Thursday, January 31, 2008

Oil and Gas Misconceptions 1/31/08

Richard West from Washoe Valley, Neveda, writes in the WSJ "In 1960 cars got an average of just over 14 miles per gallon and gas cost around $.31 per gallon, making for a cost for gas per mile driven of about 2.2 cents. Today with gas around $3 and cars getting an average of 22 miles per gallon, it cost nearly 14 cents cents per mile to drive. But from 1960 to 2006 consumer prices went up around 7 times, which means that 2.2 cents in 1960 now equates to more than 15 cents.

Virtually nobody talked about "high" gas prices in 1960. Today, alas, that is all we hear from all too many people, even though the cost for gas to drive is actually cheaper."

We hear a temendous "hue and cry" about our dependence on the Middle East for oil. How many of those wailing are aware that our number one source of "foreign" oil comes from Canada and our third largest source is Mexico. Saudia Arabia is 2nd and others are further down our list of suppliers.

Also, we have plenty of oil sources in territory owned by or part of the U.S.

Don't believe me, look it up.

If, as the "chatterers" say we went to war in Iraq because of oil, I assure you it would have been much easier to conquer Mexico and probably Canada and Argentina.


Bradley Basketball Suspensions 1/31/08

The JS had this article on it's sports page this week: "UConn Guards Suspended". The article reads, Two Connecticut basketball guards...were ticketed by campus police for having alcohol in a campus parking lot. Veteran head basketball coach, Jim Calhoun, suspended both players indefinetly a day after they both were charged for possession of alcohol by minors.

Note, A DAY AFTER THEY WERE WERE CAUGHT. Compare that to Bradley who waited until after Bradley had defeated ISU and then suspended the two players charged with alcohol use by minors for one game. A game that they didn't need the suspended players to beat.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Prisoners and Felons Rights 1/28/08

Today's JS article about a complaint by a jailed Peorian with a long rap sheet is the prologue to the following sad state of affairs in our jails and prison systems. I quote from an article titled "When Courts Meddle in Prison Operations" written by Dave Morris, a semi-retired criminologist who worked for the IDC and currently serves on the adjunct faculty at Southwestern College in Bellevile.

Mr. Morris writes, "One hundred years ago prisoners were regarded as slaves of the state. In 1964, the Supreme Court in Cooper vs. Pate ruled that prisoners in state prisons could sue to force authorities to address complaints arising from the Civil Rights Act of 1871. The court said convicted felons remain citizens with rights protected by the Constitution. Imprisoned felons went from slaves to inconvenienced citizens.

Each year since state prisoner have filed more and more lawsuits. Think that doesn't affect you? Well, think again. The government hires attorneys to represent prison employees. You pay for the attorneys. Trials, depositions, witnesses, court costs - your money. Since most prisoners can't afford attorneys, attorneys are appointed to represent them. You pay their fees.

Remember that one of the reasons for the hands-off approach by courts was to avoid disrupting prison discipline. Since courts have become more hand-on, discipline has been disrupted in many institutions.

Some prisons now operate under legal consent decrees establishing numerous mandatory rules, some of which makes prisons unsafe for both inmates and staff alike. In addition, many prison administrators and employees are concerned that they may be hauled into court for just doing their jobs.

The result? The emotional costs that litigation inflicts on staff and inmates tend to increase tension, increasing violence, more management problems and in the long run, higher cost to the taxpayer's".

So you could expect the lawsuit/complaint issues of jails to increase all across the country. Now a complaint about unsanitary spoons at our County Jail. On Dec 4, 2008, a nine member Peoria County Grand Jury found the Peoria County Jail had no obvious problems with conditions and treatment of prisoner. The County Health Department also found no unsanitary conditions at the jail in a recent inspections.

Prisoners are so saavy now that they can file numerous lawsuits and complaints against guards and administrators. In the case of the plastic spoons, 60 other inmates signed on. They probably see the possibility of a lawsuit and would probably want to be called as witnesses to get them out of jail for some testimony time. (Maybe even possible damages? or harrassment at the least)

Thousands of frivolous lawsuits are filled by prisoners all across the U.S. every year. It is my opinion that the judges should be able to separate the charges that have merit from claims that reused plastic spoons are negatively affecting prisoners health.

A few pathetic people are further ruining this country. If the health department can show that the prisoners can't properly wash their spoons, then the sheriff and our competent Jail Superintendent Steve Smith will provide them with the proper soap.

The best advice I can give to the complaining inmates - stay out of trouble and you won't wind up eating with a plastic spoon along with other lawbreakers who get caught.

To all citizens of this county, stop the prevalent permissiveness that leads from a "broken window" to a smashed windshield and a pistol shot. Either support discipline in the school systems, home or public places or be prepared to eventually build another addition onto the County Jail, hire more safety officers more judges and probation officers. Stop helping create a less desirable community to move to or live in.

