Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Free Market?

California Democrat Nancy Pelosi is quoted as saying that to ensure that America remains competitive is to “take money out of the private sector so government can spend more tax dollars on hiring public school teachers (no mention of charter schools and vouchers); take money out of the private sector so that government can spend more tax dollars on federal R &D agencies (no mention of redoing corporate tax rates to the same end); take money out of the private sector so government can spend more tax dollars on “broadband access” (no mention that this will happen faster than Congress can pass a law) and take money out of the private sectors government can spend more money on developing alternate energy (no mention of relieving legal and regulatory impediments to the only currently viable source, nuclear power) At least she has a common theme.

I have a fifth suggestion. Take money out of the private sector so government can spend money on how to educate itself on the free market, since it is so seldom encountered inside the Beltway. Perhaps politicians might learn that this outside-the-Beltway oddity- the free market-flourishes when millions of actors are permitted to keep more of the capital they earn to allocate it as they see fit in their collective wisdom, however untethered that wisdom may be from the enlightened thoughts of Ms. Pelosi.”

If Ms. Pelosi answer is to simply spend more money, could she possibly explain why school systems with the highest per capita spending –Washington, DC and New York continue to produce some of the poorest results?”

Other comments to the WSJ include “We cannot and should not, compete on cost. We must compete via innovation and high value-added. On these metrics, the U.S has no peer. We will respond successfully yet.”

These comments are in response to what Ms. Pelosi had published under the title “R &D Democrats” on 2/13 in the WSJ.

Museum Realities

I mentioned I had the opportunity to visit the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. While visiting, I picked up a newspaper saying that Richard Norton Smith is leaving as director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The article reads “The museum is on pace to draw 600,000 visitors in its first year. The annual budget is $9 million (although today at lunch I was told the budget is $12 million.) By contrast the annual budgets for other presidential museums range from $1.8 million to $4.8 million (Ronald Reagan). Unlike these museums, the Lincoln museum gets no federal money for operating costs. Despite sky high attendance, gate receipts which stood at $2.5 million in mid-December are not nearly enough to pay costs, so state and private funds must make up the difference. The state isn’t likely to pony up for new bells and whistles, so if the museum wants new attractions to keep folks coming back, private donors will have to pay for them. The museum foundation hasn’t raised sufficient cash to have an acquisition (traveling exhibits) fund, so it must rely on gifts from collectors of Lincoln artifacts.”

I called the Dubuque, Iowa National Rivers Museum today ( I had a 21/2 visit with the development director last summer) to see how they were doing financially. They said that attendance was down to 251,000 from 301,000 the first year. Projected attendance this year is 241,000. They have fallen short of meeting operating costs both years and are conducting fund drives to make up the deficits. (This Museum was originally largely funded by the State of Iowa to boost state visitor numbers.)

As Peoria proceeds with the planning of a new downtown Museum, many are skeptical that proceeds will cover deficits. Same is true with the planned expansion of the Glen Oak Zoo which has been stuck on about $19 of the projected need of $32 million for more than two years. And what about operating costs for both projects? With no endowments of substantial size mentioned to date, who will fund the deficits?

Many questions will need to be answered over the next few months and some big ego busting decisions will probably have to be made. If not, taxpayer, be super-aware.

I suggest as do many of my friends, that one project would be dropped and the contributions shifted to a long term operating endowment for the one project that proceeds. Most believe the project dropped should be the zoo because the Peoria Park District does not have a good track record in handling losses and their fund raising efforts seem to be static. However, if both do finally get off the ground I suspect more people will be looking for a more tax friendly environment. They know they can always come back to visit.

