Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Museum "Earmarks"

This project is going to be funded by mainly taxpayer dollars and Caterpillar. I figured that all along. I predicted the $4 million missing from the $9 million dollar underground parking, that was easy. The $10 million from a cash strapped State of Illinois was a small surprise. Wonder what Koehler, Leitch, LaHood and others who love to spend OPM had to promise other politicians? You know the old "I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine". And yes, Dave and all, you are right, your political friends do need new water slide complexes and new swimming pools and some new bridges specified for developing sprawl. Forget the bridges that will collapse and kill people over the next decade. New bridges so developers can develop that wooded picnic area and some new roads to link up to this newly created sprawl.

It would be interesting to know what our locals swapped but of course, we will never know. While Medicaid and Medicare payments to nursing homes continue to beg. And our jails remain overcrowded with drug users and the mentally ill. Sleep well, you political thieves of people's real needs.

Even though my Democrat acquaintances say that LaHood is a "token" cabinet member, he can still raise token amounts of money, token, these days, meaning small millions, of course.

Counting the $14 million from the city, now $24 million from the state and feds, $40 million from the referendum, assuming it passes, it should with the RFM Committee spending approximately $700,000 and growing, against $2600 from the "no" group, will mean that if you deduct the $56 million from Cat and it's Foundation from the "projected" cost of $136 million, means the wealthy private sector has only contributed or pledged; no outsider knows haw many pledges will be "uncollectable", about $11 million plus the supposed $700,000 spent to educate the public, plus $5 million of the money they raised and already spent; over $4 1/2 million through June 30, 2008, (We don't know how much they have spent since then until we see their next financial statement in 2009).

How did I arrive at the $24 million from the state and feds? $6 million pledged or received by 6/30/08, plus the $4 million LaHood was holding in the 2007 Highway transportation bill for the parking garage, plus $14 million announced yesterday. I suspect part of the the $10 million will go to bring the endowment up from $1 million plus closer to the $14 million banker Doug Stewart's estimated $14 million.

When all this enhancement money makes Peoria a "destination" I will come back to visit.

CIAN - Offers Free Service to Assist Local Businesses

Good new for Peoria from one fast growing company in Peoria. I highly recommend.


Tel: 309-691-3000 ext. 109
Email: B3Helpline@CIANCenter.com
February 23, 2009 Peoria, IL- CIAN, Inc. is pleased to announce a new community service initiative, “Businesses Back-to-Back (B3) Helpline”. Recognizing that budgets are tight and Information Technology (IT) is crucial to a company’s continuity of operations and success, CIAN has launched this service to assist local businesses with their IT concerns. Beginning February 23, 2009 CIAN will offer free support for any IT related issues a business may have. Additionally, seats in this call center will be filled by IT professionals in the community currently seeking full-time positions with benefits.
“Let’s get back to the basics and turn this around. We all need to reach out to those feeling the economic crunch, fight back to back and help one another. The mission is two-fold: while helping companies with network support, we are also providing jobs for recently released technicians.” -- Steve Hope, President and CEO of CIAN.
Founded in 1990 by a retired Navy veteran, CIAN was originally established to install and maintain computer networks, but quickly progressed to become a recognized leader in migrating important information from legacy software and equipment onto state-of-the-art high technology systems.
Since 2001, CIAN (a local CISCO, Symantec, and Microsoft Certified Partner) has been specializing in securing customer information and responding to corporate concerns for safeguarding networked data. CIAN opened an office in Peoria, Illinois in January, 2007 to fulfill a need to remotely monitor, analyze, and secure government and commercial networks.
“The CIAN call center will be open from 7:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and may expand to the weekends if the need arises.” says Hope. Technicians will be available to troubleshoot software and hardware issues and resolve them for companies in need of support during these tough times. For more complex issues, a technician may be dispatched to work on-site – all for free. In the event companies need new or replacement hardware and software to continue their operations, this program will allow CIAN to sell those products at cost.
For more information about employment within the CIAN call center, details on how your business can utilize B3 Helpline, or to schedule an interview with owner Steve Hope please contact Emily Holman at 309-691-3000 or B3Helpline@CIANCenter.com. You may also visit our website at www.CIANCenter.com to find out more about CIAN, Inc.
NOTE: CIAN is pronounced (SIGH-ANNE), and stands for Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability of your Network.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another Idea for the President and Congress to Consider


An Interesting Economic Plan from the Feb 7th 2009 edition of the St. Petersburg Times Newspaper. The Business Section asked readers for ideas on "How Would You Fix the economy?" Here is one reader's opinion:

Forwarded to me. I don't know if 40 million times 1 million equals $400 billion or 40 trillion. All tjhose zeros just confuse me so I'll take the writers word for it and you can correct us on this site.

Dear Mr. President,

Patriotic retirement:

There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force - Pay them $1 million a piece severance (total cost a mere $400 billion) with the following stipulations:

1) They leave their jobs. Forty million job openings - Unemployment fixed..
2) They buy NEW American cars. Forty million cars ordered - Auto Industry fixed.
3) They either buy a house/pay off their mortgage - Housing Crisis fixed.

It can't get any easier than that!

More White Elephants on the Riverfront?