As I've warned before, offer love and if that doesn't work, offer tough love but always expect responsibility in return. As the song goes, "you can't have one without the other".

Not hard to figure what results in lower taxes.

Death Penalty Re-Visitied 1/28/08

I have long supported the death penalty but my continued study of this penalty has caused me to state that while I still support it under certain conditions, trial costs and enfocement of the death penalty has become far too expensive. Review the case in Georgia where a murderer named Brian Nichols shot a judge and a reporter while making an escape, killed two more people while stealing cars and taking a hostage. Unfortunately, as what usually happens in a "cut and dried" case like this, where the prosecution sought the death penalty, the law permitted the testimony of "experts" and appeals to drag the case out for years nearly bankrupting some communities. The county has already paid out $1.2 million in legal fees and a jury hasn't even been selected.

This is not uncommon with many sentenced to death able to survive for 10 years or more while tax-wasting appeal after appeal is filed. In the case of Zacdarias Moussaoui, the 9/11 plotter who survived, an animal that mocked families of the 9/11 victims; read Daniel Henninger "Moussaoui Will Never Rot in Jail" 5/05/06, WSJ; his trial dragged on for years, eventually sentenced to life imprisonment because 3 juror pacifists bought into pity for his dysfunctional childhood, an animal that should have been tried, convicted and be long dead.

Henninger writes "We arrive at the end of these interminable trial circuses of procedural delay and then say "the system works and "justice" has been done. No, it has done damage to the normal idea of justice. He saw the game early on and made a mockery of it. He achieved a two year delay in his trial by demanding to interview al Qaeda detainees. But our moral betters insist that the whole lot of Guantanamo detainees be given access to the same system of justice. They would diminish it and crush justice".

He won't rot in prison. He will be protected, treated more than well and allowed the same rights as any person in our prisons.

In 2005 there were 16,053 cases of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter nationally. There were 60 executions.

If are laws are so liberal to legally convicted murderers, and we can't execute them without it costing taxpayers millions of dollars, let's sentence them to non-parole solitary confinement and free up our courts, officers and defense attorneys to give fair trails to all the rest where there may be many legitimate questions of major offense guilt.

Many pacifists feel so sorry for these legally tried and convicted killers that they cannot believe we would remove them forever from all of this society. Wait until this country is taken over by radical Islam and their believers, if you read, view and listen thoroughly and carefully, you will know it is possible.

It is my firm belief that today's permissive, pacifist and wimpy society will eventually destroy this country.

If any of the present Democrat, and a Republican or two, candidates are elected to the presidency, a strong push will be given this country in that direction.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Special Interest Groups 1/26/08

Volumes have been written about politicians and special interest groups. Let's see if I can simply these volumes. All special interest groups should be listened to for the simple reason that they are entitled the same as all of us, to be heard. The tough part is for the politicians is to determine what action should be taken on special interest requests. Once a decision to grant concessions to any special interest group has been determined, a pattern is set to be followed later. What has happened here in our country over the centuries is that politicians no longer have reasons to say no. They have already spoiled the pot.

Subsides, grants, relief packages, special legislation are now expected by everyone who can think up or design a request for every possible thing under the sun for politicians to fund with OPM. Socialism runs rampant. Politicians are judged by their special interest constituents by how much money they can get from the public body they were elected to represent.

An example is Governor Crist of Florida who pushed a bill through his legislature to socialize the state's disaster insurance. In an article in the 1/24 issue of the WSJ, I quote "Refusing to admit that an increased risk of hurricanes will naturally result in higher insurance premiums, the alleged Republican Governor signed a bill that shoved aside much of the private insurance market while putting all of Florida's taxpayers on the hook for catastrophic storm damage. This approach is very inexpensive until the next big disaster hits the state and then untold billions will be needed to be "pryed" from taxpayers at the moment they are sifting through the rubble of their homes."

Now the Governor is turning to the Federal Government to put all us taxpayers on the hook. Failing to get immediate action from a wise Democrat Chris Dodd and Republican Richard Shelby, Rudy Guliani, who I once thought I could support, along with Huckabee and Romney are trying to ride to the rescue. To Romney's credit, he does state that "if the private sector can't deal with it effectively, fine. If it's not, then we have to look for some kind of multi-state sharing program...or perhaps a national program. Romney continues, "But recognizing, of course, that your not going to have low risk homeowners or low risk states subsidizing high risk homeowner or high risk states."

Romney has that part right. But the WSJ and I like McCain's approach better. McCain pointed out that we already have FEMA and 26 other Federal programs intended to assist people after natural disaster. McCain is working on a bill to make it easier for private insurance companies to operate across state lines. McCain wobbled a bit like most of us do, but then said another federal disaster fund would cost U.S. taxpayers too much money.

