Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Lest We Forget Revisted

On April 18 I posted a blog “Lest We Forget”. One of the comments I received came from Kevin Reynen, Director of Institutional Technology at Bradley University. I answered Mr. Reynen on that site but promised him I would go into more detail in a new blog. Mr. Reynen must be new in town; I couldn’t find him listed in the phone book. He evidently doesn’t read the newspapers when he insinuated creative persons like himself and his friends, would leave Peoria if there was “nothing to do” in this community. I suggest he should have read the response to Journal Star editorial writer, Mike Bailey, who upset the riverfront investors. Developer Mike Wisdom wrote a “letter to the editor” signed by most everybody downtown, entitled “Here’s what Dilbert can do Downtown”. Mike and his co-signers listed approximately 11 columnar inches of things you can do downtown including the more than 500 events hosted annually at the Civic Center and 200 events at the riverfront.

Some “creative types” might also enjoy Big Al’s, Fantasyland & Elliott’s. Moving westward and Northwest from the riverfront, we have the libraries, Lakeview Museum, the racetrack, The Shoppes and IMAX and of course Bradley with all their year round activities. Across the river we have the gambling boat, Eastside, the new convention center, ICC, the Barn dinner theatre to name a few. Then we have Peoria Park District with their hundreds of activities spread out over nine thousand acres of parkland. Maybe Mr. Reynen and his friends like physical activities such as tennis (44 courts) the many golf clubs in the area. We offer two major Country Clubs with all kinds of amenities and health clubs by the dozens. Not enough things for you to do? Maybe you’re just not getting around enough. If you’ve been to all these places and done all these things, (did I mention boating, fishing and hunting,) then I guess it’s soon to be goodbye. Too bad, we’ll miss you guys!! The mountains and the desert are great places to live also. I’ve done that.

Mr. Reynen asks me if I’m a fiscal conservative or a “piss on everything” type of guy. Again I’ll excuse his ignorance because as I’ve said, he is evidently new in town. But just to update him, I came to Peoria in 1964 and established a business that still bears my name even though I sold it 13 years ago. I met a payroll for 28 years. Once you have to meet a payroll, Mr. Reynen; it changes your perspective of how your tax dollars are being spent. I am definitely pro the private sector!!

At times I was a major contributor to Bradley; Mr. Reynen could find my name on a plaque in the engineering department honoring me for my contribution. He could even find I even sponsored an award at Bradley for over twenty years until I asked my name be removed last year. In fact, I was Vice-President of the Bradley Chiefs Club

If Mr. Reynen cares to read the approximately 60 blogs I posted since last August and some of my 38 “letters to the editors” the newspapers published in the past 10 years, he might get to know me better. His question of whether I am a fiscal conservative or “piss on everything” person is typically “university speak” these days. Things are either black or white. That I am a fiscal conservative is a given. I’m hardly against bringing new things to town: I brought one to town myself 41 years. However, Mr. Reynen is absolutely entitled to his own opinion of me as we allow free speech in this country. (witness our universities) I appreciate his reading me and would encourage him to join us bloggers so he can get a wider forum for his opinions.

I’ve always been inclusive and transparent in what I say, write or do. But I’m seldom “politically correct”. I do, in order to build up my self esteem, believe I have a modicum of common sense and on many occasion, proved it.

He asks me what I would do to improve Peoria. This blog is already too long but if you really want my opinion, which is pretty representative of the mainstream, keep reading my blogs and visit my archives.

He asks if most bloggers are negative in what they write. No, I think they are voices of concern often never heard, who have found a medium where they can be read and heard; they have the courage to write to the whole world and accept people’s comments on what they write. If not many people read them or comment, so what? At least they get an opportunity to express how they see things or feel about what goes on in the community or the world.

PS. Did I forget biking, hiking and skateboarding (if you can find the skateboard park.) Did I leave out football and hockey? Probably left out a lot of other “activities.” I also forgot to mention the emergency rooms at some of the hospitals where things can get pretty exciting early Saturday and Sunday mornings. I guess it all depends on what each of us would like to see in the community in which we live.

Bill Gates and Education

“Will America Slip From #1?” This is an editorial written by David Gergen, Editor at Large of U.S. News and World Report dated 4/04/05. The article reads, “22 years ago, a national education commission concluded that our schools faced a “rising tide of mediocrity”. Despite all the reforms, including NCLB, we are still showing uneven progress and other nations are moving ahead of us in education our children.” Bill Gates is quoted in this article “When I compare our high schools to what I see traveling abroad, I am terrified for our workforce of tomorrow.” He continues “America’s high schools are obsolete. We should not only be alarmed but ashamed.” Gates continues “in 2001 India graduated a million more students from college with six times as many university students majoring in engineering than the U.S.. He further states that many of those students are staying in India to work, saying “no” to higher paying jobs in the U.S. As a result U.S. based companies are finding it increasingly attractive to build not only their manufacturing plants abroad but their R&D operations as well.

The article continues, “Our leaders must rally Washington and the country to a revolutionary overhaul of public education. In our founding years, Americans were among the most literate people on earth, and this put us in an upward path. The education of our young has always been a key to our greatness. Will we now rescue the next generation or condemn it to 2nd place?”

The article continues to state “of the kids WHO REACH ninth grade, 32% disappear before high school graduation. Another third finish high school but aren’t ready for college or work. Only the upper third leave high school ready for college, work, and citizenship”.

Another article dated 4/02/05 in the same magazine states that India is turning outcome 82,000 engineering graduates a year, versus about 60,000 in the U.S. A new engineer with top academic credentials earns about $9,000.00 and a senior engineer with eight years experience earns about $20,000.00 a year. “Because innovation tends to follow jobs, key drivers of our economic prosperity could be lost.”

Part of our problems could be solved if administrators and school boards would subscribe to Gate’s advice to a high school class on 11/07/01. I quote Mr. Gates:

Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it.

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will not make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school….nor will you be a corporate-Vice President with a car phone, until you earn both. (Bill was partly wrong on both these counts, the most talented graduates in demand today sometimes start at forty thousand and even those on welfare sometimes have car phones they need to complete their drug deals.)

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents (most, not all) had a different word for burger flipping—they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parent’s fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes; learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life has NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll 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. (An article in WSJ on 3/11/05 chided organizations who gave out sports trophies to kids for just showing up. Have we really gotten that socialist? Kids now expect a pat on the back when they haven’t even tried!!) When my dad and mom raised nine kids, we got a kick in the butt if we whined and didn’t try hard; today for disciplining us, my parents would have gotten a visit from DCFS. All nine kids turned out to be good citizens because our parents and teachers disciplined us because THEY CARED. They showed their love for us by their actions; they knew words were cheap.

Rule #9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

Rule #10: Television is not REAL life; people actually have to leave the bed and go get jobs.

Rule #11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Bill was talking to high school graduates; which means the half that made it thru 12 grades. Unfortunately, the other half who don’t make it thru 12 grades should be taught the above rules BEFORE they drop out of school.

Bill should also talk to some teachers. Sometimes when I visit a classroom, the principal introduces me to the teacher who then ignores me and does not introduce me to the class. Some teachers start a class WITH NO OPENING STATEMENT, like, “class, here’s what we are going to learn today and this is why you need to learn it. Some teachers are crossing off the days they have left to teach before they draw their pensions at 55. How can they really teach when they appear “burnt out”? About one half tell me “thanks for visiting, seeing what we often contend with and caring.”

Monday, April 25, 2005

School Daze #2

Yesterday I said I would be back to tell you what I see right or wrong about testing and the No Child Left Behind Act. Just to reconfirm what I’ve known since I left the teaching field many years ago, I visited two classes at a District #150 Edison School today. I observed first hand a large percentage of kids who have already been left behind, some will not make it to high school and if they do, they will not be prepared. One older teacher ignored the interruptions of the kids and taught the few kids that were paying attention and the younger teacher spent 20% of her valuable time trying to get the classroom settled down. Both teachers were trying hard to get the class to pay attention and quit talking, but it was like a “wave” at a sporting event. When some were settled down, other started up again and that’s the way it was during most of the classroom period. The younger teacher said she is so exhausted some days she just goes home and goes to bed. It was exhausting to me just to watch how disrespectful many of the kids were. In the older teacher’s class, one kid had to stay out in the hall because he didn’t bring his books to class. Did he stay in the hall? No, in fact he kept coming in and strolled around the classroom, interrupting all he could and even used the telephone until the teacher finally took the phone away from him. Then he looked thru the hall door window or opened and closed the door trying to call attention to him-self. Some kids did not participate in the learning experience. Either just sitting there or throwing paper wads when the teacher was distracted or constantly getting up and moving around. At almost any given time, some kid was trying to distract!! Do any adults in charge of these kids ever come to visit a class to see the disrespect shown by their own kids? I am told these kids are disrespectful at home and carry that attitude into the school building.

I said yesterday, these disruptive students along with kids with high truancy rates, one with 61 absences as of April 19, will all be tested and the class judged by the results of all who took the test. A fair way to test kids in the NCLB? I think not.