After spending most of the day talking with and to [people, reading and listening, I believe within 10-15 years we have better than average possibility of 7 relatively large "white elephants" on the riverfront, some of which have not been built yet.

Who will they be? Depends how long this depression lasts and the more competitive the work place becomes. Also on rising taxes on people who can't afford them. Did you notice the want ads in the JS offering jobs? Least amount, about one full page, that I have ever seen in the 45 years I've been paying attention.

That Cat would leave Peoria because the public wouldn't demand they build a Visitors Center? No, that might be an excuse they would leave while they are shifting more work out of the area than at any time in my memory. And the community would be stuck with a $78,000,000.00 million building costing from $4.2 - $8,000,000.00 in 20 years and probably owned by the County and probably operated by the Peoria Park District, both PROPERTY tax collecting bodies.

More taxes and potential taxes are the last thing we need right now. That and a lot less potholes that are approaching new record highs. Or should I say "new depths".

I keep hearing from a "no" tax supporter that the museum should be free to poverty level and below.

Wow. Who is going to pay the operating costs of from $4.2 million a year growing to eventually $8 million a year when most of us will be able to get in free?

Maybe the new "educator" #150 hires to run an $160,000,000.00 budget. Or all these people we needlessly help throw their lives away by easy incarceration and our failed drug control system.. Read today's Parade and fell good about that. But then, I've only been "ranting" about this "worse than China" system for the last 10 years.

Don't worry, a new museum built for the upper class and their do-bees will keep these people out of the court system and they will automatically drop their drug habits. Sure, and sows ears will turn into silk garments for all.

And the border between Mexico and Arizona will be lined with poor people supported by ex-drug lords selling other people's wives, daughters, sisters and mothers along with, say lemonade. Well, the Obama Gang is trying to make Sheriff Joe into a housemother, aren't they?

And $90 million lost if the PRM and CVC weren't built? I think not. I could list two pages of places where all this money could go that would make this a better community. Maybe Peoria would become a place where people actually came and STAYED. Population growth for the whole county, not counting the "migrants" and homeless averages about 300 a year.

All for the want of shiny new things for a petulant upper society and a struggling major employer?

Gosh, 'm glad I got that out of my system and can go out and make more door to door calls to see how the poorer people, many of them chanting "We want to be like Cincinnattee" and many of who won't be able to pay the Imax, Galeria. parking fees and admittance fees, feel about more taxes; especially sales taxes.

When some of the "yes" voters get around to finding out they have to "pay to park and see", expect a lot of nasty "letter to the editors". Reverend Brown was saying in church today, that more people ought to be reading to stay informed. I believe most who bother to read even me, agree.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Peoria Museum Vs. Civic Center

People like Jim Bateman are always trying to castigate people who opposed the Civic Center and compare them with the Citizens For Responsible Spending who have the FACTS to present about the Peoria Riverfront Museum. People like Bateman and Chappie Chapman, to name a few, are so far off in this comparison that they might as well be comparing hen eggs with rattlesnake eggs.

The Civic Center attracts Conventions, Exhibits, Bradley Basketball, basketball tournaments, Riverman Hockey, National shows attended by as many as 11,000 plus in one day and dozens of other events.

So what's to compare? Maybe that the museum people came up $51 million short of their goal? That we have a very nice 31,000 feet expandable museum now, 2nd largest between Chicago and St. Louis? Or that the museum plans shrunk from 110,000 sq. ft. to 83,000 sq. ft? And that costs rose over $11 million in less than 18 months while constructions costs were actually going down with construction people looking for work? And that you can't hold any events hosting any size close to 500 people at one time in the new museum. And that the museum planners could not include 5,000 sq. ft. of valuable artifacts, etc., in the new museum and will probably pay a tax collecting entity to store them. And additional costs to transfer them back and forth? And that parking went underground while ALL Civic Center parking is above ground which is what most people prefer and believe to be more safe.

Did I mention flooding and all the failed businesses on the riverfront including the 110,000 sq. ft. InPlay who offered lots of challenges to kids? Or the Gruen Gruen, a nationally recognized consulting firm out of Northbrook, Illinois who conducted a detailed study paid for by Heartland Partnership, that stated that the museum would not be "World Class" even at 100,000 sq. ft., that it would not attract but a handful of overnight visitors (55,000 by the guys in ivory towers and la-la land of academia) and that the area lacked residences, retail, and was pretty dead at night? As well as much of the time during the winter?

I could go on but what's the use. Bateman is the same guy that helped collect more than $160,000.00 (that I know of),of taxpayers money for Community Builders with very little to show for it after more than two years of struggle.

Peoria may be dull but now as dull as some think. It does not have big philanthropists or someone would have stepped forward and bridged the money gap and set up the $14,000,000 endowment that Doug Stewart, local banker and committee member said was needed. They have a "massive" 12% of that on hand.


And what's to compare? The the decision to expand the Civic Center looks a little doubtful right now and I haven't seen much advertising from the Peoria Chiefs with opening date just around the corner. Plus question marks like did the zoo raise the $5,000,000 Dave B. said recently that they needed in donations to complete the an entrance and parking and where are all the new softball fields promised by the PPD and promised almost yearly since 2002?