Go John McCain, my choice to be our next President of the United States with a running mate of Governor George Romney. (Sorry, readers, Mitt, not George who was a good leader also)

Everybody claims that taxes are too high. Of course they are and they will get higher. In the end politicians can't say no and many special interest requests fly so low under the radar that the common person can only understand bits and pieces of what if going or isn't even aware that his pocket is being picked.

Where do I as a County Board member stand on these issues? My record in voting yes or no on some requests is not "squeaky clean". But I ususally don't go along with the pack just beause everybody is doing it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hines School Visit 1/25/08

Approximately 4 years ago I had the pleasure of visiting Hines School, and at that time I wrote, "This is a District #150 School in control of their classrooms, hallways, cafeteria and Physical Education classes." Among other complimentary things I wrote "One of the posted signs I saw everywhere was "close your lips". What I observed seemed simple: show love, enforce discipline and give and receive respect.

My visit today was greeted by Principal Cathy Wiggers, same as four years ago. That in itself was a pleasant happening. Next, to the hallways escorted by a very vibrant Assistant Principal, Mrs. Dawn Robinson and to the classroom of music teacher Wendy Strauss. Mrs. Strauss capablly held the attention of almost all the students including a group of special education kids and their teacher who gave and received love and respect.

Next a trip to the cafeteria where an enthusiastic group of ladies made me feel like I was in a first cdass restaurant. Then to an orderly table of bright young girls who all told me their names and maintained a steady conversation about what they were learning. One fourth grader told me her favorite subject was spelling. All liked to be challenged on questions to give or learn the answer. Little effort was needed to keep the kids in order, no pushing and shoving in lines, lots of smiles and "thank yous' and "your welcome". I was joined by Mrs. Robinson who was impressive in her ability to hold the kids attention and carry on meaningful conversations at the lunch table.

Since the cafeteria was in the gym, tables and chairs had to be quickly cleared and some kids helped in the process. Gym was energetic with side straddle hops, pushups and other fun, energy using activities that brought back memories when I taught grade school, was the coach and physical education teacher.

Despite all the publicity of obese kids and adults I never observed anyone I could call obese in my entire two hour visit.

All the teachers greeted me with smiles especially a relative newcomer to the teaching field; Marty Ayler, who teaches computer skills and social studies. Mrs. Ayler left a business career to graduate from college so she could become a teacher. What an asset this school and it's culture is to this community.

Everyone should at least half a dozen times in their lives, drop into a school, check in at the office and be a quiet observer and show your support to all staff and show your interest in the kids who could all grow up to be meaningful contributers to any community.

This was my second visit this week to a public school. I will comment on this school where the kids were older after my next visit in February.

Hines School is older and has some physical problems that could be corrected without spending a lot of money. It is living proof that it is the principal, the teachers, the staff, the kids and the interest of their parents that result in learning experiences desired in promoting well rounded kids.

District #150 has a lot of good schools, principals, teachers and staff. Last year i had a District sponsored trip to impressive classrooms at Garfield and Woodruff. But nothing give you a better overall feel for a school when you drop in unannouced and ask the principal to let you visit a clasroom. All good teachers and principals will welcome your concern and desire to see the learning in progress.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bradley Sports Disapointment - Again 1/24/08

What a terrible disappointment after watching Bradley basketball last night to learn that two male players who participated in Bradley's close basketball win last night had been arrested at approximately 1:00 A.M. Sunday on alcohol related charges.

More disappointing was Coach Jim Les statement that both players had already served their punishment. What a travesty. It was not long ago that a Bradley basketball player was arrested on a drug possession charge and suspended for a season by, I believe, the NCAA. Bradley's athletic directer and coach went "to bat" for the "student" to try to get the association to reverse their decision so the druggie could continue to play for Bradley. Since the story died in the JS and I don't recall the player since listed in the lineup, I suspect Bradley lost their appeal.

Bradley's AD is quoted as saying "It's very disappointing, unfortunately underage drinking is prevalent in college athletics. But it's also prevalent in college society." What a lame excuse.

What is going on in our colleges today makes me very sad. As an ex-coach, I am appalled that Bradley is so desperate to win at any cost that the coach and AD have lost control of the situation.

A few years ago, Bradley recruited a good basketball player. Fortunately for the reputation of the school, he transferred. I believe if war came to this country, he would either flee to Canada or fight against the United States.

Be compassionate, some people say. Give them another chance. They had their chance. They were on a college varsity basketball team that many clean living young men would pledge their support and never break any rules. Or what weak rules does Les have? None, I suspect or the players would have been suspended for at least a couple of games if not for the season. "Prevalent" in sports, the AD says. Prevalent because of weak administrators and AD's, I say.