I’ve visited enough public schools over the past number of years to see what’s happening and it continues to make me sad and mad. Those supposedly responsible (and there are responsible adults of parents) for their kids, transfer to Edison Schools because they think they are moving from an undesirable school to one where their kid will do better. In actuality, my observation is that many of the kids just transferred the problem to Edison holding back the ones that came to Edison to learn. To change Mr. Henry’s observation from college to grade school, “if students reflected a national boom in love of learning and a prevalent yen for self improvement, America’s investment in the classroom might make sense”.

I read today that 900 new inmates enter our prison systems each day and our prison population is now over 2,100,000. I could probably tag as could most teachers the ones that will be incarcerated at some time in their lives and the ones that will be pregnant, on welfare or both. The kids and the adults responsible for them will blame the “system”.

I’m now quoting from a book I read “Why do so many immigrants succeed? They enter our country detached from a larger society; not hearing the negative messages such as so many Afro-Americans hear – they come with values and goals strong enough to turn their menial jobs into liberation, not servitude. History teaches that energy and inventiveness have with centuries of toil cleared the ground & nurtured the growth of prosperity – what kindles the spirit that conjures up prosperity? The answer is culture, values and beliefs, not economics – poverty is the result of society, not of poor people given more subsidies; the more subsidies, the more reliant people will become”. Why do I bring Afro-Americans into this equation – because 60% of all the kids attending District #150 are Afro-American and approximately 70% are classified as poverty level or below?

Like all professions, some involved in educating our youth do a better job than others. But all are challenged by what they have to work with. It is no picnic to be a school teacher in the public school sector of Peoria. I applaud all teachers and wish I had the ability and “the fire in my belly” to help more with those teaching and working in the educational field in and all those involved in trying to save the public school systems in Peoria. We will always need public schools in Peoria because many of the kids I observe would not be accepted into a private school due to their lack of discipline, a work ethic and a poor attitude toward learning.

How did we get in the predicament we are in? Read William Henry and Myron Magnet. There are hundreds of books, many with different theories touting successes, failures and solutions but these two writers are best in defining the problems with attainable solutions.

If the workplace is where many of these kids are going to learn how to make it in society, someone must teach them to have at least a respectful attitude, to accept discipline, have a work ethic and integrity. That burden by default lies on the school systems. Otherwise why would anyone hire these uneducated graduates and dropouts? Out of charity?? Probably, if we drift further into a welfare and socialist state.

I was a mentor a few years back and when I visited with the then president of the school board to tell her of some of the problems I saw; she denied any problems in the system, yet that very day, I saw two policemen take two bloodied up grade school boys away in handcuffs. The problems we are having have been long in the making and the community without community leadership understanding what was happening and Dist. #150 took a large step backward when a weak school board hired Dr. John Strand as administrator. I believe we have a stronger board today and I wish Ken Hinton the best in mending a partially broken and bruised system.

When I moved here in 1975, I felt Peoria was in a state of denial. It didn’t want to bear the label of a blue collar town and denied the poverty of the underclasses. I feel the same way today when the advances some Peorians are proud of are the planning and building more enhancements. I wonder if many of the shakers and movers of this community have ever made an unannounced visit to a classroom and observed the disrespect and poor attitude of so many of these children and listened to the frustrations of the teachers. Enhancements may distract attention away from our flaws but they will not cover them up. GOODSCHOOLS, DECENT PAYING JOBS AND PUBLIC SAFETY ARE THE THREE MAJOR KEYS TO GROWTH AND STABILITY IN PEORIA11

I know the new administration is making progress and that I appreciate. Even though many of the kids are being bused to the school door, once they enter and are disruptive and refuse to learn, the very best administrators and teachers have a very difficult role in satisfying the federal government requirements of NCLB.

A few years ago one of my more wealthy acquaintances said “Merle, why do we care what happens to those who don’t make it in school and life? There are enough kids like my own that will supply the leadership in the community. I answered that we must bring everyone along to support and respect society or your kids will be dragging a lot of baggage when they are older. (Like maybe 3 million incarcerated at a cost to society of somewhere around $30,000.00 per each per year, plus a huge welfare system). My remarks gave him pause.

I have studied problems and solutions to the PSS for the past 11 years and have accumulated quite a lot of files. In these files lie the solutions but the problem as I see it is there is a lack of coordination and support from the leadership of the city. (I understand that Mrs. Royster is still on two or three major boards here in Peoria. Someone correct me if I’m wrong). Maybe I’ll be less sad in two or three years although it may be easier to bring democracy to Iraq than to bring several generations of family failures into family successes in our community.

I have attended many summits and strategic planning sessions. In these meeting, we identified most of the problems and successes. Now we need the talent and will to coordinate, organize, be inclusive and transparent and act swiftly.

I’ll be blogging more on the subject of “School Daze”.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

School Daze

I recently listed a few books I’ve read that were worth my time. “In Defense of Elitism” by William Henry confirmed what many of us believe. I quote from Page 156 and Page 157 “For American society, the big lie underlying higher education is akin to the aforementioned big lie about childrearing in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegeon: that everyone can be above average . In an unexamined American Dream rhetoric promoting mass higher education in the nation of my youth, the implicit vision was that one day everyone, or at least practically everyone, would be a manager or a professional. We would use the most elitist of all means, scholarship, toward the most egalitarian of ends. We would all become chiefs; hardly anyone would be left a mere Indian. On the surface this New Jerusalem appears as to have arrived. Where half a century ago the bulk of the jobs were blue collar, now a majority are white or pink collar. They are performed in the office instead of on the factory floor. If they tend to involve repetition and drudgery, at least they do not require heavy lifting.

But the wages for them are going down virtually as often as up. It has become an axiom of union lobbying that replacing a manufacturing economy with a service economy has meant exporting once-lucrative jobs to places where they can be done more cheaply. And as a great many disappointed office workers have discovered, being educated and better dressed at the workplace, does not transform one’s place in the pecking order. There are still plenty more Indians than chiefs. Lately, indeed, the chiefs are becoming even fewer. If, for a generation or so, corporate America bought into the daydream of making everyone a boss, the wakeup call has come. The major focus of the “downsizing” of recent years has been eliminating layers of middle management---much of it drawn from the ranks of those lured to college a generation or two ago by the idea that a degree would transform them from mediocre to magisterial.

Yet our colleges blithely go on “educating” many more prospective managers and professionals than we are likely to need. In my own field, there are typically more students majoring in journalism at any given moment than there are journalists employed at all the daily newspapers in the United States. A few years ago there were more students enrolled in law school than there were partners in law firms. Inevitably many students of limited talent spend huge amounts of time and money pursuing some brass ring occupation, only to see their dreams denied. As a society we consider it cruel not to give them every chance at success. It may be more cruel to let them go on fooling themselves.

In February of 1994 the President asserted that America needs a greater fusion between academic and vocational training---not because too many mediocre people misplaced on the college track are failing to acquire marketable vocational and technical skills, but because too many people on the vocational track are being denied courses that will secure them admittance to college. Surely what we Americans need is not a fusion of the two tracks but a sharper division between them, coupled with a forceful program for diverting intellectual also-rans out of the academic track and into the vocational one. That is where most of them are heading in life anyway. Why should they wait until they area older and must enroll in high-priced proprietary vocational programs of often dubious efficacy-frequently throwing away not only their funds but federal loans in the process-because they emerged from high school heading nowhere and knowing nothing that is use in the marketplace?

If the massive numbers of college students reflected a national boom in love of learning and a prevalent yen for self-improvement, America’s investment in the classroom might make sense.”


This book was written 12 years ago so what Mr. Henry is saying are even truer today. We still seem often times to “be running in place” yet I am seeing some progress. Hillary Pennington a think tank guru said in an article in the JS on 4/10/05, “The fastest growing occupations require more than high school, but not necessarily a four year college degree. It is time to redesign high schools to help ensure that all students complete some postsecondary learning. For every 100 students who start high school, only 68 will graduate four years later, only 40 will go to college and only 28 will return after freshman year, and only 18 will graduate”. She goes on to say “An Accelerated Career/Technical College would give work bound students a head start on earning transferable college credits at the same time as they prepare for entry-level jobs”.

She writes about a Gap Year in place of a senior year providing a combination of work experience and community service. She says our education system was designed, at best to meet the needs of the mid-20th century industrial economy, a dramatically different world than the one we inhabit today. In comparison, Mrs. Margaret Spelling, the Secretary of Education, talks like she is coming from la-la land. I’m not sure she has a clue about any schools except the upper class schools her three kids attended. I believe I respected Rod Paige approach but didn’t agree on many of his issues.

This blog is already too long so I’ll be back tomorrow with some realities that are being left out like the teacher who told me last week that one of his “students” missed 61 days in school yet that kid will be tested at the grade level with his classmates and bring the overall test scores down I’ll tell you what I see is right and wrong about testing and some observations the effectiveness of George’s NCLB.

Thanks again; remember that developing higher skills does not necessarily mean being a rocket scientist.

Tax Raising Pensions

So Dale Risinger was the only Illinois State Senator who voted against the pension raise for deputies. (JSEB, 4/22/05) Was Dale really standing up for the taxpayers? I suspect he was. I hear he is not planning to run for reelection, at least, that’s what some Republicans are saying. I may be wrong because I just received another request from him for money with the lowest figure being $100.00 and a blank for “other amounts”. If he is going to stand for reelection, I give him credit for looking out for the taxpayer and I’ll send him a few dollars. In the meantime, I’ll wait and see.