If these bodies are so flush with money, why hasn't it shown up? Like, why is the PPD planning to close some of the clay (that other communities would kill for) tennis courts?

And all while we may be in the greatest recession since the 30's and Obama saying this week that there will be more job loss yet to come.

Oh my, I believe all the questions I've been asking about where our some of our leadership (for a number of years) is trying to take us; I believe the answers are coming home to roost. My advice is to stay out from under these roosters.

Peoria as a "destination"? Maybe for these roosters. I'm sorry if I seem negative but you can't change facts by wishing these facts aren't facts. At least I'm not all in favor or "turning the lights out", just dim them a little so people can see through the smoke and are permitted the transparency they seek and are entitled to.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vote No Signs Still Being Vandalized

Four more "Vote No" signs were vandalized and 2 were stolen. My offer for reward money still stands and I will accept media calls that call me wanting a story and pictures. These punk kids have mothers and fathers who evidently do not realize their punk kids they are shooting themselves in the foot.

No other signs have I seen vandalized. We ordered a lot of signs and events like these revive my energy.

Build the Block News Conference

News Conference
Where: Labor Temple
Politicians presenting - Dave Koehler and Secretary of Transportation, Gary Hanning
Subject - Unspecified but I'll bet to announce earmarks for the unfunded underground parking deck for the museum plus maybe a few more "goodies" we taxpayers will be paying for all our lifetimes.
These "earmarks" will be masked at "stimulus packages and job creation".

Want to bet? Looks like the trip by County Administrator Patrick Urich, Tim Riggenbach; he's the one with three kids who visited Lakeview Museum once on 2008, average admission charge; 0.64 average admission cost, (110,000 alleged vistors but only collected $61,000 in admissions), board members Tim Dillon and Junion Watkins who took a taxpayer paid junket to Washington, D.C. to meet with Schock and Durbin is paying off for earmarks that the same politicians say are killing our economy. But, hey, it's jobs and Peorians are no different, I guess, that other citizens and politicians, instant gratification and monument builders to huge egos. No worry about pouring millions of millions of dollars forever in not a totally fenced in "deep hole" but a new modern "deep money pit".

That group of County Board people will say "but you went one time too". That's correct. I was Vice-Chairman and went at the request of my chairman, three of us,. not four, and I talked to Durbin about the sorry mental health problem we have in Illinois. I attended seminars on mental health and transportation funding. Surely not as important as an unneeded museum and unwanted Visitors Center. I'm sure our kids grades will improve after seeing these monsters and as an after thought, why is it competitor Komatsu in full full employment??

How can a Caterpillar executive look a fired Cat worker in the eye or a retiree who is told the retiree will now need to pay for his or her gift usually given to an employee. Of course they will get a discount, wow, and can keep their health insurance for one year. These same block of people who are now offering a 15% discount to Peoria County Museum visitors, $150,000 off a much needed revenue of $1 million. Just pass the cost on the the (people who occupy the 55,000 beds each year while visiting this "destination"), and on to taxpayers, the majority of who will only visit a time or too and a large group that won't visit at all.

The good news, while the CEO Roundtable failed to come up with the shortfall of $11 million needed even if the referendum passes and the $7 million or more needed to fund their endowment, Cat stock today is only down 60-65%. I'll also take side bets on the pledgers who have withdrawn or cut the size of their pledge is significant. Outsiders won't know until the museum released their year end financial statement for 2009 in the spring of 2010. Over half a million dollars in pledges were cancelled in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2008.

As to the meeting on Jan 30, just an "educated guess". I'm sure I'm wrong but I'm a betting man. The shrewd politicians went from "shovel ready" to up to 18 months. Some immediate stimulus.

Have you ever met a politicain who never saw an opportunity to increase taxes he didn't like. Pray tll me who.

If I'm wrong about my "predictions" I'll aplogize to all concerned on this site.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Museum Promoters Turn to Vandalism

On my way home from our Citizens For Responsible Spending Town Hall meeting I replaced four vandalized Vote No signs. Tomorrow, I will replace all other vandalized and will do so until the election.

I offer a reward or $500.00 for the verifiable name of these punks and $1000.00 reward for their arrest and conviction.

I knew that some of these "promoters" would stoop to anything. I look for more lies and exagerations, cowardly acts from a few of these people or their punk kids.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

PRM Fact Finding Town Hall Meetings - Open to All

Citizens For Responsible Spending and myself will be hosting Town Hall Meetings at Lakeview Library on March 23 and March 26, 7:00 PM.. In the meantime you will find our site www.nomuseumtax.org informative.

Yard signs and handouts will be available. Contributions to fund our efforts may be made to Citizens for Responsible Spending, P.O. Box 641. Peoria, Il. 61652-0641.

Those of you who wish more information or are opposed to the public Facility Tax Referendum, please show up to assist us in our mission to keep Peoria an affordable place to live. With the involvement of Peoria County in ownership and the shortage of funds raised by the museum promoters, there is much more involved than just a sales tax that will take $72-$80 million out of your pockets in the next 20 years.