Where at one time I pledged 10% of my estate to Bradley, these days I do not even donate to this liberal college with it's killer pranksters and many spoiled kids who should be in Iraq or outside learning to work. (I don't overlook the majority of kids, many extremely talented and positive results driven, who go about the business of being educated and turn out to be responsible contributing citizens).

JS reporter Lonnie Schwindenhammer wrote an article titled "Too many people behaving badly" He writes, "across the Atlantic they are known as hooligans. Here we call them jerks, buffoons and criminals" and he just talking about the fans. In 2004 the Cairo basketball team was banned from postseason play. He continues, in Milwaukee, public school administrators banned fans from future games after a fight that resulted in 10arrests.

A recent study showed that almost one in 10 athletes admitted cheating. 13% said they tried to hurt an opponent. 31% said they had argued with an official. 13% said they made fun of a lesser skilled teammate. 27% had acted like bad sports.

Recent reports show that cheating is an epidemic in our schools, athletes, students, some teachers, principals and coaches.All our local public schools, I believe, are burdened with the cost of security all day at each school and most major athletic contests.

We recently read all about Cardinal baseball player Josh Hancock killing himself driving while drunk. Maybe some high school or college coach could have counseled him before he made the big leagues.

Recently a local coach resigned stating the reason being "problem parents". I know something about that because I was head coach in elementary and high school.

Then comes a passel of rich spoiled talented "looked up to" athletes like Vick, McQuire, Bonds. Sosa. LaRussa, Ankiel, Marion Jones, some local basketball players,the Decatur High School seven and the Idaho Falls Checkers baseball team who finished the season at the Red Lion Motel in Idaho Falls, leaving with pillows, remote controls, blankets and comforters.

Then there is the former Bradley basketball star who played in the NBA and stuck his former college coach with a four figure loan he never repaid.

I'm extremely disappointed in Bradley's AD and basketball coach. You don't build character by playing kids who have violated team rules unless you don't have any rules. Or is the school so desperate that they must win at all costs?

I hope someone passes this blog on to the new administrator and some trustees. Maybe post it on the JS Sports Forum.

Weak leadership all over this country has allowed past generations and present generations to become cheats, liars and shirkers.

It appears the inmates have taken over from those in charge and in some cases there appears to be no difference between them. And the fans don't seem to care, just as long as "their" team wins.

Predatory Lending 1/24/07

A commenter on my blog yesterday mentioned Senator Clinton's support to protect the poor who are taken advantage of by lenders who charge short term high interest rates and as much as $40 to cash a check. In the WSJ today, Ex-President Clinton and California Governor Arnold are promoting a plan (Beyond Payday Loans) to have banks within banks who would cooperate as financial institutions or by governmental legislation to prevent poor and usually uneducated people being further robbed by Pay Day Loan shark operations that proliferate wherever poor people live.

The article says that approximately 11% of all Californians do not have bank accounts, including 25% Latino and black residents. I know many of the Latinos are illegal but as long as they are here, we are obligated to treat them in a lawful manner.

I'm not sure that the proposed system would work because of their fear of being arrested or the fact that many, poorly educated, have bought into the "bleeding liberal" theory that no reputable financial institution can be trusted. Also, many people who need help will not accept help. That is why few homeless coalitions that attempt to serve the mentally stressed and depressed have a large measure of success; the poor often will not have one of the few things they can claim taken away from them; the freedom to make their own decisions; these bad decisions often leading up to fatal mistakes including slowly killing themselves and many times, others.

The Bill/Arnold dream claims it would put more than $8 billion for consumer spending, the amount millions of people with no bank accounts, now spend each year at check-cashing outlets, payday lenders and pawnshops.

The plan states that "it won't cost taxpayers a dime". I've heard that siren song before but I believe the people that don't use traditional banks should not be taken advantage of by opportunist money changers.

Think the plan out and try it in California, in Boston, Providence, Savannah, New York and Seattle, all who are spearheading their own efforts.

A better system has long been needed. I hope it works. Maybe someone will push the idea in Peoria. I would help.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hillary and Say's Law 1/23/08

This is the title of an article in today's WSJ by former deputy editor of the Journal, George Melloan. I have read his columns for years and have great respect for what he writes. He writes "the now usually discredited Keynesian economic theory, discredited eventually by Keyes himself, was the idea of forced government spending to stimulate demand. The theory, originally praised and propagated by many, was expanded from it's original intent to an overall panacea by politicians, many journalists and academics.

Governments are good at transferring wealth and income to favored constituents, such as rice farmers or ethanol producers. (Now biodiesel plants seek taxpayers largesse). These subsidies are called "economic stimulus". Senator Hillary appears to want to expand these "costless stimulus" to a broader base including low income earners. Her intent is to pump up consumer demand by showering tax rebates on people with a "greater propensity" to spend. President Carter tried the same thing as Roosevelt did in the 30"s in 1970 when the economy was in the doldrums but his rebates didn't help so he turned to-what else?-more government spending.

