Friday, May 27, 2005

Prosperity Almost a Reality for Dreamville

“Prosperity Almost a Reality for Dreamville” was the title selected by the JSEB “letter to the editors” written by Don Axt several years ago. Don, I believe was a longtime Caterpillar employee and former editor of the Caterpillar internal newsletter. I quote Mr. Axt; “Years ago a prominent community leader asked me to suggest ways to improve the prospects for the future of our fair town. I said: get rid of Wallace Station, it’s an eyesore; improve the weather; and change the name of the place. “Peoria” is an icky name.

Well, what do you know? Wallace station is gone; in its place the scenic glory of Walmart’s backside. And global warming has mellowed our winters and brought salubrious spring days. That’s two down. Ah, but the name. That seemed to be an impossible problem.

But then a perfect name came to mind in a flash of near divine inspiration: “Dreamville” – friendly, positive, in keeping with the spirit of the place that 30 years ago had a dream to renew the city with a Civic Center to bring crowds downtown. To finance that dream with a dream tax on food and beverages: a temporary tax paid mostly by out-of-towners. To rejuvenate the waterfront with cultural uplift like Hooters. And what is the micro-brewery called? To leap the obstacle of Chicago access with a highway to bring our attractions 15 minutes closer to culture-starved Chicagoans with a Rt. 29 super speedway. And the ultimate field of dreams…baseball!!

Oh Lordy, don’t you tingle with anticipation at the thought of a 10-day Dreamville/Rock Island World Series? Stand back, Dreamville, the long wait is nearly over. Prosperity is an almost in-hand reality”.

Well Don, while you wrote that piece with tongue-in cheek, I’ll update “Dreamville” happenings since you wrote that article. Yes, the ballpark has been built and the Cubs are back in town. Are there long lines at the ticket booths? Go to a game and see for yourself. The RiverPlex was built and opened in August of 2001. Meet projections? How about a miss of close to $7,000.00 a day. And Damons, with its high perch above the riverfront, what, you say it closed and the building is sitting empty for more than a year?? And RiverStation, this once popular riverfront restaurant is gone and the building sits partly unoccupied? And a new Gateway to the city has been built and its losses are eating up part of the East Peoria gambling boat revenue? And One Technology Plaza, touted to be the most technology advanced building in Peoria? You ask what new business it has brought to town and why is Peoria County stuck with what appears to be a very difficult space to sell or lease in this “high Tech building”. A spectacular set of museums are planned to rise from the dust of the abandoned Sears building.

Dave Dobson, Economic Development director has abandoned ship and move to greater opportunities in the west. The JSEB challenged a city council subsidy of hundreds of dollars for a recreational development in the old Kirby Risk building. The JSEB further said “last time we checked, people were leaving Peoria not because it doesn’t have enough entertainment, but because of concerns about its schools? (JS 9/23/02).

The zoo expansion that started out like a turtle and then leaped ahead “Zoo remake moving with cheetah speed”. (JBES 9/23/02) Since then, this expansion has slowed to a turtle pace. Then an article “Agreement extended to raise zoo funds” appeared in the JS on 4/15/05. “The new agreement gives the Peoria Zoological Society until 12/31/2007 to raise $25 million. The society, a not for profit group, has raised 17 million so far”. A little further down in the article it says “the Society hired a zoo planner to a $2.7 million contract to design a $32 million dollar zoo”. I thought the JS wrote about a $25 million dollar zoo expansion?? An article in the JS dated 4/23/02 said the Zoological Society was also to set up an endowment that will be used to maintain and upgrade the buildings and Rita Kress said she hoped the endowment would be $1 million to 2 million. Seven percent return on 2 million is $140,000.00, yet the article goes on to say the present zoo was projected to lose $397,146.00 in 2002?? An article in the JS dated 3/6/04, quoted park administration “that they hoped to award a construction contract by late summer, 2004”.

Where was I? Oh yes, here in Dreamville where we still will need additional millions for such things as the new trail from downtown to Alta, the new softball complex promised to us by Mr. Cassidy and Mrs. Noble. And what about the new playhouse scheduled to occupy present PPD headquarters. If the playhouse occupies the present PPD headquarters, a new headquarters building will need to be built. Park administration was recently quoted as saying the building the PPD bought from IDOT (Knoxville and Northmoor) years ago and tagged to be a future headquarters, is not big enough The PPD says they now need 33,000 square feet.