Politicians up for reelection are usually afraid to vote against special interests even though their vote may not be in the best interest of the public. When I first started blogging last August, I said “This is not a politically correct blogsite”. What I am saying today may not set well with a lot of people working in the public sector who are looking for a retirement package larger than the community can afford. However, many in the public sector also complain about rising taxes and rising healthcare costs.

There are always consequences of any actions taken, not all of these consequences are good for everyone. If the Illinois State Legislature, including Dave Leitch and Aaron Schock, vote to approve what the Senate approved, they might analyze the last local election where the voter appears to have voted for change. We’ll see and I’ll give credit or discredit on this site. I’m also past due to write some “letters to the editors”.

We cannot afford to keep allowing people to retire at 55 and let them still be paid up to 80% of their last salary earned. Even more ridiculous is allowing them to move 10 years of pension benefits earned in less lucrative government employment into the fatter (in this case deputies) system. A friend of mine, who was never in a management position is at the retirement age of 55 and asked me if I though he could live on his $60,000.00 a year pension. He asked what I though he might do to earn more money because he was too young to stop working. I said “get another government job and qualify for another pension.” His wife makes in the $80,000.00 range and also works for the public sector.

The majority of private businesses in Peoria do not have a pension plan. Why not? Because it is hard to meet a payroll with all the governmental regulations strapping most of the private sector and with more competition, much of it from other countries where the pay and benefits do not come close to the U.S. Most of the private sector tries to pay their employees as much as they can; they want them to do well too and also that they do not lose their best employees. They encourage the employees who help make them a profit, to work to at least be 65 when they retire and also encourage them to save some money or make some income producing investments to go along with their Social Security payments. Don’t tell me there may not be any Social Security some day. We have been drifting more to a socialist and welfare state for at least a couple of decades. Why work and save; the government will take care of you.

The taxpayer and voter are not paying enough attention to the backgrounds of those they elect to public office. Very few elected officials have ever had to meet a payroll. When you need to meet a payroll and are a little short of money, you can’t raise taxes, issue or increase levies, increase services charges and charge more for your product than the market can bear. Ever heard a government going broke? If this trend of increasing public benefits continue you may see some public bodies go broke; in fact the trend may break the whole country in less than 15 years.

Start projecting some of these public employee benefits for say up to10 years from now. If this speeding SUV doesn’t slow down, this country is in for far bigger problems than we have now.

If I worked for a public body, I would probably want as much salary, get as much time off as I could and accept all the benefits as I could get. I probably would not turn down an increase to my pocketbook. However, as an elected official of a public body, it is my job to look ahead so our community stays fiscally solvent and be as fair as I can be to public workers. Many elected officials do not appear to be looking much beyond their next run to be reelected.

Too bad; but change may be “a’comin”! It’s a little like the poison in some of our water systems as reported in the JS today. Easy to get into a bad situation; very difficult and costly to get out.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

River Rescue

The article in today’s JS talks about the damage done to the community of Beardstown by the Corp of Engineers. Many fear that the plans of the Corp of Engineers and approved by most of Central Illinois leadership, including the Heartland Water Resource Council, will add to the problems of increased siltation to the Illinois River. Insightful Gene Claudin continues to point out in his “letters to the editors” (Latest one appearing in the JS on 3/20/05) that the solution is to contain and to slow the water coming off our land and not speed it up. Gene points out that a lot of the silt pouring into Upper Peoria Lake comes from the PPD who own 9000 acres of mainly rolling land. (Check their budget to see how many dollars are allocated to erosion controls (not much) or ask conservation minded Bill Rutherford to take you on a tour of eroded PPD parkland.

Several thousand tons of dirt makes its way into the Illinois River each year from the many different types of construction. While many contractors and developers(many don’t) do a pretty good job of controlling erosion, why does IDOT and the City of Peoria Public Works Department not do a better job of erosion control at locations such as at the junction of Allen Road and Rt. 150 and the extension of Charter Oaks Road?

The erosion solution has never been in getting the silt out of the river, that’s impossible, the solution is to slow and contain the water so it can drop it’s sedimentation before it ever gets to the river. The government has stopped funding CREP, a program that does just that. Again is it a question of priorities or a question of management of those dollars? In an editorial dated 4/6/05, the JS, commenting on another study, this one paid for by the Heartland Water Resources Council, asks when do we stop studying and graduate. Good question. I know that the Council of River City Governments (COG, I am Peoria Counties representative) has made this question of water control a prime target. All Committees working on the same problem from both sides of the river need to get together and take more action than has been done to date. On the other hand, if you can’t get the private owners of land to cooperate as in the case of Blue Creek, we will probably keep on meeting and accomplishing little and let the Corp of Engineers continue to build islands of silt in the river.. We will have more big floods as the Corp continues to narrow the channels to contain the flooding. Mother Nature will have her say and the Corp will need more employees and money. Aren’t jobs what it’s all about?

A number of years ago, I attended a meeting where a professor with many degrees, was explaining why our rivers were filling up with silt. We know that slowing water down will cause the water to drop its sedimentation. Even a grade school kid knows that. The question was asked why we don’t build more containment bodies such as lakes and ponds. He said that doesn’t work because these bodies would fill up with silt. I said “isn’t that what we are trying to do, keep the silt on land instead of in the river? He changed the subject. Many experts have impressive credentials and lots of theories. Common sense, cooperation, monies received by proving the river is a priority and an inclusive marketing plan is the best solution to our problems of controlling the increasing siltation of the Illinois River.

If I saw the potential for personal gain, which many of those do who support the Corp of Engineers and their lock and dam rebuilding, I might support the multi-billions being spent. If fully informed, I would not. The JS has on more than one occasion asked if these projects are in the best interests of our communities. I have asked the same question. With so much information available but no sustained action, I suggest the JS Editorial Board attack this project with the same enthusiasm they showed in supporting “The Highway to Chicago”.

While not as easy to understand and the solution even harder, these projects should be very important to river communities but most people do not have enough information or do not care, figuring the government will do what it wants to anyway. Why bother to get involved when there are lots of good sitcoms on every night?

We’ve long ago identified the problem but we haven’t fully defined the solution. Time to sort out the solutions and act.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Merck and Vioxx

“Facing Vioxx Trials, Merck Prepares to Fight Each Case” was a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal. This is good news for the majority of us who realize that probably every drug on the market has some side effects, even aspirin, which is blamed for more deaths than any drug ever sold. There are always legitimate claims and there will always be honest attorneys to pursue these claims on your behalf. But society has spawned a whole new group of victims, people who join in class action lawsuits filed by ruthless tort attorneys. These tort attorneys have one goal, to get as many people to join in a class-action lawsuit. They can collect large sums of money for themselves and a little for you. You still wind up paying all their expenses. Mass class action lawsuits can usually bring a large corporation to their knees. This happens because of the possibility of massive judgments that often do bankrupt the company. These bankruptcies cause the innocent stockholder to lose their investment. That’s why I’m glad to hear that Merck will fight each case individually. I don’t own the stock but Merck’s action is in the best interest of most of us who depend upon legitimate drugs for our well being.

I recommend you read this article as it is lengthy and carries more information than I can convey to this site. In the first Vioxx lawsuit filed, a wife claims her dead husband was taking Vioxx from a package of samples he got from his doctor. But Merck analyzed the serial # on the package and said in a court filing this week that these samples had left the factory six month after the woman’s husband died. It turns out her husband had received a prescription for the drug but never filled it. The wife, her sister-in-law and son claimed they saw the man swallow the drug. Of course they did, and they also probably saw crocodiles fly!! The thought of wealth never dreamed of, has caused many a mortal to sell their soul.

I realize that when you have a legitimate claim against a major corporation, it is almost impossible to win. I’m never on the side of those who abuse power. But I suggest we watch what is happening to actions taken against drug manufactures and the actions taken by the FDA. It may very well turn out that in a few years, no drug will be labeled safe for any illness or affliction you may have. Very few new drugs will enter the market.

If you are afraid of side effects of any drug, don’t use drugs of any kind. That the manufacturer and doctor should be aware of the possibility of side effects and warn you to the best of their knowledge is a given. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to warn you of all the possible side effects for reasons too numerous to list on this site. Just because the doctor issues you a prescription, the doctor does not know whether you even took the drug at all, maybe you gave it to a friend or sold it, maybe took three a day when it says take one a day or used some ones left over pills; pills for which you may or may not have a legitimate prescription. The doctor can only take your word on what drugs you are taking; many people see so many doctors they forget what drugs they are taking.

Many young and middle aged people are suffering the side effects of drugs they used or use that were never labeled at all. They may be the first ones to jump into a class action lawsuit in their desperation to blame some else for their predicament.

Very few decisions are made by any doctor that will guarantee no side effects. When I was diagnosed as having heart disease, I was told four doctors looked at my records and I was told that two recommended surgery as soon as possible and two said surgery but no great hurry. I took the first recommendation and now I’m almost back to my old self. I had some side effects. With the doctors’ help, I’m doing fine. Thank God for doctors, surgeons, assistants, specialists and pharmaceutical companies!!

