“Visionary leader wants to expand the zoo into $100 million cultural and educational opportunity for the whole community” says Rita Kress president of the Peoria Zoological Society. This statement is in a column titled “Zoo plans get guarded optimism” by Terry Bibo in today’s JS. Bibo goes on to say “And while the price tag may make your eyes pop, their plan is promising, especially if zoo backers pay for it and make sure it pays for itself.” Bibo has that right. “We are hitting all the sources except a referendum from the taxpayers. We don’t want to do that”, says Mrs. Kress.
How true!! A referendum for a $100 million (or even a $20 million) zoo expansion would go over about as well as the water company buyout referendum.
Visionary leaders and their visions of grandeur?? Ah yes, we have had a few and the one vision that many of our leaders keep coming back to is the Civic Center and that was built 40 YEARS AGO!!
You may want to go back and read my previous “Zooillogical” blogs where I give names, dates and quote numbers. None of this is speculation or hearsay. It’s all in black and white print. The numbers for this zoo expansion don’t add up and never will. The zoo makers say they have a business plan but my repeated request to examine it, are stonewalled by Mrs. Kress herself!! Interpretation? They do NOT HAVE ONE. If the taxpayers want to stick their children and grandchildren with never ending taxes, so be it. My children and grandchildren live in communities outside of Peoria that practice some fiscal spending restraint.
If the wealthy of this community wish to “fund” this project along with the new museum, more power to them as I occasionally visit a zoo, museum and a ball park and don’t mind paying a reasonable entrance fee.
Mrs. Kress also wants the public zoo to get into more private business by adding florist shops and veterinarian service. Shades of the $6,000 a day money losing RiverPlex! As a reminder to the reader, public enhancement bodies do not pay PROPERTY TAXES.
As a former businessman, now an elected official and a resident of the City of Peoria for 30 or more years, I can say I have supported all enhancements to the city until 1999 when our “visionary” leaders turned into not “visionaries” but “dreamers”. (I refer you back to my previous blog on “Dreamsville and Prosperity.” I was a dreamer too, when I was a teen, I thought I might make it too the big leagues as a baseball player but wound up at my realism level in the Municipal League over at Bloomington-Normal. But I did visit Brookfield Zoo on my first honeymoon. Most memorable!
The Caterpillar project funded by Caterpillar and with “free admission” will be a great asset to the community just like the Deere Pavilion in Moline is an asset to the Quad-Cities, that opened in 1997. (Refer my John Deere Commons blog). Even at this late date, the Caterpillar promise comes with taxpayer stings attached.
Not meaning to use a cliché but “there ain’t no such thing as a “free lunch.”