Some Democrats and Republicans too, still think government stimulation is an antidote, not only to a slowing economy but using taxpayers money to pay "Paul" who is often trying to compete with "Peter" who is in the same business. Now enters "Says Law", enunciated by a Frenchman in the 18th century called Jean-Baptiste Say. He said basically that societies can't consume if they don't produce. Problem is somebody has to pay for what's produced and Hillary asserts, her exact quote was "But this stimulus shouldn't be paid for". One man's consumption must be paid for by his own or someone else's production. This production may exceed consumption for a wide variety of reasons that could include one's use of credit or inheritance from a productive parent.

Nation states can consume more than they can produce through use of credit but unless they attract foreign investment, the difference will be adjusted by a decline in in their national currency as witness the decline of our dollar.

Hillary would also freeze interest rates in the same manner of Nixon and a Democrat Congress in 1970. Keyes theory then collapsed when the U.S. suffered slow economic growth and high inflation: stagflation, now threatening us, was the consequence. There was an easy explanation available in classic economics that Ronald Reagan learned early in life as did all children of Donat (Tony) and Lillie Widmer, that one has to do productive work to eat.(Unfortunately, our slide to socialism, that I first wrote in a 1993 letter printed by the JSEB, appears to be accelerating) Enter the supply side" movement that was nothing less or more than a return to these simple "Reagonomics" principles.

When government hampers production through heavy taxes, over-regulation-or by inflating the currency-production will slow down and there will be less to consume. More will be imported at a cost of U.S. jobs. The solution appears simple, reduce taxes and regulation burden and kill inflation which is what Reagan did. Hoover's attempt to protect farmers by protectionism and FDR's unconstitutional scheme to help producers with price-fixing cartels nor will tossing "free" dollars to most everyone didn't work long term then and won't work long term now.

Clearly, world stock markets are not cheered by all the current talk of stimulus and a further cheapening of the dollar. They know all too well how politicians can convert adversity into catastrophe. Instead, the right policy is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent and pull out the regulatory "weeds" like the semi-disastrous Sarbanes-Oxley. Sound money and relief for the producers is the best anti-recession prescription. It worked in 1981 and Say's Law is just a valid today as it was 200 years ago.

And stop at least 50% of the earmarks and many entitlements.

Almost all of the above is taken from Mr. Melloan but if I were as talented as he, these statements are the same as I strongly believe.

Trying to please all people was never my ambition. Too many politicians try to do so today. Many, mostly Democrats, are trying to pease all those with their hands out. Some may think Hillary is a populist, wait till Obama becomes president. And he will unless people see through his false charisma and realize, as Columnist Kathleen Parker says, "Obama gives us hope, but we require a lot more".

Many sub prime mortgage buyers suffer little loss from foreclosures because by definition they had little equity in the house. The losses will be far worse, for both borrowers or taxpayers, if some unwise measure of the type Hillary proposes, gums up the responsibility of lenders to just take their lumps for their mistakes and continue lending.

While most Democrats credit Roosevelt for ending the depression, it was the demand to ramp up production for WW2 that allowed my dad to replace his 8 year old car.

The Economy 1/23/08

Best quote I've seen today is from the WSJ "Rate cuts, like a stimulus package, are only moves that will delay pain. They won't avert ther pain. The government and individuals need to go back to living within their means".


Living Within Your Means 1/22/08

"Where the Grass is Greener", an article appearing in the 8/18/07 issue of the Economist hits home in Peoria. The article describes Cerritos, Ca. as a community of glorious history, old money and beauty. "It's a terribly unremarkable place on the way to Disneyland, yet this community of 55,000 has become remarkable thanks to superb management and geographical location. It is both a bedroom community and an economic engine. It has far more jobs than working residents. And it has leased it's land not sold it's land so that a future stream of revenue is guaranteed."

Like many American cities, it has many amenities such as new schools, libraries, museums,etc., "Of course, other cities have built parks, performing art centers,fancy libraries while struggling financially. The key to Cerritos success may be the timing of these investments. Cities such as Cleveland and Baltimore (and Peoria) have poured money into museums and other grand projects in the vain hope these would lure businesses and young, creative folks. Cerritos began by building pipelines, "links", and roads, then moved on to business parks, policing and schools, including Californians best high school. Only when it was rolling in money did it break out the "titanium".

Local officials attribute the cities success to fiscal discipline and the ability to follow a long range plan. That, in turn, is a result of it's political culture. Cerritos has a tradition of powerful. long-serving city managers, to whom local politicians frequently defer. As Laura Lee, the mayor explains, "There are so many things, we as elected officials, do not understand." Voters seem to agree as a 2002 poll showed that 96% said they were satisfied with the provision of public service.