We as a collective body may be taking too many precautions to protect ourselves. We make so many trips to the doctors, attorneys or spend so much of our time attacking school boards (just threw that in) that we may not be enjoying living in the greatest country on earth. Many of believe that by “staying the course” we are on may not be the best course and the course needs some alterations. I agree.

It’s not just drug companies and doctors that are being sued. Many step ladder companies were sued; some even were forced out of business, because there were no labels warning people not to stand on the top step. So some said why not stand there and fell and sued the ladder maker. Anyone who renders a service or makes a product must protect themselves from stupidity of the user. Expect costs of all merchandise and services to continue to escalate along with the cost of insurance. So, I guess, you should encourage all your progeny to be lawyers and accountants. That’s where the big money it. Oh, I forgot stockbrokers who make money on every transaction, whether you do or not. Attorneys also make money, whether you win or lose. Stockbrokers are almost totally immune from lawsuits because of the arbitration clause you are forced to sign when they first take your money to “invest”. You as an individual do not have the resources to fight your legitimate claim. I am a believer of class action lawsuits when you have a legitimate claim but you do not have the resources to pursue your claim alone. I’m sure a few of us around Peoria are in the class action lawsuit against liar Bernie Ebbers and WorldCom. When the lawyers get theirs, of course, not much will be left for the stockholders.

The world was never a safe place to live; if we overdo the privilege of trying to live in total safety, we will become not safe at all.

The Wendy Scam

“Lies, lies, lies, that’s all I am hearing” said the “Woman Who Won’t Sue Over Finger in Chili”. (This was a headline in the JS on 4/14/05.) Was there ever any doubt by those of us with some common sense that she was trying to scam Wendys? She has now been arrested and charged with two or more counts of fraud; if she is found guilty as charged, she should be sentenced and removed from society for a very long time. She caused untold damage to Wendys, their workers, customers and management. This scam, created by probably more than one person, tied up a lot of public health and public safety enforcement people at a great cost to society.

There are scams larger or on a smaller scale run every second of the day by people who think they won’t get caught and are unwilling to contribute to society. Unfortunately, we don’t catch enough of them and when we do our justice system is often unable (for a multitude of reasons) to remove them from society, if not permanently, than for a long period of time. If this alleged scammer is convicted, the public should take note of the sentence, especially those most affected in San Jose, CA.

When I taught school, almost 100% of the kids in school, made something out of themselves in later life. Today, I visit classrooms in School District #150 (the same goes on in schools all over the country) and see a fairly large number of kids not learning and not wanting to learn, but who will at some point steal, cheat or try to beat the law, avoiding doing work. Because they are in living in poverty, they believe society owes them. They deny responsibility for their own actions.

The first thing any person should be taught is attitude and responsibility. Unfortunately “role models” for many of our kids are often second, third or fourth generations of family failure and gang bangers, who blame everyone but themselves for their failures. It has been said that society does not owe the poor; the poor owe society, mainly their responsibility. Responsible people do not need to scam; responsible people are in demand in the workplace; they also do not need to be poor.

In this country everyone that will work and pay attention can contribute to society and earn according to their contributions. They do not need to scam. If they complain they aren’t paid enough, I suggest they look thru the help wanted ads. Seven pages of help wanted ads in just the JS every week. If they then discover they aren’t qualified to do more than menial labor, and there is nothing wrong with menial labor, maybe they will start to pay attention and take action to qualify themselves as employable, get hired somewhere, hold a job for enough time to create a presentable resume and work their way up the earnings scale.

My next visit to a fast food outlet will be Wendys!!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Water Logged #7

You may want to go into my archives and pull up my blog on “conceptions, misconceptions, perceptions, subtle falsehoods and outright lies.” You have heard or read all of the above in the eight year debate about a city buyout of the water company. You also may want to go into my archives and read my 6 previous blogs on this subject. Any way let’s review what has been said to date:

“We don’t want a German company owning our water. This falls under the category of outright lies. All water in the United States is classified as a “natural resource” and no domestic or foreign company can own any of Peoria’s water.

“Illinois-American makes too much profit”. That falls under misconceptions because I doubt any of the millionaires (PAAG) that put up the million for the study would admit the businesses they owned “made to much profit”. Who is qualified to say anyone makes too much profit? Do you want to challenge Caterpillar and the holders of Caterpillar stock and question if they are making to much profit?

“85% of the water in the United States is owned by the public.” This falls under the category of subtle falsehoods. Public entities such as Brimfield, Timber-Logan Water District, Morton, Goodfield, Carlock, Deer Creek, Snowflake, Heyworth and most small communities across the US make up 85% of the total ownership of the right to mine, purify, and distribute the water in their communities. By no means do they own the right to mine 85% of all the WATER in the U.S! When communities like Snowflake or Show Low, Arizona were founded and digging wells and building cisterns were no longer feasible, the citizenry established public water districts with pumping stations for anyone who wanted to hook up and pay and these communities have usually kept ownership ever since. These small entities make up the major part of the 85% of water districts that are publicly owned. Few private companies could make a profit in owning small watershed districts.

“We don’t want foreigners owning our water company”. This falls under the category of conceptions and perceptions. More than 85% of all our oil we use in the U.S. is purchased from foreign companies. These countries are selling us their most valuable natural resource. More than half our transportation stock is manufactured by foreign countries, much of it built and sold in the U.S. In event of an unlikely war with Germany, the U.S. would nationalize all water companies if they suspected any wrongdoing possibilities. If a German owned company wanted to build anything in Peoria and promised jobs, the community would roll out the “red carpet” and would subsidize them, give them tax abatements, create TIF districts, and maybe even free land, unless of course they would be in direct competition with Caterpillar. If you are not aware, Caterpillar is the dominant force in this community and by selling approximately one half of their products to foreign countries, provide some of the best paying jobs in the whole Central Illinois area.

“With much of the country getting worried about the lack of water, we must control it”. This statement falls under the category of stupidity, which I didn’t list above. Much of the water you drink comes from the Illinois River. When the Illinois River runs dry, you and everything else will be dead so why worry.

“The purchase price will actually be between $242,000,000.00 and $248,000,000.00”. This is correct. Included in these larger figures is the amount the city will need to pay Illinois-American for investments in the water system since December, 2003. That’s part of the agreement. The city will have to pay its attorneys, consultants and engineers to conduct due diligence before the purchase is finalized. The final figure will be considerably more that $220,000,000.00.

I believe that PAAG did not lend the city a million dollars. I was told that the million was made available and the city drew as need all the while paying 9% interest. (Later reduced to 6%) I’m told that interest amounted to somewhere around $140,000.00 and that was deducted from the million so that the city only received approximately $860,000.00. Will someone following this folly, give me accurate figures to date because the city is still paying interest to PAAG as I write.

Smart communities know that with the complexities of running government, it is best to sell off or farm out many of the functions that do not fall under the classification of “core business”. Ownership of a water company does not fall under the definition of “core business”. It’s not smart to commit over half a billion dollars (includes interest on the bonds due every year for 30 or 35 years) on a buyout that the city manager says would cause the city to raise the cost of water over 3% a year. These possible losses or profits are usually guesswork anyway. Look at the RiverPlex and ballpark as prime examples of guesses gone badly astray. Even Damons guessed wrong or were mislead.

I do not question the possibility of the city trying to lowball a deal which might have turned a profit for the city but when the price went $180,000,000.00 over then Councilman David Ransburg guess back in the nineties, common sense was not shown again by the “yea” voters from the present city council. Two of the “yea” voters will be up for election in two years.

Some reasoning by “yea” voters didn’t make sense Tuesday night, such as “the public wasn’t informed”? B---S---! Most voters said no from the beginning, including my councilman Patrick Nichting. The PAAG, City Council members, the press and Illinois-American (including one forum I attended and less than 50 people were in attendance) made every effort to inform the public. You say the referendum wasn’t worded correctly? I haven’t seen many that were worded totally correctly including the recent election combining referendum that would have saved the taxpayer over a million dollars in five years.

New leadership, (three of the “yea” voters were ousted) let’s get on with doing a better job of running the city I live in!!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Lest We Forget

I title this blog “Lest We Forget” as a reminder of taxpayer funded projects to come and projects that should have never started. Remember the bold projections of Park Board officials who were quoted in the JS on 6/16/1999, where they were attempting to hype the RiverPlex? If not, I’ll quote: Bonnie Noble said “approximately 17,028 households in the Benfield Market study area have a meaningful interest in the fitness center (RiverPlex), all of whom are likely to join.” (Benfield was hired to do a feasibility study.) On 4/12/05, almost 6 years later, Brent Wheeler, manager of the RiverPlex said the facility has approximately 7700 members. Sounds good, right? Wrong! First, Wheeler says “members” not “memberships.” Big difference! Figuring the average membership has three members; 3 divided by 7700 is 2600 memberships. Now remember the deal the PPD signed with the State? One third of the memberships, not members, must be at no cost to those who qualify for “poverty” memberships. One third of 2600 is app. 860. Deduct 860 from 2600 and you have only 1740 actual memberships. Then consider that many of the memberships are not for a full year and you can see why this facility in the first 40 months of operation lost approximately $6,000.00 each day of the week!

