A reader recently commented on my blog "Labor Day Blues" that I accurately presented some facts that do not bode well for the future of this community and this country. That's not nearly all the bad news. Ready for more?
An advertisement in the IB magazine by STS, an engineering and design company doing work for the PPD Zoo reads, "The Africa!Exhibit is in the first phase of a proposed $125,000,000 expansion to make the Glen Oak Zoo a truly regional zoo experience and increase this small zoo from 7 acres to 35 acres. Truly unique and fascinating.....
$125 million? Where has that figure been hiding? The Zoological Society had to lend the PPD $10 million to try to complete the first phase of $19-23 million, depending on what you read, of the originally advertised $32 million dollar zoo expansion. I assume the wealthy are going to pay for the shortages and the super expansion.
On August 25, Paul Gordon of the JS wrote, "Peoria Economy slips again." He shows a 16.3 decline in home sales. It was the 2nd quarterly decline. Future job prospects are off 16.9% from a year ago.
Mayor Ardis said yesterday that a new tax, think property or sales tax or other revenue sources to make up a $2 to $3 million budget deficit and that doesn't even touch the over $100,000,000.00 sewer overflow project.
The city sent out questionnaires to the citizenry asking for input on developing the new budget. Only 116 citizens responded with 5 favored an increase in property taxes, I suspect they pay little or No property taxes now like the $420 Councilman Sandberg paid last year. Five also supported a rise in sales taxes. I suspect they already shop on-line or elsewhere.
Some want to raise fees but the problem is the city has been raising fines and fees.
On 8/28, it was reported by Doug Finke of the JS, that the state is driving businesses elsewhere because of a D- report on over regulatory environmental, medical malpractice costs,(doctors in certain fields are either moving or retiring at a rapid rate) business liability insurance costs and the lack of fairness of the states civil lawsuit system.
Planning to build a new museum and a Caterpillar Visitors Center is still stalled because the pledges and governmental earmarks didn't pan out as expected. Now Caterpillar stock is down to $64 a share from it's high of $87 a share a little over a year ago. Stockholders would want their money going into making better profits thus causing Cat stock to rise rather than to put millions into a visitor center I don't believe Caterpillar REALLY wants or they would have built it long ago.
Not to mention that the Museum Committee did not do the greatest job of seeking "out of the county" money. Nor did the committee present a plan acceptable to the donors and the governmental bodies, or construction would be underway now. Remember, consultants usually agree with the committee that hired them. In that last 7 days the projected yearly attendance went from it's original 360,000 visitors a year to 340,000 (20,000 doesn't mean much to the committee) and back to 360,000. Any study of ANY museum similar to the one planned? will show that none are able to sustain the figures of the first years attendance. Dubuque and Wichita were touted by the planners and both have had serious drop-offs in attendance.
Check their attendance year by year. It's declined and in times when the economy was great.
Museum supporters are touting the generation of visitors for an Imax theatre. Imax theatres are expensive. Some say Peoria doesn't have access to Imax. I agree, but the museum is touted as "regional" so to many visitors Imax would not be "unique" Fine, if Imax theatres are profitable, let our capitalist system build one with private money. I doubt they will or they would have built one in the area long ago. Imax theatres are very interesting but recent information indicates that as new theatre technology develops, Imax visits may have peaked. See WSJ, Sarah McBride, 2007, "Imax's Big Idea Braves Digital Age - Imax Fights to Regain Cutting Edge". The article states that Universal Pictures has not released titles on Imax format in several years. Many see it out of step with their educational missions. Others see "museum Imax screens showing blockbusters, cut into revenue that could go to independent filmmakers who make Imax documentaries. Our films, traditional Imax films, are compromised".
On 8/31/08, the JS reported as follows: Labor demand will outstrip supply - Central Illinois mirrors national trend: A shortfall of skilled labor. Note SKILLED labor. There will be a growing supply of school dropouts, over educated college kids with meaningless degrees in many cases and people who go around filling out job applications but are un-hireable by any business. Why un-hireable, you ask? Look around outside the Salvation Army, Southside Mission, the unemployed headquarters, the bars after midnight on work nights, the mall. And those sleeping at the Downtown Public Library and the classrooms of a substantial part of the local public school system attendees (and some "teachers) Plus college graduates who didn't listen to their guidance counselor, or didn't have one or a least a qualified one, or misunderstood that a degree of any kind was just a "hunting license".
The applicants for almost any job, were mostly unqualified when I was hiring from 1964-1992, I can't imagine it now.
Chief Stettingsgard said he could use at least 25 more officers on the street. Instead, the tax dollars are going to build, remodel and expand Peoria public libraries due to the passing of an $100,000 plus referendum supported by the JSEB, some misled politicians, many non-property owner voters or voters whose taxes haven't increased for years, the Caterpillar Foundation and a certain councilperson who wanted the full $32 million library board request to be given to the library board. The library board got the money for a new library but hardly in the location most supporters expected. But the developer and realtor are happy and evidently a library board of questionable abilities, is happy to
Some might say I'm a negative person. No, I'm not. Just the facts. They stand out in print ready to be challenged.
Peoria is still a heavily unionized town. New "card check" legislation near to becoming the law of the land would be disastrous for not only this area but for the country. Secret balloting would now be open balloting which leads to coercion. Card check would become just the start. Net step, repeal the "right to work" laws successful in 22 states. In the U.S., the states with right to work laws have performed better economically for all workers of all types. (Source - Mackinaw Center For Public Policy)
Then there is all is the bonded indebtedness being taken on by Peoria Public School district #150 and the 20 year bond to build or remodel the County owned Bellwood Nursing home. And then there is needed funding for the Children's Playhouse, WTVP and removal of the old armory building. I'll close with the sorry condition of the infrastructure of our drinking water lines. City owned of private owned, users will have to pay for this rebuilding at a sizable cost.
I almost forgot. Since the Peoria Public Library Board probably underestimated the cost of operating the libraries; they say they won't need additional money until the year 2011, it is now 2008 and construction won't start till 2009, property taxpayers should plan to pay more.
Of course there are dozens of good things happening all over Peoria. Problem is many of us would like to afford to stay here long enough to enjoy them.