In addition to funding needed to complete all these dreams, we’re still waiting on a cash strapped state to help fund the Med-Tech District. More taxpayer dollars will be needed to fund the infrastructure for the Civic Center $65 million expansion. Then there is the museum and its request to the County of Peoria to raise six million dollars thru increased property taxes. The museum planners expect to get an additional $24,000,000.00 from the state of Illinois and the federal government.

This combined $30,000,000.00 will come from additional taxes because the state, county and the federal government do not have any extra money. We all know that the federal and state governments are operating with huge deficits.

Oh yes, I left out the sorry financial condition of the Peoria Public Schools which some outside consultants believes should be our major priority. And one newly elected mayor had the audacity to believe we should spend more money on public safety. And did I mention the conditions of some our streets and roads?

In case you think that I think we can’t afford all these things I must tell you, you are wrong. There is a lot of wealth in this community. Let this wealth foot the bills and let the rest of us support these projects by paying admission when we want to visit. If we don’t attend these enhancements, it probably means we have other places to spend OUR money. We already have a beautiful museum that we support with our dollars. We also have 75 or so social agencies already in place in Peoria to support our youth and underprivileged. In return we support these agencies with our taxes and donations.


By continuing to raise property taxes, we place an unfair burden on property owners. It is only fair that those who want these amenities build and pay for them and charge those of us who visit whatever dollars are needed to keep these facilities in operation.

Elections over the past four or so years indicate that this community is looking for new leadership and new direction. Voters all over are looking for public servants to represent them, who, when asked to spend more and more taxpayer dollars for things we can do without, ask that these elected officials have the strength to say, NO!

The fairest method of raising taxes for other than necessities such as public schools, public transportation, public safety, public libraries, public health facilities, public parks and public recreation, ect., is to ask the taxpayer by referendum. Most public bodies HATE referendums. (Refer to Dave Ransburg’s opposition to a referendum for support of the IA buyout, you recall it failed as Mr. Ransburg knew it would; 81% NO and 19% yes).

A Large Fortune 500 company has had its headquarters in Peoria since its inception. Its workforce has dropped to less than one half of what it was twenty years ago. Scare mongers say if we don’t give them what they want, they will move their headquarters. Probably not. It would be difficult to move to a different community where they would have the power they have always had in Peoria. Plus by their actions, they appear to believe Peoria is a good place for them to be. I agree but differ from them in believing what it takes to keep it so. Other companies have reduced their workforces; companies like L.R. Nelson. Foster-Gallagher and others have disappeared in total. Keystone has seen better days and numerous companies have moved across “the river”.

Caterpillar wanted the ballpark and the recreation center. They want the museum and the expansion of the zoo and Civic Center. I don’t blame them at all. But we elected officials are responsible and are supposed to represent all the people. We are the ones who voters and taxpayers expect to have the knowledge to say yes to what we can afford and have and the “guts” to say no to what we cannot afford. When our actions mirror the wishes of the majority of our constituents, we should get reelected. When we represent only the special interest groups we should not be returned to office.

To say if we don’t build these enhancements, people will move elsewhere is known to not be a true statement by most of us with common sense. There is more building OUTSIDE of Peoria for reasons stated many times by myself and others. We built the ballpark and the recreation center and they still move out!! Where is all the new development that was to follow these new projects? If this development is there, post on this site who these businesses are and where they are located so all who read this blog can share. Those that have moved to other nearby communities know if Peoria taxpayers build these enhancements anyone can come visit for only the cost of admission. No increased property taxes for them!

Please don’t keep reminding me where we would be without Caterpillar or the Civic Center. They are here and each is an asset. However, the Bloomington-Normal area has far surpassed Peoria in % of growth and did so without a Civic Center like ours, but they do have companies that keep adding employees and a University far surpassing anything we have in Peoria in enrollment.