Remember, despite promises to the contrary, have you ever known of a tax that "went away"?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ah Yes, The Militant Teachers Unions and the Decline of Learning

Obama is caught again between a rock and a hard spot. I doubt he will do what he says he will do because of his deep ndebtedness to the teachers unions. Here is a response to a posting yesterday -

Obama on education - extra pay for top teachers. It comes from Ed Barbeau at the University of Toronto in Canada. Just FYI.

From Ed Barbeau

Thanks for this item.

When my wife taught in the UK now over forty years ago, they had what was called the Burnham scale. In this, teachers were guaranteed an annual career increase in salary for a limited number of years, I think it was about five, and then reached what was called a bar, where their pay was essentially frozen (except for cost-of-living increases). To surpass the bar and get to the next rung, they had to exhibit merit in some way. After a few years, another bar was reached, with the same situation.

This might be a nice model to discuss. It allows the performance of a teacher to be measured over a period of time with different perspectives, before a decision has to be made about a reward, and I think prevents quick decisions that might be impulsive and not in the interests of justice.

Nobody goes into teaching to get rich, but teachers deserve an income that allows them to establish a home, raise a family, avoid a second job and enjoy a certain level of recreation with dignity. But I think that equally important is the symbolic aspect, that a fair recompense signifies that society respects and appreciates what they do.

Unions of course create difficulties, and the ones who reach prominence in them tend to be the more militant and ideological. However, every union is a monument to the idiocy of past policies and procedures, and teaching is no exception to this. In Ontario, the transformation of teacher professional organization to unions came in the early 70s when the government was beginning to experience a budget crunch and many elements of the public felt that the system was deteriorating; teachers were made the scapegoats, and were subjected to salary freezes and cuts as reduction in resources that were not well handled at all.

At root, the issue of one of morale. While many teachers have enormous dedication, it is possible to "get by" with a minimum of effort and one only has to hear a group of kids talking about their teachers to realize this. That people of differing levels of dedication and ability should be equally rewarded imposes a friction that will ultimately drag the system down.

The union interest should be on supporting teachers that need improvement, making sure that policies and resources are in place to do this, and ensuring that procedures are openly and fairly applied.

Yesterday's posting is below, to which the above is a response.

From Reuters, Tuesday, March 10, 2009. See http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE52927W20090310
Obama plan sees extra pay for top teachers, may anger union

By Ross Colvin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday proposed lengthening the school year and paying top teachers more as part of an effort to help U.S. students regain an edge in the competitive world economy.

The United States has one of the worst high school dropout rates in the industrialized world, and its students regularly rank far below those in other Western countries in reading and math scores.

Slightly more than half of the population has only a high school diploma. One out of every two American university students drops out before completing their post-secondary studies.

"Despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short and other nations outpace us," Obama told the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

"The future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens, and my fellow Americans, we have everything we need to be that nation," he added.

The U.S. leader painted the education drive as part of a broader push to promote economic growth in the face of a deep recession and the nation's worst financial crisis in decades.

His plan includes a focus on "cradle to career" learning and expansion of early childhood education programs, which received $5 billion in funding in the $787 billion economic stimulus package recently approved by Congress.


Obama, who in his first 50 days in office has launched drives to overhaul healthcare and energy policy, plans to nearly triple spending on education in the 2010 fiscal year, which begins on October 1.

The funding includes an $81 billion set-aside for education in the economic stimulus package, which would raise the Education Department's budget for next year to $127.8 billion from $46.2 billion in 2009.

But the new education proposals risk angering teachers' unions, who are generally strong supporters of his Democratic Party and have in the past resisted ideas such as extra pay for top-performing teachers.

Obama also acknowledged that students would be unhappy about spending more time in class. "I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas," he said to laughter.

But he noted that students in other nations, such as South Korea, spent as much as a month more in school each year.

Obama called for steps to ensure all Americans received a comprehensive education that followed them from infancy through the job market and ensured that they were competitive in the changing global economy.

"In a 21st century world where jobs can be shipped wherever there's an internet connection, where a child born in Dallas is competing with children in Delhi ... education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, it is a prerequisite," he said.

Obama also challenged U.S. states to adopt more rigorous education standards, especially in reading and math, and called for expansion and redesign of federal student aid programs.

Following his speech to the Chamber, he made a surprise visit to a conference of top state school officials in Washington, urging them to keep up efforts to improve the country's educational system.
(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Paul Simao)

Jerry P. Becker

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wall Street Reverts to Form

After 4 days of gains, mostly in financials, the market sold off, an 150 point swing indicating that the exuberance may have to wait longer. Maybe much longer. Caterpillar closed down at $26 and change.

Wise men and women are saying hold onto your cash but then others are saying the new Messiah will lighten your burden and its time to buy. Buy what? Most of the stimulus money is going to infrastructure and welfare programs. I'm still watching and waiting before I determine how far left we are swinging. I believe we are deeper into Socialism than many common sense people believe.

We'll see and hope that those in greater power than me can slow the pendulum down.

These are not good times to raise taxes for non-priority and possible Cash hog spending.

More than ever I urge a no vote on the "public facility tax" on April 7. Your yes vote will mean greater risk at more public support for this potential "white elephant" on the riverfront.