Today's Game "Shift the Blame"

On Tuesday February 14, I was driving East on Rt. 74 when I approached a school bus traveling in the right lane. I swung out to pass the bus and as I did an object in the shape of a soda can sailed out of one of the buses side windows, narrowly missing hitting my windshield. I honked my horn and motioned to the bus driver to pull over. I pulled in front of him and turned on my turn signal and slowed down and pointed to the roadside to pull over. He eventually did and I walked between my car and the front of the bus to the side door which was open. A husky young man with a Morton High School wrestling shirt asked me what the problem was. I told him and he immediately accused me of improperly stopping the bus. He was not interested in who threw the can and why the can was even on the bus to start with. After berating me and my calling the kid who threw the can a “punk”, he told me he would handle the problem. I left him my card and told him because of the hostile way he treated me that I would call his superintendent and report the incident. The bus was still following me when I turned off to Eureka to visit friends and relatives at a nursing home. On the way home, I decided that since the adult said he “would handle” it, to drop the incident. I considered that the bus driver did not want to stop because maybe I looked like a terrorist.

A number of years ago, the driver of a car tried desperately to stop me. When I finally stopped, the driver told me that my tennis racquet was riding on top of my trunk as I was driving along. I thanked him profusely and to this day I do not know how I was able to drive almost two miles without the racquet falling off my car.

A bus driver I talked with later in the day told me that food and drinks are not allowed on school busses but also said it was a rule hard to enforce because often the teacher and coaches brought food and drink on the bus, so how could he discipline the kids?

Today, I received a call from Phil Luciano of the JS telling me that he received a call from someone from Morton telling him about the incident and putting the blame on me. Okay, I can handle it; I’ve been assassinated by better people than some Morton School administrators and coaches.

I immediately put in a call to the Morton school superintendent and left my phone number. My phone call has not been returned.

I coached five years and took many a bus ride with my students and athletes. Had I been on that bus I would have told the driver to pull over earlier as for all they knew, I might have observed a tire going flat or a mechanical failure? I would not have greeted the person who had an object thrown at them from a speeding bus in a hostile manner. I would have also found out who threw the object and that person would not have participated in the activities planned. If no one would admit to throwing the object, I would have either returned to the school and sent everybody home as it was approximately !:15 P.M. when the object was hurled.

Part of the problem with our youth today is the home environment. Another great part of the problem lies with some of the teachers, administrators and coaches who teach these kids. Many of these people constantly side with the wrongdoer. When the kid defended by his adults goes thru life, many of these kids get by with larger misdeeds until today our courts and jails are jammed with kids who grew up to make a mess of their lives aided by those adults who were supposed to help them grow into manhood or womanhood.

I learned as a youth not to throw things at moving vehicles. In route from the farm to the grain elevator, I tossed a small handful of corn in the air as a car was passing. The motorist stopped his car and came for my dad. My dad asked me if I threw the corn and I had to say yes. My dad never said a word about it until that evening when he got out his razor strap and I became convinced that I made a mistake. It was lessons like that that got me thru life. But then that was yester years and today is today.

I believe many of my friends would like to return to some of the past when it comes to discipline but the modern “educators” do not believe in the old adage “spare the rod and save the child”. We are all paying the price of defending the wrongdoer and somehow shifting the blame to the accuser. Some teachers tell me that is why they put up with chaos in the classroom because they will be blamed for failure to control the class.

Luciano selection of words was that he might do a column on me shifting the blame from the kid to me. Luciano has in his articles stated that as a youth he did some really bad things and got away with them. He indicated he did not apologize for any of these actions. If he elects to write on this incident it would appear that this might be a continued attempt by a few members of the JS to assault my reputation or that Phil has a column to meet with nothing to write in it as is often the case with some journalists.

We as citizens have a right to try to call to the attention of misdeeds committed by kids under the supervision of adults about incidents like these at the moment it happens. Maybe someday we will return to a better behaved society even in Morton where all kids are good kids and not like Peoria school kids. That’s one of many reasons why their parents move out of Peoria

If this incident is written up in the JS tomorrow, please download my blog and forward it to your friends in Morton. Yet maybe tomorrow the superintendent will call me and Phil will decide this isn’t much of a story, which it isn’t.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Noted Abscenses

I have recently attended these six events:

1. The League of Women Voter “Review the LWVUS Issues on January 21 attended by approximately 30 people.
2. A presentation by the Peoria Historical Society and the Downtown Museum on 1/31/06 on collaboration and attended by approximately 100 people.
3. A Peoria District #150 school board candidate’s forum presented by the “League of Women Voter” attended by approximately 45 people.
4. The Lincoln Senior Award night at the Radisson on 2/16/06 in which awards were given to 16 seniors from 16 high Schools an attended by 100 plus people.
5. The Peoria County Board Siting hearings in which thirty hours (including all day Saturday) of testimony have been presented before an interested audience of up to two hundred or more each day.
6. A Boys and Girls Club fundraiser at the Clubs of River City Friday evening. Approximately 50 tennis players or visitors.