Read further into the JS article dated 6/16/05, the JS writer again doesn’t distinguish between members and memberships. (The 6/16/1999 article quotes the park as saying with 5000 members the facility would show a $521,381.00 profit a year after four years of operations.) Compare that figure with almost $7 million lost thru 12/31/04. The JSEB, meanwhile, has remained quiet on the subject of the RiverPlex since their infamous Editorial on 2/22/03 that the RiverPlex was only $74,000.00 in the red. Had the JS any investigative reporters; they do but don’t want them to dig any deeper than PPD statements, they would have learned like I learned, and I don’t get paid, that the RP had lost $1,178,000.00 in the first 4 and a half months of operations and has continued to lose money every month as they will for the next 16 years. The JSEB knew this and when I showed this PPD document (dated 9/18/02), the JSEB manager exclaimed “give me that” and took it out of my hands with no comment.

I have accused the JS of a cover-up on the real facts about the RiverPlex and I do so again. The JSEB is at least starting to have doubts about “everything we have on our plate” and whether the lack of money pledged for the zoo is an “omen” for the museum.

Bonnie Noble, PPD Administrator makes $130,182.00 a year plus benefits too numerous to mention. She also collected a bonus last year of $1264.00. Can the PPD afford all the raises they gave last year? Why not, if they are a little short they can and do every year sell new bonds, raise the costs to use park facilities, and raise taxes. No problem says Mr. Allen, who I believe is PPD Treasurer and who was recently reelected with no opposition. Everybody is pleased with the performance of the PPD? Time will tell.

Now let’s look at the projections of the ball park. Ten years ago, I was given a document (not marked confidential) which projected the ballpark would earn approximately $153,000.00 the first year of operation. On my personal tax forms, (I bought shares in the ball club 10 years ago,) not one year has the ball park ever made ME A RETURN ON MY INVESTMENT. Also, I have had my shares up for sale for years with not even an offer! This year the highly bally-hood Cubs came into town and published attendance for Friday, Saturday and Sunday were 2077, 2385 and 1839. Total – about 6200. (Last year, they missed projections by around 82,000 paying customers.) Hardly enough in total to fill up old Meinen field on one night. Break even, I read, is about 3500 PAYING customers a night. At least I got to throw out the opening pitch last Friday night. Glad you weren’t there, I didn’t get it to home plate!

People have told me “forget it, what’s done is done.” Unfortunately, I can’t. History is about to repeat itself. Read on.

The Peoria Park District with a history of big time money losing projects is about to unload another big time loser on the taxpayer. I suspect the leadership of the PPD, The Zoological Society, (fund raising branch of the PPD), and some major donors are readers of Machiavelli who said “we (people) are so simple and so ready to obey present necessities that one who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.”

How are you being deceived? Here’s how. After over three years of trying to raise funds and pledges needed to build the addition to the present zoo, the fund raising arm is still short $14,650,000.00. (The fund raising arm has been given until 12/31/07 to come up with 90% of $32 million the amount PPD officials say they must raise BEFORE starting construction on the zoo addition. (That’s 28.8 million dollars.) Keep that statement in mind “90% before STARTING CONSTRUCTION. (By then inflation will boost costs by a considerable amount.) Since I made two requests to see a business plan for this facility without success, I have concluded there is no business plan same as there was none for the RiverPlex, or at least, not one available to the public. I quote Trustee Roger Allen and financial guru, “Even if the RiverPlex needs a SMALL subsidy in the beginning, it shouldn’t be long before we are in the black.” The then district superintendent of planning said “it may take a year or two to get up to full utilization.” (He’s long gone.) Do these comments sound like these “leaders” had or have a business plan?? Why would a business plan for the zoos not be available for public viewing and input? Or maybe they have confused a “marketing plan” with a dollar and “sense” business plan. Big difference, the PPD is good at “marketing” themselves. I also suspect that even if you could see a business plan, it would be so “creative” as to show the zoo making money just like the terribly failed projections of the RiverPlex and the ball club. (A private enterprise with approximately $7,000,000.00 of taxpayer money invested in it.) The RiverPlex has approximately $5 million of your taxpayer dollars invested in it.

Want to be reminded of more history of highly touted facilities that didn’t live up to their hype? How about One Technology Plaza (Eldon Polhemus longtime County Board member and a person the JSEB attacks without any success, he just got reelected by a sizeable margin over the JSEB preferred candidate, is quoted in a JS article “My fear is that in a few years we’ll be landlord of a million-dollar piece of office space that we won’t know what to do with it.” Sharon Kennedy, long time Peoria County board member is quoted “I think we were sold something that isn’t there.” How true, the million dollar space the county got oversold into buying, is setting empty. (I was not on the County Board at that time. The County Board member I unseated, voted for the project. You don’t have to guess long about how I would have voted!!

Who represented the selling of the space to the county? Sandra Birdsall, the same person who is pulling every stop to get the City of Peoria to buy the water company!! Who was the developer and realtor? Diane Cullinan, the same person who tried to sell the city the now forgotten potential taxpayer killer, the “Promenade!” Check into the connection between Sandra Birdsall, the Chamber of Commerce, who also supported One Technology Plaza and the water company buy-out, and the former Diane Cullinan, realtor and developer. Nothing wrong with the connections but taxpayers have the right to know. Fortunately the city council saw thru this taxpayer rip-off called the Promenade, with a little help from the financial community. Bob McCord, CEO of Illinois Mutual Insurance came up with figures that would show this potential boondoggle called the Promenade, would cost Peorians approximately $70 and $99 million in taxes over a period of time.

Then there is the Gateway Center. Funds from the East Peoria gambling boat were to be used for our schools; instead, much of that money is used to make up the Gateway Center deficit. Did I say EAST PEORIA gambling boat? How did it dock there??

Peoria, as Don Axt, former Caterpillar newsman wrote in a letter to the editor, should be called “dreamland”. It’s great to dream but dreams are dreams and facts are facts. Everything I’ve written above was someone’s “dreams”. Unfortunately, some of the dreamers have dreamed right past wake up time.


Fortunately, there may be a few new leaders on the horizon who will not be so easily deceived. On the other hand the die may be cast. A PPD Board member has told me that park administration is considering selling more bonds if not enough private money is invested in the new zoo. I remind you that the PPD currently owes $24,011,497.00 in outstanding bonds with interest. I also remind you that I said some time back that the PPD budget could reach $60 million in the near future. It’s $44 million plus this year, up from $33 million last year up from $16 million in 1993.

I remind you again what recently reelected PPD Trustee Allen said on 6/19/99, referring that if the PPD doesn’t have the money to do certain projects, “We could borrow from reserves, (which must be paid back) or we could include it in our annual bond issue and it wouldn’t affect anything.” Of course not now, only later when the bonds come due with interest and must be paid back with tomorrow’s more expensive dollars!

As a business man for 36 years, I support growth that pays wages to support a family; I support enhancements that a majority of our taxpayers want, provided they are not propagandized by the elite who can afford all the projects they believe this community needs. When people say “you can afford it” ask them to show figures and take these figures to an accountant for a financial trustworthy opinion. If in doubt of the community affordability of these public enhancements, demand a referendum. Those opposed to referendums are saying “then we will never get anything done.” I say to that, B---S---!!!

I am hoping someone challenges me on these figures or statements. I have documentation to back up anything I say on this blog site. It is my business experience and observation that those who are saying “stay the courses” can either afford the tax spending course we are on or are deceiving themselves and in turn deceiving you. For those who can afford it, you pay for it ALL and charge us only when we use what you build. But remember, one half of us (homeowners) have already paid for the basic services and maintenance thru our property taxes.

I close this overlong blog with a quote; “Half the harm in this world is done by people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm – but harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves. (T. S. Eliot)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Viewpoints - Facts & Fiction

These are a few books that I believe are worth reading; both non-fiction and fiction:

The Dream and The Nightmare – The Legacy of The 60’s - Author Myron Magnet This one is a must read!
Consuming Kids - Susan Lind
In Defense of Elitism - William A. Henry Another must read
American Dynasty - Another must read for active Republicans and Democrats
At a Tender Age – Violent Youth and Criminal Justice - Eric Hoffer
Good To Great - Jim Collins
Brain Washed - Ben Shapiro
Give Me a Break - Lewis M. Feldstein & John Stossel
The Rise of the Vulcans - James Mann
The Great Unraveling - Paul Krugman
Any Place I Hang My Hat - Susan Isaacs
Standing In The Rainbow - Fannie Flagg
The Quiet Game - Greg Isles
Sick Puppy and Skinny Dipping - Carl Hiaasen
Dirty (Drug Epidemic) - Meredith Maran
Good Faith - Jan Smiley
Quantons - Maeve Binckley
In The Moon of Red Ponies - James Lee Burke
Better Together - Robert B. Putnam
Also most of the books by Tony Hillerman, with settings in the Four Corners, an area I love to visit and read about.

Send me some titles of books you think I might like based on this list of my preferences.