Many people thought Peoria was dead because we didn’t have a “highway to Chicago”. If we are dying, it is because people are moving out of the city of Peoria and no amount of ballparks, recreation centers, zoos, museums or Civic Centers are going to stop this migration. In fact rising taxes will speed up the process. I don’t see a new highway to the northeast in the foreseeable future. Somehow, visitors seem to find us and I personally have never heard a complaint about lack of access but I have heard many complaints about the condition of our roads.

There will be no vote on the increased property tax until it comes before the full board. I don’t know the date but it will not be until our July meeting or later. In the meantime, I plan to visit Bloomington, Dubuque, and Rock Island museums and ask questions. I am not interested in visiting Cincinnati, Memphis, St. Louis or Indianapolis. They are totally different communities. I expect to get input from my District 11 constituents. When I vote, it will be in the best interests of the electorate

What the private sector does with their own money will surely be in their best interests and the community with minimum dollars from ordinary taxpayers for infrastructure.
I don’t want to stop people from dreaming big.

Everyone, I believe has “dreams”, some that are more realistic than others. We “smaller dreamers” know in the end, those who dream beyond our communities means are going to stick us “smaller dreamers” with taxes or assessments that will be never ending.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

What's the Matter With Kansas?

So many good books out there to read and so many good writers! Still add the 2004 book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas” by Thomas Frank, to your “must read” list. Written by a Republican turned Democrat so you can suspect some bias; Frank knows and ably writes about how the conservatives won the heart of America. One author calls the book “the most insightful analysis of American right-wing pseudo populism to come along in the last decade. (Spelled with an uppercase P, Populism refers to the specific movement associated with the Farmers’ Alliance and the People’s party in the late nineteenth century. Spelled with a lower case p, populism denotes a more general political style that emphasizes class antagonism and the nobility of the common man.) (P. 32). As for Kansas: However far it’s drifted into delusion, you’ve got to love a state that produced someone as wickedly-funny, compassionate, and non stop brilliant as Tom Frank”. Kansas is the home of many well known and prominent people; the most famous being Dwight Eisenhower, the ultimate Republican moderate out of Abilene, Kansas.

Illinois will never become a Kansas in it’s politics, but there are parts of middle Illinois that could have been lifted right out of the middle of Kansas just like Dorothy(while I lived in Kansas for two years, unlike Dorothy, I never had a desire to go back even for a visit). My wife and I were raised as small town conservatives and both of us were quite na├»ve when I was transferred by my company to Topeka. Recognizing our ignorance of the ways of the world, a married church going couple took us to Kansas City to see a night club show. It was not till after the show was over did our new friends tell us that the beautiful women we had watched perform on the stage were men in drag. They had a lot of laughs over our “welcome to the opposite side of Kansas conservative fundamentalism”.

Kansas is one of the poorest states in the union; if not the poorest, yet it voted 80% for George W. Bush in 2000. It was this puzzlement to Mr. Frank, who had long left Kansas, to return to Kansas to visit, research and to write this book.

Interesting and enlightening reading for either the most political or apolitical reader!! You will recognize some similarities of Kansas to Peoria and the Peoria area. Whether that is good or bad will depend on each individual reader. But this book may give you some insight to the possibilities of this community’s future.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Bureacracy Incompetence??

The Associated Press reports that “The federal government forgos the collection of millions of dollars owed every year because the IRS computers don’t record the interest due on penalties for unpaid taxes, a Treasury Department auditor said. IRS computers keep track of the building failure-to-pay penalty, but the charges aren’t applied to the taxpayer’s account. However, those accounts which are managed by hand, not by computers, do pay interest. The IRS said it doesn’t have the capacity to send monthly notices to taxpayers as those penalties and interest charges accrue. The IRS agreed to start applying the penalties annually beginning in 2006”.

“The taxpayer must pay the fine which accrues monthly until the penalty equals 25% of the unpaid tax. The taxpayer also owes interest on the mounting penalties”.

By sometime in 2006, probably half the people owing this money will have cashed out and declared bankruptcy.