About 7 years ago I predicted the ball park as being a "possible" white elephant. Saturday I received my K-1-l showing another $1600 loss, my 14 or 15 consecutive loss since I made an unwise investment in this entity. I guess, as Dr. Marshall said, the ball park is a great thing. Sure if you are an employee or occasional visitor. Not if you were a stockholder and HELD on to your stock.

The insiders, moistly from a large nationally known firm, quickly gave their shares away, taking a donation tax break. We outsiders are still holding our apparently worthless stock certificates. Mine have been for sale for over 10 years.

No valid offers. If Roger Monroe doesn't buy, I'm thinking of EBay.

Word on the Street - Journal Star

Today's article by JS Reporter Karen McDonald was pretty much "on the money" However, "Money, politics a volatile mix" indicates politics were involved. Not hardly, common sense, not politics is lacking by at least the two youngest members of the Peoria County Board of Appeals. One a Democrat and one a Republican. Neither is qualified for the the position they occupy as appointees of my Democrat friend Bill Prather and now up for reappointment by my friend Democrat Tom O'Neill 111.

I understand that few apply for the job, so perhaps the pay should be better which in turn, may decrease the possibility of favoritism.

You bet money is involved as many of us are paying far more property tax on our properties than common sense warrants, common sense which I said is lacking on the Appeals Board. I add common courtesy is lacking, especially when Nancy Horton asked me "who do you think you are". Possibly a retaliation, as cited in an article by DeWayne Bartels in the Times Observer on March 12,2008, towards those who protest their property taxes and ask for a come-see reevaluation. DeWayne quotes Appeal board member Nancy Horton, wife of the Recorder of Deeds, Brad Horton as saying "That's not true", contradicting what other property owners have said. Shadid said "Our concern is to make sure the process is fair".

That's not what the full County Board heard last Thursday.

Hard to be fair when the least amount of work is put in the process. Such as actually going out with the taxpayer to examine the property especially when fair value assessment on a property has doubled only to find the property sold a short time later for half the price of "fair value"..

Of course, to do any tough job well, it takes a lot of stamina and hard work. And diplomacy and courtesy. State law changed apparently to make it more difficult for someone to protest and the attitude of the appeals board has changed from one of being friendly and helpful to one that is sometimes antagonistic to the person who is righteously asking for reasons why their assessments have risen so much.

I was told to get information about houses that had sold in a two-three block area surrounding my home only to find that assessed values for the whole 228 home subdivision were calculated to determine my assessed value.

As to retaliation for protesting, I can't prove, but it was interesting that the number of cases going to Springfield on Review is rising and last year 51 of the protesters had their taxes increased, some substantially.

Some governmental bodies have reputedly put a limit on the per cent of assessment increase in a year. Something appears to be not right in the process of Peoria County fairly handling customer complaints and the county and the assessors seem to like and continue tolerating a system that is confusing the property tax paying owners, especially the smaller property owners.

If corrective action is not taken, expect a greater exodus from this county and state over the next few years as taxes are going to jump dramatically when all the new bonds being sold or soon to be sold and taxes, property or sales or income, will start being collected.

A county committee is looking into it and will report back to the full board. Those with legitimate complaints should keep coming back to address the full board. With those who have more pertinent information than than be conveyed to the full board in the 3 minutes allotted, we will try to vote you more time.

For those who criticize the old board for not collecting more property taxes, I remind taxpayers that property taxes collected by the county rise every year, $25,510,000.00 anticipated for 2009, an increase over 2008.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Caterpillar - More Cuts Friday

Caterpillar cuts 117 more white collar jobs; last day, this Friday. All the while, Cat officials say the non-income producing millions they would spend on the riverfront have nothing to do with firings, layoffs, and local PRODUCTIVE spending. Then have empathy for all of their local suppliers who produce a product. Those businesses have been severely affected. How must some of them feel about Cat having money to donate $55 million to a project in so must demand that the promoters are spending $640,000.00 to try to sell it to the voter?

And why such a hard time over the last 5 years of raising the money?

I understand there are worldwide reasons for downsizing. I do not understand Caterpillar's continued push to build a Visitors Center saying the only reason they would do that is to support another enhancement on the riverfront. Over the past decade we have built a lot of partially or fully taxpayer funded enhancements. How many new businesses did we attract versus the number that closed or moved, some just across the river? I can think quickly of several failures on the riverfront, InPlay, Gateway Building, Damon's, RiverStation, Tilly's, a retail store and other small businesses. Leave a hole? Probably for a while. These are bad economic times. Caterpillar bought 2 plus acres leaving 7 acres for a tax paying entity someday after recovery if Peoria is ever going to attract businesses downtown.

Cat made their pledge for a New Visitors Center in 2002 when prospects for the company and community appeared better and the Museum was to be a Central Illinois Regional Museum with everybody in Central Illinois chipping in money.

That was then and now is now. Now is not the time to "save face".

On 12/08/04, the JS and the JSEB reported that "Cat makes history with museum gift." "$11 million will be contributed from the Caterpillar Foundation toward the regional museum and up to $20 million in matching funds. Specially, Cat will give $7 million outright and the remaining $4 million is contingent on whether others donate to the campaign. Caterpillar has pledged to match contributions of its employees and and retirees, up to $2 million. For companies ?? that have their own matching program, Cat will donate $1 million if those companies raise $2 million.