I will dwell on a book I just finished called “Avenger” by Fredrick Forsyth. Forsyth is best known as the author of “The Day of the Jackal”. (The above listed writers have also written more than one book worth reading). Forsyth mixes mostly fact with fiction. I will quote from the Avenger some non-fiction statements. He refers to the way much of the Third World and their far left wing sycophants are looking at The United States. Forsyth writes “Your country is in constant reproach. It is rich to their poor, strong to their weak, vigorous to their idle, enterprising to their reactionaries, ingenious to their bewildered, can do to their sit-and-wait, thrusting to their timid. Demagogues rise to shout “Everything the Americans have, they stole from you”. “They roar in rage and that rage becomes hatred; hatred needs a target. The working class of the third world does not hate you; it is the pseudo intellectuals. (You seldom hear of intellectuals blowing themselves up, usually it’s the poor and ignorant or fanatics). If they ever forgive you, they must indict themselves. So far, their hatred lacks weaponry. One day they will acquire that weaponry. Then you (or your siblings) will have to fight or die. Not in tens but in tens of thousands”. (Probably millions if those who would kill us figure out a way to launch biological attacks on us).

We are in Iraq, certainly a Third World country and we will stay until Iraqi democracy can reasonably control the terrorists, no, not freedom fighters, but terrorists who would kill any one us if given the opportunity.

We are in foreign lands because there are more reasons to be there than not.
We can today be attacked by many means from anyplace by any group; even be attacked by terrorists from within. We have shown the entire world that no one is safe from terrorists and we ourselves in our entire history have never been safe from terrorism. We fought our own Revolution and Civil War; there are millions of our own people who today do not feel safe from terrorism in the very communities in which they live. Our prisons are filled with many terrorists from within our own borders. We have more people protecting us in just the State of Illinois than we have protecting the entire country of Iraq. Most Iraq people want democracy and they voted in much larger percentages than we do in this country. We have democracy which we mistakenly take for granted. If religious frictions do not lead to a civil war in Iraq similar to our own, Iraqis will have a democracy of their own choosing rather than dictatorship and enslavement.

We made and make serious mistakes everyday and serious mistakes have been made in our foreign policy not only by this administration but by previous administrations. Look at the mistakes we make every day, 42,000 people are killed each year, (16,000 alcohol related) without leaving the U.S.A., in just automobile accidents alone, all mistakes. (Accidents are usually called mistakes, and more than a million people each year are injured and millions left grieving by these mistakes). Why don’t the bleeding liberals who hate and look for someone to blame, concentrate on cutting these accidental deaths to say, 20,000? After all, those who are killed accidentally, injured, mentally damaged by abuse, murdered, take their own lives, are in serious depression, all these are grieved as much as the small number, comparatively, that are killed and injured in our defense. I call those serving our country with loyalty and risking their well-being; heroes. I call someone who kills or injures due to overuse of alcohol; drunks.

Anyway, reading enlightens, but as a mountain has many sides, so do viewpoints.
Good books, with many viewpoints, are better than watching the Cubs or almost any sitcom!!

Monday, April 11, 2005


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..

Good question.

Macomb, Pella and Highways

A number of years ago a company called Spiegel looked at the possibility of locating a plant in this area. After Speigel eventually decided to locate in a larger community, the Journal Star Editorial Board, hereafter known as the JSEB, wrote a catty article chiding those in the community who opposed a Peoria to Chicago highway that would run on a new roadbed. Community leaders at that time didn’t care much for improving or widening existing roadbeds, they wanted the shortest and fastest way to get to Chicago. The JSEB blamed the “just say no” coalition (actually the coalition against this new highway had no organized name) for losing this “plum”. The JSEB whine was and still is, though not so frequently, “if we had a second Interstate highway, Peoria would get companies like Spiegel to move here”. Well, this “plum” declared bankruptcy a few years ago.

We all know that Macomb recently won a bidding contest (Peoria was in the hunt up to the end according to a high ranking member of the Heartland Partnership) for a new Pella Manufacturing plant that may eventually employ up to 400 people. Since I went to school in Macomb and visit occasionally, (I can also read a map) I can tell you there is not even ONE four lane highway within 40 miles of Macomb. Would the JSEB like to comment?

The JSEB have written about me in a sometimes very derogatory manner. In 1993, I campaigned for a spot on the 1994 School District #150 Board (6 candidates ran for one position, Bob Baietto finished second and I finished third; today we are lucky to get 2 candidates to run). In my interview with the JSEB, they reminded me, after all, “this was the year of the woman” and suggested they would support a woman for the school board position. (1994 was the same year the JSEB strongly supported Dawn Netsch, Democrat candidate for Illinois governor who was soundly defeated). A woman, Jan Deissler, was elected and was ousted in 2004, leaving with the school board in what most consider pretty bad shape. Jan was a good lower grade educator and a dedicated board member but she was not what Dist. #150 needed at that time and certainly not today. You can always consult with good educators or put them on advisory committees but do not let them direct a 150 million dollar budget!

The second time I ran for public office, 1999, the JSEB asked me why I would run against another woman who was doing such a good job for Peoria County (even thru the years of prosperity the county was not in good financial shape in 2000) and why didn’t I run for something like the school board or the park board where I was better qualified. Hmmmm. Fortunately, not too many people believed what they were writing and saying because, after all, well, people would say, this was typical of the JSEB and their reaction when someone disagreed with them; smear them in print (They buy a lot of paper and ink). The JSEB usually ended every article about me with the statement “he also opposed the highway to Chicago”.

The JSEB has been a little quiet on the Highway to Chicago subject lately, especially since the Pella news. The JSEB continues to criticize Congressman Lahood and his support of expanding Rt. 29 into a four lane highway to Rt. 80. Engineers are still “studying” route 29 possibilities and also other projects like the original direct route to Chicago and an eastside by-pass road so there is still editorial copy. The JSEB still report that “since the original east of the river by-pass study is now outdated and the original path clogged with new sprawl, the “studies” would need to start over. Well, at least someone has made a lot of money on these “studies.” Engineers and surveyors are needed as is new storage space and shelves and computers and the JS has a lot of copy to write about. Nothing, of course has been built, but what the heck, its jobs isn’t it? Everybody should have the opportunity to make a good living but if jobs are what it’s all about, let’s just build whatever someone in power wants and let future generations worry about who is going to pay the debt. Click back on my blog “The Answer if Always Yes” for background on the let’s build it subject.

A friend of mine told me his philosophy was to “keep the money in circulation”. He did and when he died, his widow had to keep working until we she was 75 because she was left with the debt and the money was gone. I suspect someone is going to be paying off a lot of debt someday in Peoria if we don’t get the leadership that says “no” when the money isn’t there and the debt is too large. Don’t worry too much about the Peoria County spending more than we can afford, that is, unless health and retirement benefits bankrupt all of the public sector. I made a promise when I was elected in 2000 and 2002 and I’m trying to keep it.

For more than 10 years I have been trying to say we are getting our retention and growth priorities screwed up. But it’s evidently easier to deflect attention away from the real reasons we haven’t grown our tax base in the Peoria area (except a lot of new homes in the expanded City of Peoria countryside which some urban specialists call sprawl) then becoming committed to the boring priorities of reality. But maybe times are changing if it’s not too late.

Well, JSEB, explain the Pella decision and explain why other communities with only one Interstate, are outgrowing us? If it’s me, I’ll move but of course I’ll take my computer with me! (DeWayne Bartels, reporter for the Observer was recently challenged “Give me 101 reasons why anyone would stay in Peoria”. I made DeWayne’s list. DeWayne was later challenged to add another 101 reasons and he listed his general manager as 199!! Not wise, DeWayne. Better tell Henry he can have my spot. Just kidding, of course!!

Actually, the JSEB does a pretty good job overall. So they missed on getting three of their major favorites elected or reelected but again, what the heck, so did the “powerful” Chamber of Commerce thru there political action arm which donating at least $17,000.00 of Chamber Member’s money to at least two of the losing candidates; Teplitz and Thetford. Maybe the JS will publish the names of all donors of over $500 to any of the candidates. If not, I’ll publish all donors as soon as the State of Illinois collects the final figures. I was told that a Chamber member was so embarrassed that he personally offered Bob Manning $500, which Manning refused to take. Maybe time for some changes at the Chamber; longevity often breeds arrogance.

Being a former businessman and now serving as Vice-Chairman of the Peoria County Board, ( I was elected by my peers over Board Member Bob Baietto, who serves the county well and was the previous VC) I certainly want a good transportation to and in Peoria County. However, I disagree with those who want to spend without reasonable justification of a beneficial return to the taxpayer and voter. My theory has always been, make do with what you have and continue to improve what you have; then when you can justify the need to the citizenry and afford to spend the capital, do the right thing for your community. We should all avoid forming cliques that make decisions mainly beneficial to our special interests and treat the public interests as secondary and we should never exclude input or opinions from the taxpayer and voter. Then when companies like Pella come knocking, maybe we can offer them more than another “Highway to Chicago”.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Controlled Growth

I have folders labeled “Urban Sprawl & Controlled Growth” that contain over 200 clippings and articles about the above subjects. I have also read half a dozen books on the issues. I serve on Peoria Counties “Planned Growth Policy Committee” and helped write “another” Peoria County Growth Plan last year. But for many reasons we don’t always follow the plan. In March 2005, a request was made to the full County Board by a developer to re-zone approximately 23 acres of land currently zoned agriculture and timber into a residential classification. The developer wanted to parcel 23 acres into approximately 5 acres lots for development of new homes. This development request came to the full board for approval after the County Planning & Zoning and the County Land Use Committee had already approved this re-zoning. These 5 acre parcels of land would need their own septic tanks and private wells as neither utility has been expanded into that area and may never expand to this area of Peoria County. When the question came up for discussion to approve or deny, I indicated my confusion as to why Peoria County is constantly letting growth continue to “sprawl” in Peoria County while expressing our concern with the City of Peoria who many see and believe, is “sprawling”. Why are we re-zoning more and more agricultural land into small stand alone residential clusters that must rely on septic tanks and private wells and spread county basic services so that we need to add more government that does not have the tax base to support the “sprawl”? After discussion, the re-zoning was approved by the County Board on a vote of 10 yeas and 7 nays. That was an improvement over the last vote to re-zone from agriculture to residential which was 16 yeas and 2 nays. 7 nays must believe we are not following our own controlled growth plan. I know that residences pay more property tax than farm land; it is reasonable that they should because they require more services. City dwellers often think that the farmland owners do not pay enough property taxes but that is not a popular subject with farmland property owners.