The last census shows an ethnic mix: 21% white, 7% black, 11% Latino. 12% mixed race, approximately 15% Chinese and Korean, 11% Filipino, and 6% Indian.

With no offence intended, the City of Peoria is surely observing Peoria County, our capable administrator is starting his 8th year and he has 17 board members plus a County Board Chairman to whom he must report . The administrator and all, including elected officials and all employees are responsible for the fiscal responsiblity of a $122 million budget. We sometimes disagree but I have seen next to no micro-management by board members.

Moody's Investor Services recently upgraded Peoria County's Bond rating to "excellent". This Aa3 rating reflects sound financial operations, a growing and diversified economy and a moderate debt burden.

Might be a good time to form a committee of common sense, smaller egos people and those with a history of building INCLUSIVE networks to start studying the possibility of uni-government. However, our past history of failure to combine simple services, such as the Election Commissions, would indicate the odds of this happening are "slim or none".

Striving immigrants are the cause and consequence of the cities public schools, pupils who speak in-adequate English do better in math than than those who speak English. Whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics and others have not formed ghettos but are intermixed.

The article concludes "It is in dull sprawling places with good schools, of the sort ridiculed by Hollywood and urban planners, that America comes together."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Peoria Caught in the Middle

"Caught in the Middle" is a new book by Richard C. Longworth is a new book worth your time reading. Quoting from yesterday's WSJ, "Like the "inner" peace and "bi-partisan reform," the phrase American heartlands so vaguely wistful that it is rendered nearly meaningless. This is painful honest book with little room for sentimentality. Longworth says that heartland workers are torpid, poorly trained and resistant to change. Politicians and bureaucrats are narrows-minded, territorial and selfish. Farmers are addicted to subsidies and beholden to megacorporations."

In one chapter, Longworth visits Eldon, Iowa where artist Grant Wood once spotted a simple white house with an arched Gothic window. His painting of the house and occupants became famous as "American Gothic". Longworth says the house today still stands but most everything in Eldon is collapsing. The population dropped from 2000 to 975, the railroad closed and about the only things left is a Casey's, a pizzia place and a donut shop.

He continues "There are towns with rescue plans underway-plans to salvage housing, invest in new industries (In Peoria, we invest in new enhancements paying slightly above minimum wages) save the schools and so on, usually through some combination of of subsidy, tax breaks and legislation.Some plans will no doubt help but they probably will not reverse the overarching trend."

Longworth continues by touting Chicago as the place where things are happening. "But the Chicago model, even if it imitable, leaves little room for a healthy middle class." His book "calls for an end to the competition that pits county vs. county, city against city, and state vs. state.

He see "High speed rails, newspapers with strong editorial voices and a consortium of universities that will bring leaders in business, government and academia to solve REGIONAL problems, as it were, collectively."

But he is clear-eyed enough to recognize that solutions are a remote possibility. He says "The heartland doesn't live there anymore."

Middle Illinois will not work regionally for the obvious reasons given above. Peoria Riverfront Museum is a prime example.

Peoria School District @150 Too High New School Costs

When in Nashville, Tenn. a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a copy of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Annual report for 2006-2007. What really caught my interest was the following: Facilities: Building for the future. New elementary school capacity 600. Cost $6.7 million. New Middle Arts Magnet School capacity 600 students. Cost $10.7 million. New elementary school in South Nashville capacity 500 students. Cost $7 million. New middle school opened in August 2006 capacity 1000 students. Cost $11 million.

Compare with proposed new Glen Oak School $21 million and up.
Compare with most of Florida's salaries for administrators and the lower salary being offered for city admistrator where Randy Oliver has made application.

Something is badly wrong in Peoria and I don't see much positive change on the horizons.

Peoria leadership, come out of denial and accept facts because facts don't change because of wishes. We are overpriced and sprawling further North adding more costs to run the city, lack enough living wage paying jobs, graduating too many kids without needed skills, turning out thousands of young people each year who do not know how to work (and many don't think they have to; boy are they wrong) and I do not see that changing fast enough for oue future needs.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Peoria Riverfront Museum Historical Review

This historical information is taken from a JS article dated 4/8/03. I quote "The $60million Lakeview Regional Museum proposed for the Sears block would do more to revitalize Downtown than new stores, offices, condominiums and hotels according to an impact analysis conducted by a Northbrook based economic development consulting firm. The study suggested it would cost $15 million to build an 110 room hotel, a scenario possible only if the city gave the land away. Part of the rationale is that the economy is flat and vacancy rates for downtown hotels, etc., are relatively high."

"I don't see that as a compelling argument," Mayor Ransburg said of the report. "They're not building a case for a museum on the Sears block. I'm disappointed....I think the report was useless."

The study states a new museum could attract 200,000 to 250,000 visitors a year to generate an estimated $900,000 to $1.9 million in spending at and around the museum. That equates to around $18,000 to $38,000 in local sales taxes.

