Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Journal Star Wins Again

The Journal Star has never in recent years seen a public tax spending project they didn't like. I have incentive to live for at least another 6-7 years to see if all the tax spending entities live up to the the Journal's forecasts. Let's look at the Journals losers todate: The now "getting old" by some Peorians standards, O'Brien "new" ballpark, hasn't turned a profit to this stockholder ever. (My stock has been listed for sale since 1998 with nary an offer) The RiverPlex; The JS is never mentions how much St. Francis has lost every year on their investment in the Fitness Center at the RiverPlex. The PPD Year End Financial Statements show millions of dollars lost since 2001. The JSEB hyped One Technology Center and the Gateway building didn't pan out as expected. The Journal put enormous pressure on the City Council of 2001 to invest a minimum of $500,000.00 in the Southside Library. The council did including an $80,000 elevator to nowhere. Now that building is listed by the library board to be abandoned.

The existing PPD zoo lost a million plus over the last 3 years while the new zoo expansion was running short of money to complete the new addition. In case we've forgotten, the project was to come in at $32,000,000.00. When the pledges and cash didn't come in as projected, the PPD borrowed $12.2 from the zoological society. Yet inside sources at the PPD says the park will only complete about $17,000,000.00 of the expansion now. Why is that if the PPD Board and Administration say they have "plenty of money"?

The Playhouse was to open in 2007 (JS), 2/5/04. What happened, this is the middle of 2008? Is the $2 million dollar renovation of the old IDOT building on Knoxville the problem? I don't see anyone working on it. In case you've forgotten, the zoo was to open in 2006 (JS, 2/5/2004), the Playhouse in 2007 with a new zoo and Playhouse entrance near the pavilion' and the PPD headquarters was to move to the renovated old IDOT building by now. What happened to all these projects if the PPD is so financially sound as they claim?

What is happening to the new $120,000,000.00 Museum and Caterpillar Visitors Center that fell short of pledges all the way around? Rest assured with the stock market down around 300 points today and gas over 4 dollars a gallon, groceries reaching record price levels, new bankruptcies being filed or will be filed before 2009, and few new businesses moving in, the financial situation with other minuses of Peoria Public School District #150, plus perhaps some questions as to the whole museum fund raising process was handled, may indicate every one's unwillingness to be taxed more further delaying the project.

What's the news on the expanded Civic Center? Is it attracting the shows and events that it said it would attract? What if the JS hyped projections don't come true? Who will make up the deficit?

Let's look at what else was supposed to have happened. What happened to the softball fields, JS headline 11/07/03 "Park District nears deal for softball fields".
What softball fields? Where are they?

What happened to the promised skateboard park? Surely the PPD can afford a better skate board park than the one hidden behind the unused softball field in Becker Park on the far west side of Peoria.

Now the JSEB revealed on 6/24/08 that the JSEB hyped Peoria NEXT Innovation Center that cost taxpayers, so far, $8,000,000.00 is 40% empty (and that with Caterpillar occupying the third floor). I understand the building is relatively new but the JSEB told us that "if we build it they will come". They wouldn't have reported that news if they weren't taking a shot at Councilman Ryan Spain. Be not dismayed Ryan, at least if the Innovation Center fulfills it's promise the occupants will be paying taxes, we hope, rather than spending our tax dollars like the library will.

And don't count on $28,000,000.00 of library "improvements" to bring ANY NEW residents to the City of Peoria.

I hope all these tax collecting bodies bring more tax dollars and new jobs to Peoria. PROBLEM IS THAT THESE PROJECTS TAKE DOLLARS OUT OF TAXPAYERS POCKETS WHILE BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT PAYS TAXES. Don't expect the Journal to call too much attention to the failures of "sacred cows" of which the park and library lead the herd.

And the Mayor isn't what you would call their favorite. If you recall, the JSEB highly endorsed the losing incumbent.

They were wrong again.

And if anyone is interested you might look at the PPD 2008 budget to see how much the PPD budgeted for "erosion control". Pretty much $0 yet they profess to own 8,000 acres and are one of, if not the largest, sources of soil being washed into the Illinois River. After all, their are no Golden Awards for the PPD to win by conserving land. And you won't see "park erosion control" in any JS headlines.