On July 2, 1997, the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission hosted a dinner at which the keynote speaker was David Rusk, a man who the JS called the “renowned urban planning expert.” Among the five guideposts on which Mr. Rusk advised the audience was “You must not let growth occur beyond your boundaries if you can help it”. Mr. Rusk also stated that while new curbs, wider streets and green space may make older city neighborhoods more pleasant places to live, they should not be regarded as investments that will draw-or keep-the middle class. People flee neighborhoods for the same reason they move in, primarily, schools and safety”. I attended this meeting and was pleased to hear him advising us to “in-fill” the city as we move outward to control costs of overextended services and ease traffic congestion. He noted that Peoria had shown little population growth yet has added thousands of acres that must be serviced by the city – utilities, public safety, infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks, lighting, traffic control and many other things provided to older communities. New schools, parks and libraries usually follow new “sprawl”. These necessary entities add additional cost to the taxpayer. Rusk advised us on things like holding property taxes at inflation levels and to resist the temptation to boost capital spending by a like amount and “curb the appetite for new projects”.

In September, 2000, Mr. Rusk was invited back again and said that “urban sprawl here is out of control, lacking the population gains to justify it. He advocated a regional land use plan in which all three counties – Peoria, Woodford and Tazewell – would be partnered.
The JS said and I quote “local leaders didn’t heed Rusk’s message three years ago, will we bring him back in 2003 before an audience of the same nodding heads, ( I attended this meeting also and was a nodding head), who will then go back to “business as usual” the second he boards his plane out of town”? The JS continues “Regionalism is where it’s at, cooperation is where it’s at, and sharing the pain and gain toward the common goal of a healthy community is where it’s at”.

In 2000, County District #11 elected me to the Peoria County Board because of my business background; they believed I would work with this public entity to emulate a successful business model. The finances of the County were not in very good shape with the General Fund actually a minus one and half million dollars. Basically, I believe they elected me to help balance the budget, make this governmental body more efficient and not spend more than our tax base could afford, support controlled growth, contain property and sales taxes, help with the “in-fill” of our cities and villages, and help the county stick to the “core” businesses of government. Also, those who elected me thought I might help heal a sometimes “contentious” County Board and that I would support the county in working with other public and private bodies not only in Peoria County but in and with our neighboring counties.

Unfortunately or fortunately, government does not work exactly like a business. My success has been limited for many reasons as I am one of eighteen board members whose vote counts the same as mine. Also, up to this point, despite our overtures, some public entities have not shown much willingness to work with Peoria County. However, the Peoria County Board is hopeful that the recent city election will improve our relationships.

Peoria County tries to make common sense decisions, but we are like most governmental boards, we do not always agree with each other. But we agree on most of the important actions. We usually agree to make the playing field “level” for all. But if we deny things like re-zoning to accommodate “special interests” we are often led to believe that those we deny requests that the majority of us believe are not in the best interest of the common good, then those denied will take their business elsewhere. Therefore, like all governmental bodies under pressure to “grow the tax base”, we sometimes may make decisions unpopular with some of the electorate and perhaps not in the best interests of the community.

So much controversy over controlled growth or sprawl is understandable because as shoes come in many sizes, people are most happy with the shoe that fits. Not all growth fits all communities and economies. I don’t profess to know all the answers, but I do know this, the cost of government with all its beneficiaries is getting out of hand. While we still live in probably the freest country in the world, we will not be able to sustain the cost of more government needed to allow everyone to do what they want to do. The more government and governmental services required will eventually limit the freedom we have now. Consolidation of government bodies and functions, controlled growth, electing leaders who (and encouraging more qualified candidates to run) look at the whole instead of building their own fiefdoms, may be Peoria’s major hopes for the future. I believe that as shown in last week’s election in Peoria, the voter and taxpayer will continue to force the issue.

Almost everything Mr. Rusk said on his two visits to Peoria was correct, but nodding heads don’t get the job done. We don’t need Mr. Rusk to come back. In fact we don’t need consultants to tell us what we are doing right or how we can do better. We just need leadership that the community can believe and trust. We have them in abundance, they just need to step forward which takes fortitude and may “ruffle the feathers” of some of their buddies. Knocking common sense into the heads of many of Peoria’s leaders will result in a more successful community by 2020. We need these leaders but they must be more inclusive and present solutions that represent the will of the people and for the best interests of the whole community. Nodding heads and locking the out the non elite will not get the job done. After all, is money and greed what it’s all about?

Many in the community believe that some heads were just knocked and believe the future looks a little brighter. Swallow some ego and accept some common sense opinions and facts that you and your buddies may not agree with. This is becoming a world quite different from your college sororities or fraternities. And Peoria is part of that world!!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Water Logged # 6

Sorry, but my Election 2005 blog was to have been published on Thursday. Then I was planning to post a second blog on the water company buyout efforts. Fortunately or unfortunately my site was blocked and after 4 hours of trying to post these blogs, I gave up. When I got back to my computer this afternoon, my page suddenly opened up so Election 2005 was published just now and the water company blog as originally written, didn’t get published. Just as well because the JS covered the subject quite well today. I wish to give a large credit to Dave Ransburg for voting against the power block that supported his reelection bid. Dave did what was in the best interests of the community. Also, John Morris voted against the buyout knowing that going against 21,000 votes in opposition to the buyout, might affect his chances of being elected again to whatever position he would be seeking. Gary was a given NO. Sandra Birdsall and Rita Kress voted in favor of the buyout. These five made up the Water Selection Committee whose mission was to report there recommendations to the full council. And Jeff G. threw in his opinion again. Maybe because he works for one of the PAAG investors and wants to spread water all over Peoria County so we can continue what some call “sprawl”. But then Jeff, Sandra and Rita area not likely to ever run for reelection. If they did ever do so, some 21,000 voters will be reminded of their support of city ownership of our water company. (Who was behind this citywide mailing of the unsigned postcard labeled “Support City Ownership of Our Water”??) It may never be made public but the document contained lies to the public and future credibility of those who were behind this city wide mailing, should forever be held as questionable.

Illinois-American does NOT own the water we use. The GOVERNMENT owns the water and always will. IA mines and processes the water and gets it to the user. They maintain most of the equipment and water mains. They do the billing, collecting and a myriad of other functions and for doing that, any thinking person would expect them to make a profit. (All the members of the PAAG are, I believe wealthy. I do not plan to ask them if all the profits they have made were “fair”)

The whole idea of the buyout study was, I believe was to save all of us money on our water bills. The City Manager blew that theory apart by saying “the city may have to raise water prices if the buyout goes thru”. (JS 3/8/05).

All the posturing probably starting with Dave R. predicting the water company could be bought for $60,000,000.00. I’ll certainly admit that sounded reasonable. But at the time Dave was saying this. IA was thinking a fair price would be between $163 million to $213 million. Wow.\, shat a costly guess!! The council at that time was in favor of a study but a solid block of four councilmen had the common sense to vote “no study”, (Leonard Unes, Bill Spears, Andre Bohannon and Steve Kouri). Ed Glover, David Koehler, Nat LeDoux, Jim Maloof, Gary Sandburg??, Camille Gibson and Dave Ransburg, (I am quoting from an article in the JS but in the early days of my clipping of interesting articles, I sometimes failed to post the date, I do now) voted for the study that will still cost the city big bucks even if the council votes NO on the buyout which I predict they will by perhaps a unanimous vote. After all, the voter spoke with an emphatic “stick to the core business of cities and do a better job”.

I hope I do not ever have to post another “Water Logged” blog. I’m tired of this subject same as most of you!! Let get down to the real problems in this community which have been defined by at least four of the newly elected and reelected councilpeople and the new Mayor..

Election 2005

Congratulations to all winners and losers in the many elections in the area. To run for any elected position is hazardous to one’s health but the rewards are many even if you lost. You did run which shows courage. You did learn to accept disappointments and you probably learned lessons that could be valuable for a better chance of success next time.

This race shows again that money does not necessarily guarantee a win. Let’s say it doesn’t usually hurt to have a large campaign war chest as long as those major contributions don’t come attached with too many special interests obligations. Evidently, some of the races were run with too much transparency and the voter got a more clear view of insider workings and made a decision that caused the ousting of three incumbents in the city.