A museum would also have the economic impact of supporting the marketing and recruiting efforts of Caterpillar with on on-site, interactive visitor Center expected to accommodate 20,000 who travel each year to Caterpillar Headquarters.

"The museum is the paradigm shift for Downtown. We have to get the museum firmly seated on the Sears block and let it be the gem it can be," said Lakeview CEO Jim Richerson.

The study say, "But the museum does have it's challenges. There are world class museums located just 150 miles away; Peoria is not yet recognized as an entertainment and culture center for tourists; there is limited population and employment growth. People of this region are more likely to attend a sporting event than visit a museum. It also depends on the museums ability to market itself as a package of attractions because as the report notes, outside of major cities, few tourists come into cities solely to attend a museum."

Several things stand out to me in this 2003 study paid for by the Heartland Partnership. I note that by 2006 the projected attendance has risen from 200,000-250,000 to a flat 360,000 per year. Also the amount of visitors spending has increased from approximately $900,000-1.9 million to $14 million. The CVT projected attendance jumped from 20,000 to 120,000. Also the museum has shrunk from Regional to Peoria with recently stated efforts to seek commitments from Tazewell and Woodford Counties. The museum has also been scaled back in size.

While the museum on the riverfront was being debated, a hotel was being conceived directly across the river, a 225 room Embassy Suites, now open to compete with the "flat" market in Peoria. And with the hotel comes an attached Convention Center. More competition. Maybe the good looking tax paying Embassy Suites in East Peoria might look pretty good right now siting on Peoria's riverfront with easy access to the Civic Center and downtown restaurants

It may be said that East Peoria had to give the developer an "arm and leg" but Peoria is not to bad in that game either. Except that the arm and leg they are giving such as Midtown Plaza and the gambling boat they gave to East Peoria plus all the incentives we have been giving for years in the way of TIF's, Enterprise Zone and the almost outright gift of land to the Park Districts RiverPlex that has never been able to generate enough revenue to pay the principal and interest on the huge bond the PPD sold to help build this recreation Center in direct competition to tax-paying local enterprise. The valuable riverfront land swapped for land near Carver Center (the ecently rebuilt baseball field also lies unused adjacent to the useless land just as the city funded Southside Library will be some day.)

By most reports, the economy is flattening out and at some point it will as it usually does, hit the Peoria area.

Peoria has developed a reputation of building it and so others can come visit, use it and just pay admissions and leave. Our Peoria City population is flat and the County shows a meager growth of maybe 3,000 in the past 10 years.

If you feel I may be pessimistic, you probably aren't invested in the local baseball club or the stock market or you don't pay property taxes.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Peoria Riverfront Museum

First, let me correct a statement made by Mark Johnson, Project Manager for the Cat Visitors Center on my blog site. He indicated I could be excused for not knowing what Museum supporters stated before the full County Board meeting last month. I did miss out on what Ray LaHood, Dave Koehler,Jim Vergon and Jim Richerson said but I had heard their pitch before. I did hear what Sid Banwart, a Cat VP, Mark Johnson, I had also listened to Mark Johnson previously, Dan Silverthorn, and Dave Leitch had to say. I had heard Leitch before on the museum subject. Silverthorn was doing his job. New building means new jobs.

A year or so ago, Vergon and Richerson pitched each County Board member individually. My session was over an hour. Less than two months ago, I was asked to hear Byron DeHaan and Jim Richerson presentation on the building and operating budget I have a copy of "projected operating projections". That briefing lasted approx. 90 minutes. Jim Richerson is doing his job. He is the Museum Director.

In the summer of 2005, I visited the Mississippi River Museum at Dubuque, Iowa. You can review my blog of 6/11/05 covering my visit of this Museum listed by the Peoria Museum Board as a comparative to what could happen in Peoria.

Every city I visit, I make a point of visiting their Museums. It is only within the last four or five years, I have started to ask questions about how they are funded year in and year out. My most recent visit was to the Tennessee State Museum at Nashville. There is no entry fee and it is funded by both private sources and public taxation spread out over the entire state. I have recently visited the City Museum in St. Louis which is owned and operated privately. I have also visited the Putnam Museum in the Quad Cities. I understand that museum is considering combining with other enhancements to relocate to the riverfront. I believe they have a sizeable endowment. The State of Iowas has been very aggressive with their funding in promoting more attractions and more tourists to their state.

I also gather facts about other museums thru various sources; mainly the media.
I have more than a passing knowledge of museums.

