Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mark Widmer 12/29/07

On December 9 at approximately 12:15 PM, my only son was killed instantly in a single vehicle auto accident on Zimmerman Road in Woodford County. His obituary can be found at, December 12 archives, on Hinchliff Mortuary site.

I will write about my son at a later date. While he found, and sometimes seemingly made this world and his life difficult, he was a kind soul, loved by all his family. He deserves to have more of the contributions he made published somewhere. I plan to do so on this site.

My thanks will never be enough for all of those who supported my family and his mother Dee, in our times of great sorrow.

I do not plan to do much blogging until February. In the meantime, I wish all of you, friend, reader, acquaintance or other, a great 2008.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Museum Funding Questions

Dear Peoria County Board Representative:
The Peoria County Board will soon decide whether to ask its residents if they are willing to fund a downtown Peoria museum by means of an increase in their property and/or sales tax(es). Before the Board makes this decision, I would like its members to get answers to the following questions:

If the option of an additional sales tax is chosen, just what items/services would be subject to that tax? Food? Medicines? Toilet paper?

Since county residents will be forced to pay for the museum by way of taxes, will parking for and admission to the museum be free for all Peoria County residents---or will they have to pay for it a SECOND time if they choose to visit it?

If you are going to tax residents for a museum, why not add additional taxes to bail out other struggling cultural institutions? The Children's Museum and WTVP come to mind.

It's my understanding that taxes are levied to pay for ESSENTIAL services and institutions that benefit the majority of the people being taxed---schools, police and fire protection, road crews, etc. Just what is ESSENTIAL about an IMAX theater and a tribute to someone whose “humor” consisted of using 4-letter words to describe his illegal drug use?

In these times of rising grocery prices, rising gasoline prices, and rising CILCO rates, is it really ethical to ask low-income single mothers, seniors trying to live on Social Security, and others living below the poverty line to pay for a museum?

I don't know about other people, but if I have any "extra" money lying around, I'll give it to The Salvation Army to help feed, shelter, and clothe the needy of Peoria County rather than help pay for an UNWANTED museum in downtown Peoria.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Peoria Riverfront Museum Fund Raising Progress

To answer a comment posted on this site in regard to the estimated cost of the museum and where the money was to come from I will pass on some of the information previously made public.

The original amount considered for the Regional Museum was $65,000,000 with $12,000,000 coming from the Federal Government, $12,000,000 from the State of Illinois and $6,000,000 from local governments, all taxpayers’ money. The full amounts of these, Federal, State and County financing appear at the present time not to be forthcoming. Only $600,000 from local governments has been pledged to my knowledge. $35,000,000 was expected to come from private sources.

Cat plans to invest at least $50,000,000 on Museum Square if the rest of the funding for the Riverfront Museum can be secured. This is a very generous offer even though many in the community feel that Cat should go ahead with their Visitors Center and the Riverfront Museum added when there are more pledges from both the private and public sector. That time could come when some of the current large capital projects are completed and are at least coming close to breaking even, the recession clouds lifted and property taxes stabilized.

To date, there is a $24,900,000 shortfall of funds raised/pledged. The Cat Visitors Center and Cat parking is $42,200,000 pledged by, I believe, the Caterpillar Foundation.

$5,000,000 for parking is coming thru TIF and the Department of Transportation, also taxpayer’s money.

The City donation of the land and other concessions including the Water Street upgrade add up to somewhere between $8 and $12 million depending on which city source is talking. I believe the City Manager is saying much more than that has already been given.

The Museum Board says $24,000,000 is still needed for the project to proceed. Estimated revenues and operating costs are projected to offset each other at around $4,100,000 on projected attendance of 360,000 yearly of both the Museum and the Cat Visitors center. Approximately 280,000 of these visitors are projected to come from outside the local communities.

To my knowledge, no surrounding county, village or city has made any significant pledges. To my knowledge the Casino in East Peoria has not made any pledge and there are indications they may not have been approached.

The full County Board will listen to input on December 13th at 6:00 approximately, 4th floor of the County Courthouse. Some board members have openly expressed that they will not support a property tax or a sales tax. However, governmental bodies have been known to change their minds.

Using the Public Building Commission is not acceptable to me or many other board members.

Most of you know that I support a museum providing the fund raisers can raise the funds to both build and operate a fiscally responsible museum year in and year out. That it would be an asset to the community, there can be no doubt. Especially with the two facilities connected. I believe the Caterpillar Visitors Center would need to make up their own losses or bank their own profits. I am not sure that this information has been made clear to the public; whether profits or losses would be Caterpillar’s responsibility or shared.

Please feel free to correct my numbers or statements if you are qualified to do so. Thank you.

I have been told that if the Museum Square does not proceed, the city will need to reimburse Caterpillar for demolition costs and buy back the land from the parties involved???