Event one, one black person, County Board member Lynn Pearson.
Event two, I don’t recall more than one.
Event three, two black candidates and four blacks in the audience.
Event four, four blacks in the audience; none as an award winner.
Event five, 3 black people, County Board member Lynn Pearson, County Health Administrator, Andrea Parker and one black person in the audience.
Event six, none.

I may have missed a couple but this article is based on what I observed. If so, I stand corrected.

Census figures show that the County of Peoria is approximately 20% black.

If I am the only one who thinks these figures are quite interesting then you might ask why my distinction of lack of participation in some noteworthy events in this community by people of color?

“Good question” as the phrase is often used when people know they don’t have a valid answer to your question

However, I’ll answer it as best I can. Most of my friends and acquaintances believe we should all be called Americans regardless of race if we are citizens of this country. But then why are some demanding to be identified as Native Americans and African Americans? And why aren’t they participating more in the democratic process?

Personally, I call it “a community disconnect” and it is not a sign of the collaborative community as called for by ex-Caterpillar President Glen Barton in today’s edition of the JS.

On a recent bus trip; two buses, sponsored by Republican Aaron Schock, on a visit to the Lincoln Museum and the State of Illinois Legislature, the paying bus riders, to my observation, were all Caucasians. But I should realize that all Republicans are in college or working except us Caucasian elders.

Another noteworthy observation is that I do not recall seeing any members of the Civic Federation at any of these public events except a perhaps at event #2. Nope, I reviewed my list. But then, why should they be? They are the “movers and the shakers” and the rest of us are just do the “shaking”. I also do not recall any of the movers and shakers in the audience the night I put my name and reputation on the line requesting the school board continue support of the Edison schools in #150. I did see a lot of my black friends and acquaintances in attendance and two on the school board, all in support of Edison schools.

Some may wonder why I would bring to your attention what some would call “trivia”. If you believe this is “trivia”, I must believe that you do not live in Peoria or “Frankly, sir, you don’t give a damn.”

That may be one of the major problems of this community. The citizenry appear to want only to get involved when they perceive that “someone” is “trying to steal their cheese” or they are attempting to promote their own agendas.

How sad.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Softball Tournaments in Peoria??

Read the article in today’s JS titled “The Heartland of Softball”, East Peoria stepping up to the plate to make game big business for Peoria.” Then read what Bonnie Noble said representing the Peoria Park District about the flow of money into the area created by East Peoria hosting National tournaments. Bonnie is quoted “Together we could make this the heartland of softball IF we get several state grants to build a $1.6 million sports facility on 80 acres of land we OWN in Northwest Peoria. I challenge anyone to show me that the Peoria Park District “owns” 80 acres of land out north of Peoria suitable to build and support a small portion of tournament fast pitch softball. Also my recent blog states that this is the same thing the PPD said last year and that the diamonds would be ready this year. The reason they can’t move is that PPD doesn’t have the money and that they are spending it faster that they can collect it on taxes from you and fees! Some on the board also realize they are too late and this complex if built, it would be another drain on the taxpayers and the park budget of $48.8 million.

The Park District just passed a $48.8 million dollar budget yet they are asking our cash strapped state who can’t even pay their bills on time, to give the PPD more of your and my money for a softball facility that will lose large dollars every year along with all the other big time money losers they have built in recent years. Park officials say they have plenty of money. Of course they do, the just raise your taxes and ask the State of Illinois for more entitlements.