Amazing what high technology can’t do for this entrenched bureaucracy who says it can still do it by hand (meaning hand held calculators). Gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling doesn’t it, knowing that whoever set up this convoluted system probably just got promoted away from the problem while probably blaming the taxpayers for not giving the IRS a larger budget.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Bias and Stupidity

Newsweek, the reporter who wrote the story and Editor Mark Whitaker are directly responsible for killing innocent people. I refuse to look at a Newsweek magazine and when I see one in an office I visit, I will ask if I can trash it. Both the Editor and the reporter should be fired. (Even if the act was done by some stupid person, why is this act more despicable than the beheading and blowing up of innocent people by the same savages I see running in the streets of the Middle East)?

In a “letter to the editors” in the WSJ, Richard Reay of Riverdale, N.Y. writes “What’s happening in journalism is an insidious “breeding” problem whereby those who resent authority-except their own, of course, are recognized and rewarded in ever increasing numbers by their like minded mentors and peers. No, this isn’t just a generational phenomenon or a vestige of the protest movement. There’s more deep-rooted animus at work here and it probably has to do with an innate resistance to normative values that is endemic to undisciplined, self-centered people-even antagonistic, vengeful personalities”.

Where is all this hate being “bred”? In our extremely liberal colleges where a large number of the professors (those who are described above) are registered “bleeding” liberal Democrats. My Democrat friends fortunately were not brainwashed in college. I don’t ask my friends to agree with everything the Republicans do; I too am often crossways with many of the actions of my party. However, these Democrats I consider as friends would not do or say anything to endanger the life of any citizen here or abroad.

In an article dated 6/7/04 published in Forbes Magazine by James D. Miller, Professor of Economics at Smith College, I quote “To give you an idea of the political atmosphere on campus, in October 2002 several faculty members sent a petition to the president objecting to an invitation to Ann Coulter, the conservative pundit, to speak on campus. No one objected, however, when a porn star gave a how-to talk at Smith on anal sex.

The only college I support at this time is Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, a college that is not dependent on governmental subsidies and the professors teach as teachers taught when I was in college; without bias towards any. Many of you would be surprised and shocked if you knew what some of these professors are teaching your kids. (Remember, I told you of the Bradley professor who teaches his students that there are no truths and any action could be justified)?

Miller goes on to say “Very few Republicans, let alone conservatives, teach at American colleges. A 2001 poll of 151 professors at Ivy League universities found that only 3% considered themselves Republicans while 57% said the were Democrats”. Miller says that “many teachers start their classes by assuming that America is racist, sexist and homophobic”.

If you are a citizen of this country you have a right to criticize actions of our leaders. You do not have the right to incite our enemies to take the lives of any of your fellow citizens.

There is a horrible undermining of our troops in foreign countries by people who claim to know more than you and I and by run-amok journalists, most of who could not make an honest living if it weren’t for the media desperately trying to hold their readers by sensationalism. As time goes on more and more people will depend on bloggers for the truth and less and less on the bias and sensationalism of traditional media.

Today, I see where someone sneaked a picture of Saddam in his shorts and some sensationalists thought it should be on the front cove of a magazine. Because of these actions, there will be deaths of innocent people. This act goes beyond stupidity. Hardly a word is being said by the biased media about the hundreds of thousands of deaths this man is responsible for. The best picture on the front page of any media would be a picture of him in his grave. Only in a weak America could things so stupid be publicized. I am ashamed of the actions of many in the media and feel sad about what I see is a decline of this once great nation. Those of you who disagree and say that this is still a great nation had better open your mouths, improve on your penmanship, and encourage and support the best leadership available because whether you see it or not, Hollywood and the permissive lifestyle it spreads around the world (More than half of the films produced by Hollywood are shipped overseas) influence people like the fundamentalists and terrorists to believe what they see, hear and read, represents society in America. No wonder they hate us).

We appear to have created large gaps between sectors of our society. I hope it doesn’t take an act worse than 9/11 to bring us back together. It is past time for the sensible silent majority to become more visible.

Trails and Possible Trials

I continue to question leadership in this community and had more cause to do so when I read the article in the JS about allegations about the Gibson’s who are attempting to or already have sold the city on giving up the current railway for a trail way between Pioneer Park and downtown. In return a new “Kellar Branch” is to be constructed by I believe a Mr. Gibson whose wife may or may not be connected to the ownership of this company. Whose responsibility was it to do a background check on the buyer or buyers??