Caterpillar, Inc. would build a $40 million Visitors Center but only if the regional public riverfront museum was funded. And Cat and it's foundation would help fund the museum and parking garage. The June 30, 2008 Lakeview Museum Financial statement says that Caterpillars $11 million contribution to the new museum is structured to be paid over a 5 year period beginning in 2006. There are four components: a core grant of $7 million; a 1:1 employee/retiree match of $2.5 million; a $1:2 community challenge grant of $1 million; and a 1:5 state/county challenge grant of $500,000.

Subsequent to June 30, 2006, the Caterpillar Foundation increased its original $11 commitment by $2.5 million. This addition is being made available as additional matching funds for pledges from Caterpillar, In. employees and retirees at the same match 1:1 rate."

The museum also has an agreement with the Community Foundation of Central Illinois "to establish a separate nonendowment type of account for the receipt of charitable contributions which will be utilized to pay construction costs and other related expenses for the PRM and to fund an endowment for operations of the RPM".

In January, 2009, Peoria County Board Staff told the Peoria County Board that "the endowment needs to be at a minimum of $6,750,000.00 and to hedge against not meeting revenue collections, it should be over $12,000,000.00

As of 6/30/08 the Foundation held $2 million largely for an endowment. As of March 2009, the Foundation held $1.6 million according to the Lakeview Museum CEO, a shrinkage of approximately $400,000.00

As 6/30/08 the museum had cash and securities of $9,576,548.00 and pledges of $8,310,160.00, a total of $17,886,708.00. As of 3/09, I understand those figures have either stayed stagnant or had shrunk. According to museum officials, outstanding pledges were in the process of being verified. In 2007, pledges noncollectable totaled $556,659.00.

On last Friday, the JS reported that even with the $40 million raised in the new sales taxes if the referendum passes, the museum will still be short $11 million. On 9/3/08, the JS reported "Downtown museum supporters launch final push over the next 7months for $47 million so project can move forward. The CEO Roundtable was expected to raise $8 million of the $12 million needed from the private sector, $3 million from the roundtable member, $2 million from community businesses and $3 million from other community individuals."

Still leaving $4 million short if they succeed and show proof of their success. Promises and pledges mean nothing when people are being fired, wages cut, laid off and over-taxed.

The voter knows little about broken pledges, cash in the bank, $5 million of the funds raised already spent, unrealistic projections and declining attendance nationwide. (At a Forum this week, Wichita, Kansas was mentioned as a success, only if a 60% decline in attendance is a "success".) I'm assured by museum officials that $8 million has been raised over the last 7 months and will be announced shortly.

The voter should know that small, $72 million, taxes add up, and a lot more taxes, business failures, firing, wage cuts and nationwide economic security is happening or on the horizon.

Back to the 117 Caterpillar white collar workers whose jobs will be terminated Friday. Why is all this money going to enhancements when we should be creating jobs in Peoria that produce a saleable product? For an all union construction project, the unions pledging $400,000+. Costs of the proposed museum rose from $67 million a year ago to $78 million (and rising) because of rising "construction" costs according to Mark Johnson, Caterpillar project manager.

For some reason the Caterpillar Visitors Center cost only rose $1 million to $41 million.


Wake up, Peoria AND MAKE YOUR VOICES AND ACTIONS COUNT. Vote no against this project that should be halted by those in charge now. Moody's, one of the top investment rating firms in the country, plans to keep a closer eye on Peoria. Read Paul Gordon's "Moody's keeping tabs on Cat fallout" in Tuesdays JS. Moody's says that Peoria City, Decatur and Aurora, Peoria County and several other taxing bodies including school districts, park districts and airport authority could be most exposed through the recession, a recession that no one knows when it will end.

Don't be so negative, some say. You surely jest. Realism trumps optimism any day.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Does This Man Fit the Description of a Hypocrite?

Michael Bryant, CEO of Methodist Hospital and at one time Chairman of the failed Peoria Riverfront Museum Fund Raising Drive was quoted in the Illinois Business Magazine, March 2009 issue, "Build a Block couldn't have come at a better time". In the January, 2008, Mr. Bryant was quoted in the same magazine as saying "Today, the total Museum Square cost is $127.7 million of which 65% or $85.6 million is pledged and committed". In the same magazine, in April of 2008, Mr. Bryant is quoted the project will bring upwards of 400,000 per year to downtown Peoria"

On December 11, 2008, Mr. Bryant sent me a letter stating that $71 million in private funding was in hand (90% of the needed $77 million).

On March 6, at a presentation for support of the Museum Tax, Lakeview CEO Jim Richerson said that $6 million in cash was on hand and approximately $9 million in pledges. That didn't didn't include Caterpillar Foundation pledge of $11 million(Over half a million in pledges were cancelled in fiscal year 2008)

Only $6 million in cash when Bank President Doug Stewart said "when you already have $20 million in the bank", JS, 12/4/05, and the JSEB said on 10/19/05, "with $20 million in pledges so far".

My, how figures fly all over the place but I think these "figures" may copme home to roost. Whether in time to get all these "facts" out to the public in time , remains to be seen.