Why doesn’t somebody say that “Bonnie, you are a good ten years too late, this is East Peoria’s softball Tournament and Peoria would just get some of the leftovers? In a supposed location 4 miles north of the Shoppes? Are we nuts in this community or is it we don’t really care what goes on?

Do more people need to be aware of what some of our “leader” are doing to Peoria or do we all just “talk to our coffee cups? Do we believe everything the JS writes without ever following up? You say you don’t care, then quit complaining about your property tax bills.

Prove me wrong that the park owns 80 acres out north that they swapped for Meinen field with Bradley who paid a whopping $2.1 million for 166 acres; $13,000.00 and acre and still pays the property tax on this property of 380.00 year. Do you see that, city dwellers?
Bradley pays only A TOTAL OF $380 DOLLARS A YEAR PROPERTY TAX DOLLARS for 266 acres of prime farm land with buildings on it! Who is getting screwed?? And yes, this 80 acres of farmland SUSPOSEDLY owned by the Peoria Park District is in the name of Bradley University. Check it out at the Recorders Office in the Courthouse. Yes, I’m on the Peoria County board and property taxes on farmland will be a topic of discussion in the next couple of months.

On 9/04 the JSEB wrote that “Bradley University and the PPD worked out a land swap that appears to benefit each. Bradley gets the former Meinen Field in exchange for 80 acres near Route 91 and Fox Road.” The problem with the media is that they most often do not follow up on something they write especially if these entities pay big bucks adverting in their editions. I ask Mike Smother and Mike Bailey to refute my claims on ownership.

Probably not unless transfer was done within the past ten days.

Also isn’t it strange that Bradley would pay $13,000.00 and acres for farmland two miles south of Dunlap and have to borrow the $2.1 million to fund it?

This is my last blog for a short while. Many of you just starting to read me can check my archives while I’m in hiatus. Some interesting stuff including more proof that I’m living up to what I said in my opening blog, “This is not a politically correct blog site.”

Thanks for reading me.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Exaggerators, Falsehood Tellers or Dreamers??

Let’s start out with a few examples and you, the reader, can draw your own conclusions of which category these individuals fall.

Let’s start with Peoria Park District President, Tim Cassidy who, a couple of years ago, told the NAACP and the Moss Avenue Neighborhood Association that the Riverplex was breaking even financially.

FACT – At the time Mr. Cassidy made these statements there was an official 2001 actual document showing that the Riverplex had lost $1,187,845.00. Worse than that, the Riverplex combined operation lost over $7 million in their first 40 months of operation. This figure is thru December 31, 2004. (JS 2005) The PPD financial statement for 2005 will not be published until June 2006.

“Park District nears deal for softball fields” reads a headline in JS on 11/07/03. “Construction will probably begin in 2005 because there is no money in 2004 budget”. (Quote from Cassidy in JS same date and article)

FACT – No land has even been purchased or determined for this site and it is now 2/06. I am told the park has an “understanding” on some land supposedly swapped with Bradley’s takeover of Meinen Field, now Shea Stadium. (See JS article 8/26/04) “BU arranges land swap with park district. We’ve made the trade with Bradley” quote from Mr. Cassidy in the JS. (See if you can find it on the assessor’s book down at the courthouse. You can’t because the swap of property visible to the public, never happened.) I’ll blog more on this “deal” later.

Next are some statements in the JS attributed to Bonnie Noble, PPD Superintendent:

Article in the JS on 12/12/03 titled “Park officials set to discuss softball site.” A quote from Mrs. Noble in the article says “board members have been working on this for several months and this project could provide Peoria with enough fields to host the Girls National Softball Association’s 2006 regional fast-pitch tournament.”

FACT – JS article on 1/19/06 states “Two Tazewell County cities will host the girls National Softball Association’s Class B World Series expecting 200 teams. Other tournaments will bring at least several hundred more teams to Eastside, Morton, Pekin, Mossville, ect. Peoria is not mentioned because none are coming to Peoria unless they can play in the RP. Further quotes say these tournaments are projected to bring about $11-13 million to the area. (Mostly east of the river) Another quote states that “Peoria Park District is expected to have built a $1.5 million “state of the art” complex by 2006.” These quotes are in the same article.