We have some new leadership. As a citizen of the City of Peoria, I expect less controversy and more solid decisions from my City Council.

Promoting Mediocrity

Skipping tests because you carried a “C” average and missed 5 or less days a year? Board member Aaron Schock of Dist. #150, is quoted by Phil Luciano of the JS as follows “I assure you that the students I have come in contact with have all expressed their support for this policy”. Sure and so would I if I were a high school student.

Problem is Mr.Shock is not a student but was elected to be a leader. Leaders who let those being taught do the teaching seems to be the major reason for the decline of values and respect in this country. Morally corrupt Hollywood seems to be the only leaders many juveniles and adults respect these days. (More on the corruption of our citizenry by elite Hollywood in the future).

I can’t say it better than Luciano said it today in the JS. A call to School Board member Mary Spangler confirms that she supports Board Member Matheson position in that the current system of mediocrity is wrong. I expect the other board members should make their position on this issue public.

Question is what past or present board members started this move to further destroy the ability of District 150 to turn out more kids who are not afraid of a challenge?

This system of rewarding people for “showing up” with a “C” average is fairly common in major industries according to Mr. Schock. I don’t agree. Maybe a few in the public sector but not many in the private sector where competent employees are expected to be at work every day if able to do so to help their companies turn a profit to stay in business.

One positive that competition teaches one is that you may do well in the regular schedule but all along the coach should be teaching you how to win in the tournaments. To avoid year end tests might indicate that you are afraid of competition. As a “C” student or mediocre athlete, I might be afraid also. But fear would never keep me from competing!!


It is a constant national concern that the media discourages competent and proven leaders to run for public office. Peoria Public Schools have suffered for a long time by electing some vocal, (as well as popular) well meaning but basically incompetent board members. The situation we are in now did not develop overnight nor can all the blame be put on the families and teachers as many wish to do.

The failure of any “body” to perform well above a “C” average can almost always be traced to the lack of competent leadership!!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

"Acts of Faith"

A new novel written by Philip Caputo called “Acts of Faith” as reported by Patrick T. Reardon, Tribune staff reporter, describes how unquestioning religious or secular faith can lead to corruption and evil. One excerpt in the book by character Phyllis Rappaport, an abrasive CNN reporter reads as follows: On Faith: “Belief is a virus and once it gets into you, its first order of business is to preserve itself, and the way it preserves itself is to keep you from having any doubts, and the way it keeps you from doubting is to blind you to the way things really are”.

This book is set in Africa and Caputo says he didn’t write the book intending it to be “metaphors for America. If they are human metaphors for anything it is for the West in general. I’ve been to Africa many times, and I have seen lots of efforts began by many nations - grand schemes, wonderful ideas. And they all seem to end up flopping or turning themselves inside out and becoming catastrophes”.

We in the United States are in the middle of many “acts of faith” and while we certainly aren’t Africa, we so seem to be often blinded by the way things really are.

Anyway, Caputo is an interesting author and I plan to read his new book. I’m now in the middle of a hard to put down book entitled “What’s the Matter with Kansas” by author Thomas Franks published in 2004. One of the chapters is titled “Persecuted, Powerless and Blinded” and another is titled “Kansas Bleeds for Your Sins”. This book is more interesting to me because I am a moderate Republican and I have a connection with Kansas having lived in Topeka for two years. My youngest daughter was born a “Jayhawker”.

Much has been written about the ties between blind faith and beliefs and good and evil. The ties between faith and beliefs and good and evil are causing the world to have some of its worst problems since the beginning of history and blind faith causing evil could eventually lead to the demise of humanity.

I close with this thought “Facts are better than dreams of blind faith. It’s far better to infuse the entire process with the brutal facts of reality”.

Save a Life

Sometime in your life you will or already have had to make a decision whether or not a person is having a stroke. Stroke symptoms are difficult to identify. The American Stroke Association and doctors say that a bystander can recognize a stroke victim by asking three simple questions.
1. Ask the individual to smile.
2. Ask him or her to raise both arms.
3. Ask the person to speak a simple sentence.
If she or he has trouble with any of these tasks, call 911 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.
You may save a person from brain damage or you may save a life.