Mr. Richerson reiterated (it was first revealed in Thursday's JS) that even with the $40 million from the tax referendum, the funding for the project would still be short $11 million.

What say, Mr. Bryant? Still 11 million short when the country may be in a depresion?

Not mentioned was that over $4 million of new museum had already been spent (gone) on consultants, planning, etc.

Back to Mr. Bryant. On 11/07/08, the JS reported "Methodist delays renovation project". "Methodist Medical Center will delay the final two stages of its $400 million hospital renovation project until tight money conditions in the credit market loosen and will wait to break ground on its acute care hospital. etc., until the spring of 2010. On the advise of our investment bankers and other, we just think it is prudent.....

On 2/25/09, the JS reported "Methodist Medical Center tightens its belt", raises, 401(k) matches suspended: hiring limited to 'critical positions'. CEO Bryant said "the uncertain economic environment demands that we make responsible spending decisions now to address what we believe will be a continuation of this situation throughout 2009".

On 3/6/09, the JS reported "Methodist CEO Bryant announced the layoffs of of 60 full time employees." Mentioned by Mr Bryant that an escalating number of patients losing their health insurance as people lose jobs during a faltering economy caused $25 to 30 million in bad debts".

Michael Bryant appears to be some great guy. The reader can determine whether he meets the definition of the title of the blog. Stick these people with a sales tax for a museum yet charging these same people to pay $8-12 just to get inside the building, plus pay-for-parking, of course.

I quote ECCLESIASTES 1:14, "I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit".

Renowned Cultural Historian Robert Hewiston says "Individually, museums are fine institutions; collectively, their growth in numbers points to the imaginative death of this country. Amen.

Peoria Museum - Public Funding

On 1/29/09, JS reporter, Karen McDonald wrote quoting Peoria County Board member Tim Riggenbach, now candidate for the City Council, as saying "I wanted to make sure people know exactly what the county is willing to stake (just) $40,000,000.00. We (note the WE) are not building a Taj Mahal, but a very functional museum".

Tim is the Count Board "cheerleader" for the museum tax despite admitting to me he only visits the Lakeview Museum once a year.

Ms. McDonald also wrote, "about $35,000,000.00, (sorry Ms. McDonald, if you are going to ever be a good reporter, the figure is $40 million as you quoted Mr. Riggenbach) in public money is needed to make the project happen". She left out a key word, mistakes reporters often do and that key word is "additional public money". She should know that the city has already committed $14,000,000.00, the Federal Government, State and Local governments have already contributed well over $6,000,000. That adds up to $60,000,000.00 that taxpayer dollars have or will contribute toward the total cost of a well publicized figure of $78,000,000.00.

A couple of weeks ago, Brad McMillan, now Fund Raising Chairman for the museum told the County Board that public support would be about %33. Guess his acquaintance with numbers wasn't needed to qualify him for a seat on the State Ethical Board.

Tim, the County Administrator and two other board members are in Washington, D.C., March 7-11 on county business. I wonder how many people Tazewell and Woodford sent at tax payers expense. Among people County Adminstrator and his entourage will be visting is Aaron Schock. Oh, that right, the museum underground garage (9 million and counting) hasn't been totally funded yet and there are now new "stimulus funds" available that don't have to be committed for a year or so.

And Aaron is only returning to Peoria a couple times soon to speak at Republican Dinners. His office said they "did not know his schedule". Probably concerned about terrorists finding out.


Just Another $72 Million Musuem Tax

Sent to me by a friend from Woodford County. And just a reminder that the $.25 sales tax the museum promoters and other hired and elected officials want to "foist" on the public, adds up to $72 million in 20 years according to the Peoria County Administrator and operating costs of the museum will be $8,000,000.00, that's 8 million dollars a year, when the County assumes total ownership.

Sure, the issue will be determined by the voters, the museum spending over $600,000.00 in "educational" advertising while the opposition has spent $0 to date.

The contracts that will be drawn up will be by the museum's attorney, John Elias, one of the more crafty attorneys in Peoria, and the counties attorney.


Dear IRS,
I am sorry to inform you that I will not be able to pay taxes owed April 15 but all is not lost.

I have paid these taxes: accounts receivable tax, building permit tax, CDL tax, cigarette tax, corporate income tax, dog license tax, federal income tax, unemployment tax, gasoline tax, hunting license tax, fishing license tax, waterfowl stamp tax, inheritance tax, inventory tax, liquor tax, luxury tax, Medicare tax, city, school and county property tax (up 33 percent last 4 years), real estate tax, social security tax, road usage tax, toll road tax, state and city sales tax, recreational vehicle tax, state franchise tax, state unemployment tax, telephone federal excise tax, telephone federal state and local surcharge tax, telephone minimum usage surcharge tax, telephone state and local tax, utility tax, vehicle license registration tax, capitol gains tax, lease severance tax, oil and gas assessment tax, Colorado property tax, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma and New Mexico sales tax, and many more that I can't recall but I have run out of space and money.

When you do not receive my check April 15, just know that it is an honest mistake. Please treat me the same way you treated Congressmen Charles Rangel, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and ex-Congressman Tom Daschle and, of course, your boss Timothy Geithner. No penalties and no interest.