On 6/16/99 in the JS, Mrs. Noble is quoted as saying the RecPlex, as it was then called, “would operate about $300,000.00 in the red in its second year as a “worst case” scenario. Even in it’s fifth year (we’re there) the deficit “in it’s worst case scenario” still will be about $167,000.00.” She is further quoted “Approximately 17,028 households in the Benfield study area have a meaningful interest in the fitness center, all of whom are likely to join the proposed center. Fourth year projections are a profit of $187,058.00.”

FACT – For the FIFTH straight year, the PPD has had to sell new bonds totaling over $16 million including principal and interest this year alone of $650,000.00 payment on the ORIGINAL Rivplex bond with final payment to be made in 2021! The 2006 new bond of $3,350,000.00 was not mentioned in the JS. What was mentioned at the end of an article in section B on 11/03/05 was that the park had passed a 2006 budget of $48.8 million up from $44.8 million in 2005. Homeowners will pay a tax to the park of $242.00 per assessed valuation of $100,000.00. The budget included a cost of $11.25 for each person served at the RiverPlex.

What was not mentioned is that the park is over $25 million in debt today even with the yearly pay-down of other existing bonded indebtedness.

JSEB wrote on 2/22/03 “RiverPlex programs worth small price”

FACT – The Peoria Park District has financially strapped itself with the RiverPlex despite repeated statements to the press to the contrary. The Journal Star has been very quite on the subjects for a couple of years. The PPD doesn’t have the money to build softball fields and its now too late to build them without adding considerably more debt plus the softball fields would lose hundreds of thousand of dollars per year in operating costs.

The JS knows that the swap for Meinen Field of property of like value never took place but since the JS said it did, it did. Well, it didn’t. Find it on public record and prove me wrong.

The promised skateboard park is a joke compared to Pekin’s and other cities even smaller than Peoria and cities with much smaller budgets. The location lends itself to an accident waiting to happen. It is so remote and the site is so blocked out that it is impossible to police. Ask any skateboard user about the skateboard and its location and see what they say unless they live next door. If you live next door, or anywhere, I guess it is better than nothing.

On 6/1/03, a letter to the editor appeared in the JS over the name of Roger Allen, Chairman of the Finance Committee of the PPD. He writes “The RiverPlex is not $480,000.00 in the red. It makes me wonder about the news department of the Journal Star.” Again he wrote in the JS on February, 2003, “Park Board is financially sound: reducing bond debt. The park district continues to demonstrate sound financial leadership.”

FACT – The adverting budget for the PPD in 2006 is again over $800,000.00 of which a large part of it goes to support the RiverPlex. The RiverPlex is selling memberships at least 20% below the private sector. Clubs competing in the private sector are supporting the RiverPlex with their own tax dollars!

An article appeared in the JS on January, 2005 stating that “Park employees to receive bonuses” with Mr. Cassidy stating that “we’ve been able to get thru the last couple of years with balanced budgets.” Recently, the superintendents pay was raised from $126,000.00 to $130,000.00 a year with full benefits including a retirement package

An article in the JS on 11/10/05 read “Park Board approves golf fee hike.” An increase of $25 was eventually approved.

In the 2006 bond issue is a figure of $136,000.00 for Golf Learning Center Debt Service and $15,000.00 for roof repair at the center.

FACT: Golfers were promised no hike in golf fees. Yet Mr. Cassidy promised “I hear loud and clear the improvements needed to make our golf course more competitive but we can’t do that under our operational budget.”

Take all this in consideration as the PPD struggles to raise the $32,000,000.00 for the new zoo; a zoo that will in NO way support itself without at least a $15 million dollar endowment. Hang on to your pocket book if you live in the park tax district and own property and be careful about what you wish for. Wishes sometimes come true with unintended consequences.

I will write another blog on the same theme shortly. What you have read is factual. It is all on record.