenry to a borrowing of $220 million plus interest over 34 years. There was also never a doubt that the voter did not want the city to OWN THE WATER COMPANY.
Anyone who serves as an unbiased elected official should be knighted. Imagine the Chamber saying that “they” represent 1200 businesses and the chamber supports the buyout and you, as an elected official perhaps selling to these businesses, vote against their wishes. (Of course, the C of C polled only their cronies, probably a dozen at the most, so I don’t expect Brewers Distributing and George Jacob will lose much business.) Imagine voting against the wishes of the Civic Federation? Bravery beyond earning knighthood!! On the other hand voting against the wishes of at least 75% of referendum voters, took some courage on the part of “buy the water company” council members.
It’s over at least for some years. Always move on without too much celebration. While you’re celebrating someone is already plotting a way to spoil your party.
However, I do believe there is something in this debate and vote that many in the community are seeing and that is that voters do not believe “some of those who have anointed themselves, and each other, as the real movers and shakers of this community.” Let me point out that some of these leaders are still patting themselves on the back for supporting the Civic Center 40 YEARS AGO!! By the way, so did I!! Since 1964, they have been talking about the great RiverPlex, the new ballpark, the Gateway Center, the restaurant on stilts, Cubs Food, all the new restaurants in the old River Station, the new entertainment center downtown, One Technology Plaza, the lofts and 401 Water Street. Then they realized the only ones that seem to be living up to the hype, are the lofts and 401 Water Street. The new hype is now on the new zoo expansion, the two museums and the Med-Tech development. And of course the control of the water; that hype ended last night.
So some faith has been lost. It may have started when I had the audacity to run against an incumbent County Board member, Zan Ransburg and my defeating her by a 27% margin. Later, I ran against the incumbent President of the Park Board. All the big guns were rolled out to defeat me; a reported $19,000. was spent including $2000.00 from PAC (C of C), and phone calls were made to almost anyone doing business with the park saying “do not support Widmer if you want our business.” A prominent caterer whose business is on Pioneer Parkway received an urgent phone call telling him to remove my signs from his premises. His office was able to reach him in Chicago and he authorized the 2 signs to be taken down and held for me to pick up. When I noticed the signs were gone, the owner took me around to the back of the building where he stored them, but the signs were gone. Powerful forces were at work to be sure I didn’t interrupt the visions of our leaders
Even though I lost the election by a large margin, most of my campaign statements proved to be true causing a ripple effect of worry that a person outside the power structure could become such a problem and this ripple effect turned into a wave on Tuesday night.
When Jim Ardis ran for the office of Mayor of Peoria and won by a sizeable margin, almost all of the power structures supported the incumbent, Dave Ransburg; contributing large amounts of money. (The list of contributors and the amounts contributed can be easily secured with a phone call to the Board of Elections Commission in Springfield and a partial list thru the Count Clerks office.) Jim’s election as Mayor of Peoria created a very large ripple effect, temporarily disrupting many personal and private plans in the community.
So, the grassroots’ citizens are making a come back. Bob Manning, I believe is part of that movement, even though he was disappointed Tuesday night. He did a good job of presenting his case but erred when he said the profits that would be made by city ownership, would go to the city rather than be used as a source of relief for the taxpayer. Bob, who will be an asset to the council, will realize, as he gains more political experience, that the governmental bodies will always find “creative” ways to spend new revenues. That’s the nature of the political beast. George Jacob is correct by saying, in effect, that over spending on seemingly worthwhile projects, including overly generous benefits, are the problems that must be addressed.
The lesson learned is “Grassroots’ citizens do not want to be locked out of power by those we gave power to.” We need leadership groups in Peoria and we have an abundance of leaders. These existing leadership groups need to realize that they are not always right and that they are not the only ones who can make important decisions in this community.
Perhaps they will become more inclusive. We all live in this community and we are all of some importance to the success of this community and its citizens.