Please pass this information on.

Thanks

Monday, May 16, 2005

3rd Best

The most recent issue of Forbes Magazine ranks the Peoria Metropolitan area as 3rd best in the U.S. in living costs. “Living costs” is described as an “index measuring all household costs. Of the top 150 Best Places, Peoria was one of only four cities in Illinois ranked in any category. Chicago, Rockford and Davenport were the other three cities listed. Only communities with a metro population of over 350,000 were included in Forbes seventh annual ranking of Best Places for Business and Careers. Forbes relies on Economy.com, a West Chester, Pa. research firm and Bertrand Sperling, a consultant in Portland, Ore.

The survey showed that “energy prices in the U.S. rose 6.6% for businesses last year, with an 8% jump in taxes. The most expensive state in which to hang your shingle was California with housing pricing leading the way”.

Forbes lists www.forbes.com/bestplaces for more detailed information.

I did not note any media picking up on this article; if they did I missed it. If they didn’t other organizations promoting Peoria should do so.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Peoria Has Something B-N Doesn't Have??

So many times I’ve picked the JS and read about things that Bloomington and Normal have that Peoria doesn’t have – like two or three Interstate Highways. When I looked at the front page of the JS on 4/29/05, I learned we do have something Bloomington and Normal doesn’t have and that is plenty of water. Surprise!! I quote from the JS “Bloomington and Normal are interested in tapping into Peoria’s water supply if the City Council decides to buy I-A.” “This is not a pipe dream. This is a real possibility. It is by no means a certainty, though,” said Terry Kohlbuss, executive director of the Tri-Planning Commission and a buyout expert.

The JS goes on to say “the idea was explored in a conference call Thursday with “city officials” from both communities.”

Hold on a minute!! On 4/30/05, the Pantagraph, the major newspaper serving the Bloomington-Normal area, headlined the following: OFFICIALS: REPORTS THAT B-N WANTS TO USE PEORIA WATER EXAGGERATED. “All we said is we would listen,” said Bloomington City Manager Tom Hamilton. There’s been no numbers, no timing, no nothing to talk about.” Normal City Manager Mark Peterson agreed. “We have had conversations; we’re not committing,” Peterson said. We are continuing to pursue and talk with rural water systems in western McLean County.”

The Pantagraph continues “both Hamilton and Peterson said they have had limited conversations with Peoria officials. “Jenny, it would be interested to let the public know just who these Peoria officials were and was Mayor Elect Ardis, Council members to be Manning and Van Auken involved or even consulted? Or was this mainly done by PAAG representatives?”

What is going on here? Kohlbuss has spoken repeatedly in favor of the buyout group who invested fair size amounts of money for the study and appraisals. Is this a typical elite power play? The community understands what is going on and voted like Dave Ransburg suspected they would; 81% NO. They want the city to stick to the core business of running cities. Many people feel some elected officials weren’t doing a very good job of running the city, let alone trying to manage a management group the city would have to hire to run the now city owned water company!

There is a possibility that I-A would like to sell at the appraised figure. They better than anyone know the true value of the franchise. Also I suspect I-A could sell water services and pay the water source communities affected a fee for doing it.

I write as a voter and taxpayer in the city confines. New mayor and new council members, listen to the people. They know more than some politicians think they do.

I leave you with this quotation sent to me by my friend Karrie: “The job of a citizen is to keep his (or her) mouth open.” (Gunter Grass)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

More Self Deceit??

I like to look back at what some people said from time to time. Here are a few quotes that are interesting:

Demosthenes warned us two-and-a-half millennia ago, “Nothing is easier than self –deceit. For what every man wishes; that he also believes to be true.”

It is appropriate to quote this ancient at a time when some in our community including the JSEB believe we will be comparable to Memphis, Dayton or Cincinnati in the not too distant future. Remember we were told we would all benefit from new, partially funded taxpayer projects, such as the RiverPlex, the new ballpark, One Technology Plaza and the Gateway Building? None of these projects have come close to projections. The two most highly promoted facilities; used up approximately $10,000,000.00 of local taxpayer dollars not including what Former Governor George Ryan threw in from the taxpayer funded Illinois First Fund.

