Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Optimism

I’ve always been optimistic of what I could do as an individual. Probably the worst decision I ever made was to retire and put my faith in the optimism of others. Right now I’m pretty pessimistic about a lot of happenings that have a direct effect on my friends, retirees, the unemployed who are able and capable, the overtaxed and soon to be further overtaxed citizens, my family and myself.

This blog is prompted by “Another Opinion” by former Mayor Bud Grieves in today’s JS. Bud, who is a friendly fellow, writes about the failure of the Bush administration and an economy built on consumption and credit with zero savings. Bud also worries that our entitlements are about to bankrupt the country. These comments cause me to chuckle in dismay as I review all the slowly deteriorating projects Bud supported while mayor. Just a few include the RiverPlex where the city invested approximately 5 million in infrastructure; the last financial report available to the public, showed a loss of approximately $6,000 a day, a ball club in which I am a reluctant part owner (I bought in when a group of us headed by Pete Vonachen bought the club from the smarter than us guy from Chicago back in 1994), the city invested approximately $4 to $5 million in infrastructure depending on what figures you use and has yet to turn a profit to any stockholder that I know of, One Tech Center, in which the county made an unwise investment, (before my election to the County Board), the riverfront where the former Damons sits empty for going on three years and many others are keeping a brave face. Remember when River Station once thrived? Sooner of later, the city is going to be asked for financial support for a “zoo that might inspire some young person from Peoria Heights to start the next Microsoft in Peoria” (Peoria Times-observer 11/15/2000). I’m sure the community wanted the Gateway Center that looses approximately $500,000 a year and I’m not sure the community supports the closure of the railroad track for a yet to be funded trail. Where is the promised development of Southdown around the ballpark? Who was mayor and on the council when loan of $5,500,000.00 grant for Cubs that put two neighborhood groceries out of business and is now rumored to be downsizing. Looming on the horizon is a new TIF for SouthTown business development, concern over the new museum that if not built, Caterpillar says they will NOT build their Visitors Center-----I’ll stop here, I’m out of breath.

You know, I try to be optimist but just when I was feeling better, the stock market dropped 1200 points with no end in sight, attendance at the ball park appears to be going further “south” and the Peoria Park District Board floated another $10 million dollar loan for the zoo expansion. Glen Barton, whose wife Polly is heading up the fund drive for the new zoo expansion, says PPD needs another $6 million in contributions. The PPD still has 15 years to pay off the $10 million they borrowed to build the RiverPlex and $15 million of yet to be paid off bonds from other projects and expenses. In the meantime, the city hasn’t yet been asked for the public infrastructure everybody knows will be needed for the zoo expansion. Now the city and/or the county are being asked for more money for the museum, more money for school consolidation, more money for the Civic Center, more money for the neighborhoods, more money for street building and maintenance, increasing safety dollars for a sprawling relatively growth less population, ect.

With higher interest rates on the horizon, inflation camped on our doorsteps, gas prices remaining high while oil stock are plummeting, a global recession apparently underway and no end in sight in spending money off shores while off shore investors area pulling their money out of the U.S. economy, well folks, some of us no longer have a job and no pension, well, some of us are losing a lot of our optimism.

As one of the fiscal conservatives on the County Board and a minority in partisanship, my one vote is only one out of 18. But that one voice represents those of you who understand the meaning of fiscal conservancy. I want to retain that one vote to represent those of you who believe in the fiscal common sense you have and want your elected officials to have. (Please vote for me in November and if not in my district ask your friends to support this fiscal conservative).

While I want to share some of this community’s leadership optimism, in order to do so, I need to see more business plans based on history and facts. I need to see some of the current debts paid OFF and new projects that at least come close to breaking even and bring to the community more than just more restaurants and shops. Maybe I’m becoming like some of the “please vote no” people, I want some type of a guarantee that all these projects aren’t going to cost those not making $100,000 a year plus and those with large publicly funded pensions; an arm and a leg. Other than some proof, I’m going to turn pessimistic like my old acquaintance and optimist, Bud Grieves. I’ve tried my best to get more people to see what I see, but even I have trouble believing what I can see for myself.

9 comments:

Randall L. Emert, Sr. said...

We are on the same page. If I was in your district, I'd vote for you. I worte a letter to the forum today basically saying the TIF's we have are failures in most regards.

Marty said...

Many of these projects that have been realized over the last decade or so in Peoria were all greeted with optimism by many in the beginning. But I know some of us felt they would become white elephants (almost from the time we heard of them). But I know most of us hoped they would not and would prosper. However, the country club community leaders like Grieves, Vonachen, Cullinan, Ransburg, etc., apparently would not be "deluded" by scepticism. (Ardis was elected in reaction to this crowd I feel).

Several years ago, while the ballpark and riverplex were being built, I had heard from someone who knew several Chiefs ball players and dealt with them on a frequent basis. Even the players were using the term "white elephant" in describing the future ballpark and plex. Makes you wonder if a demographic study was ever done. I say that on the fact that most of the folks I had casual conversations with over these issues at the time didn't believe they would flourish and become profitable. And these people were from various walks of life from cab drivers to investment advisors.

Marty said...

Also, what is the city going to do with the riverfront if Old Chicago vacates? Supposedly that company will file bankruptcy soon if they haven't already. The city should consider razing that ugly, inappropriately placed complex and start from scratch if it becomes tenantless.

Randall L Emert Sr said...

Marty: raze the deck? I think if it comes to that, people should be charged with a crime. they should parade Grieves and anyone else that voted to put that ugly river view blocking piece of s**t and make them tear it down with sledge hammers at their own expense and that goes for the gateway. Who puts an under sized convention room 3 stories in the air? Even host an event there? I have and what a pain to transport risers, food, instruments, in one undersized elevator to the top. If Old Chicago goes and the top is vacant, then you can bet that will becoame a VIP deck for the fireworks show on the fourth.

KEAlms/SAPartridge said...

Merle:

You know very well that the business plan is the bountiful taxpayer pocket not objective data that any private business would be required to provide for a loan that they would have to repay. Eh gads, in my twelve years, the slide to the is slicker and deeper each year.

KEAlms/SAPartridge said...

slide to the sewer

SeƱor Limpio said...

Hooray -- conservatives play in Peoria!

BJ Aberle said...

I am a frequent reader , but seldom commentor. You post has hit squarely home with how I feel about some of the things this towns leadreship has done. Very well said.

Pete said...

I think that Mr. Widmer is a little off base if he is suggesting that Lowell (Bud) Grieves is to blame for some of the Recent follies that the City of Peoria has made! Remember that being mayor is not like being King! The Mayor has to have the support of the city council and the community to push forward with a city venture. In addition, Mr. Widmer is quick to forget some of the great improvements to the city that Mr. Grieves has made. Did we forget about the purchase and renovation of The Mark Twain Hotel? What about The Purchase and renovation of the beautiful Packard Building? I could go on and mention other projects that Bud has been involved with such as The Spirit of Peoria and The Landing at the river front... Correct me if I am wrong, but those are all very viable operations that Mr. Grieves has been involved with not only in the ownership capacity, but also being an entrepreneur and taking a risk in order to enhance the downtown of Peoria. Shouldn't we look to the folks that are currently operating the ventures that are failing rather than criticizing the visionaries that developed the concepts for the future of the community?