It is sad that the PPD claims to use very little taxpayer dollars when they collect over $11,000,000.00 local tax dollars while collecting millions of state and federal tax dollars. No matter where tax dollars come from they are still "taxpayer dollars".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Peoria remains a run-down, grimy factory town. What is downtown: banks, law offices, ugly (as opposed to attractive), above ground parking garages, and sidewalks that are hostile to pedestrian and bikers. I have been to the Civic Center a few times, which is nice: Quickly drive in and drive out, without spending any time or money elsewhere in the city.

Why visit that ugly, cramped, narrow strip of land called the "riverfront?" I have considered becoming a member of the Riverplex, but why bother. (Ideally, the park district would build health clubs such as the Riverplex and locate them in the poorer neighborhoods of the city). The housing projects next door do not make it a safe area at night. And since the Park district allows those people to attend the Riverplex for free, it is often not the safest nor cleanest facility at any time of the day. Or do you think it is ideal to hear gunshots from outside while running on the treadmill?

Ever since the Grand Prairie mall was built, the city has decided to abandon the riverfront. Why doesn't Peoria entice businesses along the riverfront to relocate along the South Side of the river (South of downtown)? The park district could then acquire all of the land north of Caterpillar headquarters, East of Adams from downtown to IL 6, and make it as nice as Chicago's Grant Park. It would also be ideal to divert some of the river into a canal, as the city of Pueblo, CO has done. Peoria has been blessed with a river, but it does not take advantage of this precious resource.

Where are the tree-lined bike paths that should wind on almost every street? Where are the eclectic restaurants. (Sorry, Applebees and TJI Fridays are not eclectic). Where are the safe, clean, outdoor waterparks? Where are the neighborhood parks within walking distance of any residence? Where is the ballroom (similar to the Willowbrook ballroom in the Chicago area)? Not everyone has a desire to play golf at one of several park district golf courses (which are expensive to maintain). Why would anyone not native to the Peoria area fly to Peoria except for Caterpillar business travel. I would like to see the city of Peoria work to become a desirable destination to shop and play. What incentive is there for anyone (including area residents) to visit Peoria?

Peoria needs to look at other cities to see what improvements that they are making. Locally, the cities of Normal and Bloomington are striving to make their towns more attractive. "Uptown Normal," near ISU, is a nice success story. The Normal Theater, the Garlic Press, and Medicci's (an affordable Chicago restaurant) are just a few gems. What is Peoria doing? Why is Bradley University content with the run-down neighborhoods surrounding it. Why send your kid to an expensive college that is nestled in a dirty, dangerous, run-down, neighborhood?

Hey Peoria, why are you allowing district 150 to encourage middle-class families with children to flee the city? No, we do not need another lame marketing campaign. Why not fix your problems before there is no one left in the public schools but the gangs? School vouchers for district 150 residents would also be nice. And what is wrong with vouchers? Vouchers (with no strings attached) would be the ideal way to force the public schools to be accountable. Why should grade schools and high schools be exempt from the free market?

Someone from the Peoria business community needs to apply pressure on the city of Peoria to become more like eclectic Champaign/Urbana and/or like Madison, Wisconsin: a vibrant downtown, safe, clean, wonderful culture, lots of nice, mid-level restaurants (not the low-end, crappy chain restaurants), and always something to do there. What is Peoria doing to entice any of the quality local restaurant chains in the Chicago area to open down here? Nothing? Why is that?

Other than lame marketing efforts, what has the city done to encourage tourism????? Does Peoria even have an uban planner? What does he do? The 20-something year old sons and daughters of CAT employees are going to continue to abandon the Peoria area for jobs and for fun in more progressive cities. Those people that are stuck in the Peoria area because of CAT will continue to flee Peoria to live in Washington or Dunlap (or even much closer to the Bloomington/Normal area) and spend all of their money there.

Peoria desperately needs tourist attractions to bring non-natives to it and to entice young people to stay and have families here. How is Peoria "kid friendly." A zoo at least half the size of Brookfield Zoo (Chicago area) would be a start. Why is the park district focus so many resources on golf at the expense of other venues. (Golf is NOT a tourist attraction). Does Peoria even have a cultural arts district? Why does the Peoria International Film Group have to struggle for a place to show their films? Why do they have to struggle for money to rent the films? Why neglect and ignore the Peoria German Society (the sponsors of Oktoberfest) in their efforts to find a larger property within city limits? Why does the Rhodell microbrewery have to struggle for survival?

Why do the local media neglect to address these issues? O, once great Peoria, you are the "sick man of Illinois." No one is talking about it.