An article dated 2/24/05 in the JS quotes Park Superintendent Bonnie Noble “construction of the new zoo could start in the fall of 2007.” An article in the JS dated 4/29/05; quotes Mrs. Noble as saying “We’re probably talking about the first of next year (January, 2006) as a construction starting date.” (A leap forward of approximately 18 months). A JSEB editorial dated 4/24/05 states “$17 million in private donations has been collected (I believe they mean “collected and pledged,” (A big difference!!) and the Zoological Society is still approximately $15 million short of their goal”. A JS article dated 4/29/05 says “$18.5 million has now been promised or banked for the project. That amounts to nearly ¾ of the estimated $26 million (On 10/3/04, the JS said the estimated cost was $32 million) the PPD has said it need for construction.” Again, conflicting data is being released by the PPD as I’ve pointed out in previous blogs.

In a JS article dated 5/23/02, I quote from this article “Operating Agreement Approved for Zoo with the Peoria Zoological Society to raise $25 million for the zoo expansion and setting up an endowment for the zoo. Income from the endowment fund will be transferred each year and used to maintain and upgrade the buildings.” Now, the word “endowment” has disappeared from any news reports?? And is the cost $25,. 26, or 32 million and does that include an endowment fund? Let’s say 2 million was for an endowment fund and the investment paid 6%, that’s only $120 thousand income per year, not nearly enough to operate the zoo, as well as maintain and upgrade the buildings, especially when it is known that the present small zoo loses about $400 thousand a year.

On 2/24/05, the JS reported “Zoo hopes to revive faltering fund-raising campaign” yet on 4/29/05 Mr. Cassidy is quoted “the fund raising was never sluggish or slow in its pace. There was always a lot going on behind the scenes.” Hmmmm.

I refer you back to my earlier blogs titled “Zooilogical.” Not a lot of what is being said makes much sense from a financial standpoint. However, this much is clear:

1. A new zoo is going to be built. Period. It is ordained to be built at any cost.
2. It looks almost exactly like the RiverPlex that started out at $12 million and cost over $20 million.
3. As the PPD Riverplex, it is ordained to cost the taxpayers big bucks. The RiverPlex will be four years old in August. At this point in time, it was projected to be making large sums of money yet not one dollar has gone toward paying the principal and interest on the bonds let alone making enough to cover operating costs, ($6,000.00 a day in losses thru 12/31/04.)
4. I predict that if the park has a business plan with a budget, you the public, will never see it because, like the Riverplex and ball park, it would be ugly. (I twice asked one of the major donors for a copy of the business plan. I’m still waiting.)

I think it is extremely important that the public in general realize what is going on in Peoria right now. As to the PPD, its president has made these following misleading quotes in the past:

1. “If the growth in our community continues at only a fraction of what it has the last five years, most, if not all, of the bonded indebtedness will be paid through RecPlex operations.” These comments were printed in the JS on 3/21/99 justifying the building of the RiverPlex . This statement proved to be highly misleading. (New bonds totaling approximately 12 ½ million have been sold partially to help cover this shortfall.) Mr. Cassidy is quoted in several articles that these yearly bonds are sold to develop new facilities, yet a review of these bonds (available to the public.) show that most of the money is used for “operations and repair.” Does anyone know of anything new the park has built since the RiverPlex that would justify the issuing of millions in new bonds? All I can find is $250,000.00 for a skateboard park (if you can find it and call it a real skateboard park. It’s all above ground and not nearly as challenging as Mineral Park in Pekin. The PPD built a Mickey Mouse version.)

2. On 1/23/03, Mr. Cassidy is quoted in the Peoria Observer as follows “(Widmer) thought it (the RiverPlex) is losing $760,000.00 a year. Where that idea came from, I have no idea.” A financial report dated 9/18/02 issued by PPD administration indicated that actual RiverPlex losses were $1,187,845.00 thru 12/31/01!! The report further stated that projected losses for 2002 revised were $878,547.00 and the 2003 budget projected a loss of 783,526.00. The report further stated that these losses did not include the “scholarships” which were to make up 1/3 of the membership. RiverPlex losses actually came in much higher totaling approximately $7,000,000.00 in the first 40 months of joint operations.