Three museums were listed by our museum board as examples of county support for museums. One, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is described in the handout to Peoria County Board members, Dubuque County, Iowa -2003 $51 million for Port of Dubuque Project, including 27% of $188 million project; the Museum was $57 million. As explained to me by Development Director Terri Goodmann, $50 million of the $57 million came from the Iowa Department of Tourism to promote lagging growth of tourism in the State of Iowa. One million came from the county. Ms. Goodmann pointed out the the "must" hierarchy of attractions as recommended by the experts as follows: Z00/Aquarium combination, Children's Center, Science Center, Living History and Art.

I followed up last year to see how this Museum was doing in attendance. Ms. Goodmann had moved to a new position and did not have figures. Jerry Ensler returned my call today and indicated the museum has been well received and expansion is planned as the gambling boat had donated one of their buildings along with a couple of million dollars. The expansion planned is approximately $40 million and they were in the process of raising funds but for a number of reasons, mainly financial uncertainty, the expansion has not yet started. They are currently putting together another fund drive.

Attendance last year was 225,000 down from their opening year 2003 of 301,000. The feeling is if they add more attractions, they will boost attendance. Admittance fees are $9.75 for adults down. Full information about membership and fees can be found at

Wichita Exploration Place that is also used by the museum promoters as an example of what Peoria could be opened in 2000. It drew 400,000 visitors in its first year but was down to 250,000 visitors by 2002 according to an article in the JS dated January 20,2002.

I have closely followed the overall vision of the Peoria Civic Federation (now called the CEO Roundtable. I understand the the Museum is probably the major linchpin in the original plan; new Ball Park, $32 million zoo expansion, the RiverPlex, Civic Center expansion, new WTVP building, Children's Playhouse, new Zoo headquarters, (planned destination to be Lakeview Museum off University) Renaissance Park with it's now open Innovation Center, major hospital expansions, Peoria Next Heart of Peoria structured development, warehouse district development, $100 MILLION PLUS for new District #150 schools and $35 million for City Libraries and the in progress $100 million dollar plus Bradley University expansion.

How have some of these visions panned out? My $50,000.00 investment in the Peoria Chiefs Baseball team 14 years ago have not paid me one dollar in dividends; my stock has been for sell since 1998 and I haven't had one offer. I'm told we are close to breakeven this year despite the presence of Ryan. The Riverplex projected to be six figures in the black each year has instead operated in the red since completion. The fitness center alone lost $606,000 last year. Reliable sources say the $32 million zoo expansion didn't raise the funds necessary for completion. Since the current zoo loses approximately $400,000 a year, expect larger losses in upcoming years. The PPD annual budget is up to near $50 million and expected to increase after the zoo is completed and headquarters relocated again from the old Knoxville Highway Department Headquarters.

Gateway Building and One Technology Plaza did not pan out as planned, nor did many of those businesses who originally invested in the riverfront such as Damon's. The YWCA is asking for more money as is WTVP. Globe Energy has asked the County for understanding as they apparently struggle to get the financing promised and FireFly appears to be still in the development stage. Keystone has had their problems and a number of small business have either gone out of business or declared bankruptcy.

Property Taxes are at record highs (the fair value on my home was increased $46,000.00 despite no improvements and no visit by the assessor.

The vision I have always understood. Attendance has not met projections and funding sources have been disappointing.

On 7/10/07, the JSEB stated that the Peoria Riverfront Museum was launching another
major fund raising drive. A local executive felt that $16 or $17 million could be expected. Jim Vergon said the next six months should make us or break us. Right now, none of the County Board members know where the Federal Treasury $20 million New Tax credit program stands. If that comes thru and another $16 million is raised in private funding, the building part of the project should be complete without any additional funds from the County.

The JSEB says that if Caterpillar took a self defeating attitude they are probably talking about the county who wasn't aware of the need for $24 million shortfall until three months ago) they wouldn't be where they are today in the business world.(in the past few months, Caterpillar stocked is down from a high last year of $86 to $68 today) I need to remind some that Caterpillar got there by using private, not public tax dollars, funds for the great majority of their growth. Also the newspaper says the Caterpillar Visitors Center would be a viable project. Few disagree. However, Caterpillar says they will be responsible for their own profits of losses. Not true for the PRM if Peoria County gets into what Mike Phelan calls "the museum business" and if the Museum Board's projections don't turn out, we will be in it. The operating plan already calls for an annual $500,000 fund raising drive.

My opinion is that I will continue to listen and evaluate facts. If the museum committee wishes to take the shortfall in funding to the people by referendum, I have no problem. I will insist that all the facts be known to the voter before they vote. This blog is a step in that direction.

In the meantime, all should note that a "mild market is expected for Peoria for 2008 as projected by a Manpower Employment Survey, 10% below the State of Illinois average. I have more info that I will add later. As usual, any comments, factual corrections, etc. may be made on this site.If you are following the stock market you will note that Cat stock is down 5 consecutive days as a large number of analysts believe we are on the edge of a recession.

Thank you for reading as this decision rests not with the Peoria County Board but with the Museum Committee and the voting public.