The political analysts, the public and private entities, and college professors have the leadership graphs wrong. They usually show a chart that resembles a pyramid with the #1 leader on top and then the pyramid gradually spreading out in order of leadership rank to a wide base. Sometimes, graphs will show the #1 leader in the middle of a circular graph with spokes spreading out. This usually is done as an effort to not offend any supporting position or group as is done in “Our Family of Companies” chart published by The Heartland Partnership. A lot of big egos to not offend such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Progressive Political Action Committee, The EDC and the Civic Federation. Lots of big egos to satisfy so it is better to use a circular chart. A lot of very good community minded people work on these committees so it is never my intention to paint all who strive for the best interest of all people with a common brush.

(I occasionally use the terms elite, arrogant elite and wealthy arrogant elite. If my use of these terms offends any of you and those offended wonder who I’m talking about, just look in the mirror. I might add none of my friends and people I work with on the Peoria County Board fit any of these descriptions).

I believe the pyramid configuration is okay but the pyramid should be inverted with the electorate and the beneficiary of leaderships at the top and the leadership tapering off to #1 at the bottom tip of the pyramid. That is where the “buck is supposed to stop”. Don’t believe Ken Lay or Bernie Ebbers!! The circle is okay too but put the common people in the middle. That’s who these supporting groups ARE SUSPOSED TO BENEFIT, not just the powerbrokers who now sit in the middle of the circle and the end of the spokes or at the top of the pyramid.

So now we have a new Mayor and two new council people, (all of who I supported) who say they will be more inclusive. And I believe them, but I also know power corrupts. I also know they also were elected with the help of some special interest groups. I do not believe Mayor Ardis will be beholden to any unions but will treat them fairly and in the best interests of the community. Nor do I believe that any of these three will oppose planned growth or projects underway. It is their job to sort out and continue with projects that are in the best interests of all the taxpayers, voters, and those who have reached some “bad spots” in their lives.

We thank them for winning hard campaigns against many obstacles, including the obstacle of the Chamber of Commerce and their Political Action Committee who donated $8500.00 each to two incumbent councilpeople and, I believe a much larger amount to the incumbent mayor. Maybe someone on this committee or my friend who posts as anonymous can help me by posting the figure on this blog sit e so all readers can see it. The C of C is supposed to represent all business in this area. At last count, the C of C had approximately 1200 business members out of over 6,000 businesses in this community. The incumbents the C of C supported with big dollars all lost. That should tell you something about the equal representation of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce.

The entering of a possible new era in city government with the retention of Bill Spears and Pat Nichting, both of whom I also supported both in print or verbally, is looked forward to by a fairly large majority of the voters. This may serve as notice to other so called untouchable elites in other positions of authority, that the community will be paying more attention to how they are treating the taxpayers and voters.

Unfortunately, no one paid any attention to the two unopposed Peoria Park District members who now have four more years to raise your taxes. However, I believe by the end of four more years or perhaps only two more years, people who pay taxes to the PPD will have many reasons to pay more attention. Don’t count on the JS to keep you informed, they only once in an isolated area of the paper mentioned that there were two positions on the park board up for reelection. You may not have noticed that the JS stopped printing membership numbers for the highly touted RiverPlex which lost around six million dollars in its first 40 months of operation.

I believe that Peorians are starting to believe that “when you know there is a need for change, act.

Look for more of my views on the election on my next blog including the Water Company Buyout Advisory Committee actions and the actions they may take in the very near future.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Opposing Views

As a critical election nears in the Peoria area, I would like to share with you a copy of a Letter to the Editor, Wall Street Journal, 3/104. The writer quotes an article attributed to the renewed diplomat George Keenan in which Mr. Keenan made the following point:.. “it lies within the power as well as the duty of us to recognize not only the possibility that we might be wrong but the virtual certainty that on some occasions we are bound to be. The fact that this is so does not absolve us from the duty of having views and putting them forward. But it does make it incumbent upon us to recognize the element of doubt that still surrounds the correctness of these views. And if we do that, we will not be able to lose ourselves in the transports of moral indignation against those who are of the opposite opinion and follow a different line, we will put our views forward only with a prayer for forgiveness for the event we prove to be mistaken.”

This Keenan quote was made in 1968 but it still a perspective that is absent in many of our elected officials and community leaders today.

When opinions that differ from the community elite are expressed, these opinions are usually treated with moral indignation. The elite have no doubt in their righteousness even when they are proven wrong.

With this perspective in mind, I will state my endorsements of the following candidates: For Mayor, Jim Ardis, For City Council, Bob Manning, Barbara Van Auken and Patrick Nichting.

Incumbent Councilman Gulley appears confused on many of the issues of the city and his district.. Also a couple of years ago, I complained of the poor condition of some of the streets in his district, mentioning a ragweed that started as a seedling in the middle of a boulevard and by mid summer had grown into a small tree. I asked Mr. Gulley why City Public workers, who drove by it every day, didn’t stop and cut it down. Mr. Gulley said “why don’t you cut it down? A week or so later I did. I am observant that there was enough dissatisfaction with Mr. Gulley that he had four opponents in the primary. Also several of my friends who live in his district have a low regard of his efforts to serve their neighborhood. I know Mr. Banks and suspect he would do a better job than Mr. Gulley.

It is my experience that those who are viewed as the rather arrogant elite; do not respect any other opinion but their own and their supporters. I suggest they read some of the writing of Mr. Keenan.

There is nothing wrong with pursuing a vision for greatness. But the path to greatness must be refined with the brutal facts of reality. I believe that those I endorse understand these facts.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Peoria Politics as Usual

I quote from an article in the Times-Observer dated 3/05/05 in which departing Peoria interim Police Chief Poynter was quoted as saying violent crime in Peoria was up 3% in 2004 compared to 2003. The article says robbery rose 20%, aggravated battery jumped 47%, arson leapt 20%, burglary dropped 5% and car theft dropped 8%.

In a paid political ad in the Observer dated 3/30/05, Dave Ransburg talks about his leadership in action, taking credit for reducing crime by 23.5% from 2000 thru 2004. Hmmmmm. But Dave has taken credit for an awful lot of things including the concept of the growth cells.

Ransburg also says he has increased funding for public safety by $2.7 million since 2000. Doesn’t sound like much to me when you consider the City of Peoria put $4.7 million in the infrastructure supporting the money losing RiverPlex and about the same amount for the attendance missing ballpark?

As a bit of trivia, I received a call today, the caller claiming that a prominent doctor in town received a phone call asking the doctor to take down the “Ardis for Mayor” sign in his yard. When he said no, the caller alleges that the doctor received a call from Ex-Mayor Jim Maloof who also asked that the Ardis sign be taken down and Maloof was also told no. This is typical of the current power structure and is similar to events that happened in my own recent campaign where businesses and individuals were threatened with the loss of any more business if my signs weren’t taken down at once.

Speaking of Jim Maloof , Maloof signed and paid for an ad in the Observer dated 3/30/05 supporting Ransburg. I quote from this ad as follows: “I urge you to vote for and re-elect him (Ransburg) on Tuesday, February 22, 2005”. Oh well, some “leaders” are used to signing whatever is in the stack on their desk!!

Not trivia at all is a letter sent over the signature of David P. Ransburg, Mayor, to the President of a local landfill owner dated 3/21/05 with a copy from the Mayor’s office addressed to “The Honorable & Mrs. Merle Widmer”. The envelope was stamped 3/29/05. In this letter to the landfill owner, Mayor Ransburg says “it is important that the public be fully informed, well before you present your case to the County Board for their approval, which I understand is May 1”.

The mayor has stuck his nose in a project in the County of Peoria over which the mayor or the City of Peoria has no more say than Peoria County has say when the city annexes more county farm land for housing expansion. Had he written this letter as a citizen he has every right to do so and every right to give his input to the County.

Yes, Mr. Mayor, Carol Trumpe, Land Use Committee Chairperson, Patrick Uhrich, County Administrator, David Williams, County Board Chairman, I as County Board Vice Chairman, our County Attorneys and The EPA, will make sure the public is fully informed before we approve or deny any County Landfill Project. According to all the above named County officials, Mayor Ransburg had no conversation with any County authority before he wrote this letter on an official City letterhead to this landfill owner.

There is no project slated to come before the County Board regarding any landfill project on May 1 or any time in the immediate future. Before any landfill project comes up before the full County Board, the County is obligated by law to inform the public and hold meetings for public input and the Mayor can attend or input his opinions as a private citizen. We will also make the decision to approve or deny.

We are perfectly able to handle Peoria County business, using public input and our own capable judgment and to uphold the laws of the land as we are sworn to do. We have always made it known that we wish to work more closely with all public entities and the citizens of Peoria and Peoria County.

It is possible the copy of the letter sent to me by the way it is addressed “The Honorable and Mrs. Merle Widmer” and on a mailing label, was part of a larger mailing. If so, this is a dirty trick to embarrass County officials and make the Mayor look like a “white knight” riding out to protect the uninformed.

There is a lot of arrogance shown by some of our “leaders” and many of want to see changes. That is why so many of us are saying “it is time or past time for a change”.

Get out and vote for change!!