3. An article in the JS dated 8/9/03 quotes Mr. Cassidy “We’re confident we’ll have a softball facility for 2006.” (This was the PPD’s late answer to the successful ball fields at Eastside.) Unfortunate or fortunately, there was no money put in the PPD 2005 budget for any softball complexes that park administration say will cost from $1.25 to 2 million to build and unspecified dollars to operate.. Veteran softball players in Peoria say the PPD is 10 years too late and with Eastside and Bloomington dominating the tournament locations, new Peoria ball parks would be big losers.

When I blog, I give you figures that are available to the public either by reading, asking or filing a FOIA. Some of these facts should be disturbing to taxpayers in the City of Peoria and in some cases Peoria County. Large facilities costing large amounts of money to maintain after the generous benefactors succeed in getting them built. These facilities and there accoutrements are going to be here for many years, thru good economic conditions and bad. We will be hearing from many more unhappy taxpayers in the not too distant future.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Blogger's Block

Sorry, temporary I assure you.

Where to start again? I will quote from Machiavelli’s writings: “To see him and hear him should seem to be all mercy, faith, integrity, humanity and religion. This character must be disguised well. Practice deceit. We are so simple and so ready to obey present necessities that one, who deceives, will always find those who would allow themselves to be deceived.”

Just quoting someone famous in history. That quote has no bearing in what I’m writing, but I’ll just throw in some other quotes I’ve picked up here or there.

On 4/22/05 the JS quotes City Councilman Chuck Grayeb, talking about his support of the city water company buyout, and saying he wants “vigorous, open discussion and that he want multiple forums be held live on radio and television.” He stated “I have absolute confidence the public has become more supportive since the referendum and will be even more supportive as we provide them with information. I think we need to have a very wide open public discussion.”

On 3/30/05, the League of Women Voters and the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored a forum on the question of the water company buyout. The only council members to show up were Jim Ardis, and Gary Sandberg. About 40 people, including President Terry Gloriod of Illinois American Water Company attended this open publicized forum. If Grayeb was in the audience, the JS writer and I didn’t see him.

Hmmmmm?

Quotes by numerous “buy the water company” people “water rates in Peoria area the highest in the State, Country, you name it.” A document I received from the Illinois State Water Survey listed 32 communities in Illinois and their cost of water per thousand gallons. In a comparative analysis of water costs, Peoria was listed as 14th.

Hmmmm?

“We don’t want a foreign country owning our water.” This statement was made by a city councilman. No city owns their water. Water is classified as a Natural Resource and is owned by the U.S.A. Most any high school student should know that.

“PPD officials want the Peoria Zoological Society to have raised 90% of the cost of the 25 million dollar zoo expansion before construction starts.” (JS article by writer Sarah Okeson on 4/15/05.”) An article on 5/2/05 says the Society is $7,500,000.00 short of 26 million needed for this project. (it’s easy to throw in another million in just 17 days) I have heard from a reliable source that the PPD plans to make up the shortfall by including it in new bonds this fall or sooner. The PPD has 16 more years to pay off the bonds for the building of the RiverPlex. Watch to see how “creative” park officials get in sliding this highly potential taxpayer boondoggle past the taxpayers!

In announcing the pending retirement of Barbara Manz Drake, Opinion Editor of the JS, I quote Managing Editor Jack Brimeyer, “every once in a while, you run into a person with innate curiosity, intense passion for people and a soul-felt sense of fairness.”

Having not blogged for a while I better stop as this old heart has had about all it can handle today.

Back tomorrow with more quotes.

P. S. Gary Sandburg, did you use a quote from one of my blogs (Opposing Views, dated 4/22/05) on the floor of the City Council Tuesday night? I got my 1968 quoting of George Keenan from the Wall Street Journal. Even though I feel exactly as Mr. Keenan wrote, I couldn’t write anything that eloquent!! Mr. Keenan says that so many of our “leaders” have no doubt about the correctness of any of their views. Too bad.