P.S. I will make at least a partial payment as soon as I get my stimulus check.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Charitable Contributions

If you are like my wife and and receive about 800 requests for funds or renew our memberships like the one just received from WTVP, you wonder where all that money goes. For example, an organization called Community Builders whose mission statement is "Our mission is to unite the Christian resources of Greater Peoria to meet the spiritual, economic, and social needs of our community", started out with a lot of hype, neighborhood canvases, grant money of at least $150,000+. Three targeted schools were Manual, Trewyn and Garfield. Joyce Banks was administrator. (Jane Baker is now in charge with a new phone #6965656). Another $10,000 grant was received in August, 2008 and another unspecified amount was received in a grant recently. Trewyn administration said there no after school programs this year by CB, the Garfield Principal, irritated over my questions, couldn't say but mentioned White Oak and Family Counseling; I called my friend Ron Tyler, who said no money or programs that he could ever remember from Community Builders and no one from Manual High returned my two requests. Nothing unusual there. The only way I can find out what goes on after school at Manual is drop by and talk to the janitors who know who is in the building after hours. They say, what "community" programs? So do I.

Charter Oak School does or did have after schools programs. Hope they are continuing.

These programs were to be "after school programs", not just summer programs and they were to involve the whole community surrounding the schools. See the JSEB Editorial dated 8/12/04, "Make better use of schools as neighborhood centers". The JS reported on 12/23/05, "Schools would be open 24/7". Superintendent Hinton said "We are linking up and developing new concepts for using schools beyond school hours". That was 2005 and sure they are, varsity football, track, basketball, baseball, volleyball, cheerleaders and some other sports with few participants.

Specifically, the JS reported on 9/25/05 the following "Ken Hinton yelled "Yes" when finding someone home while going door to door conducting his first resident survey of community needs and interest. Manual, Trewyn and Garfield plan to become 'full service community schools' this year, which means the will provide services and resources that the people want, said Hinton".

Ah, such great dreams and so poorly followed through and such apathy. There were to be committee after committee meeting with each school and each school was to have an "in school community director".

The program feel flat through lack of interest and administration. When I ask a soon to be departing school board member, she said check with Jim Stowell and "I wonder how much time we are taking out of administration to ask "bits" of information". The original administrator is gone and there is little money in the bank except for the new grant.

What community schools? The cash strapped JSEB couldn't even followup there own grand ideas. See their editorial of 8/12/04 titled "Make better use of schools as neighborhood centers". See my blog of 4/27/07, titled "Schools an all day affair?"

So sad.

And a computer center (19 at last count) in the back of Manual High. This Center is operated by Workforce Network. The computers in Manual High can't be used after 2:30 five days a week.

Community School??

Now 150 officials are saying "we will have 24/7" in the new schools. Why didn't they have them in the old schools? Where were Community Builders with their $150,000 grant? Oh, summer programs.

I see.

Now the largest provider of for the homeless, the YWCA, is starting a fund drive for $50,000 to expand their homeless shelter to another floor at 714 Hamilton.

I know people who give money for good causes never check to see how their money is used but they have a "good feeling about giving". Sure, these clubs like the Boys and Girls Club have boards of directors, some of them attending fund raising dinners for the advertised two locations, Grinnell and Kansas St. Problem was that Grinnell was closed in May 2007 but management did not notify some board members and evidently, Caterpillar who promoted a fund raising dinner a year after Grinnell was closed, listing both locations.

I've been saying for 15 years that Peoria has too many organizations all working for our youth (roughly 70 at one time) and many of them building their own bureaucracies, writing grants, hiring administrators and recruiting board members, many who lose interest, don't attend board meetings and in one case, one told me he didn't even know he was a board member. Back in the nineties, the B & G Club had 19 members. Four, including myself and the then police chief showed up to set the budget for submission to the United Way. The president, McFarland Bragg, showed up 20minutes late and asked for the agenda. The manager refused to give me program attendance numbers and I resigned. I believe they still have 19 "members" today.

Which leads me to ask about the Museum Committee composed of all these different organizations. So much conflicting news released to the press, including documentation released through their legal counsel, John Elias in conjunction with Peoria County in their request for an additional, $20 million plus public money received already, $40,000,000.00 new tax dollars to make up the fund drive shortfalls.

Which leads to my next blog on public tax spending transparency.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Museums - Declining Attendance Nationally

"It's Universal-Museums Can't Stop Expanding" was an article appearing in the WSJ in 3/7/2005. A year later, the PRM Committee launched a fund raising drive, then another in 2007 and the latest one in 2008 all failing. (May 2008, $17.2 million pledged including Caterpillar, Inc.}

"Seattle's Bellevue Art Museum closed three years after opening. One of two Guggenheim Las Vegas branches suffered a similar fate. Attendance at most museums hasn't been near what it was at the height of the museum boom, hence the Mayor of Tampa's demand late last year that the trustees of the new art museum, which the city is partially underwriting, certify that it will stay in the black even if visitorship fall way below projections."

It did if you have read about it lately. Museums are losing attendance and sponsorships from Toronto to Tampa. The article continues, "if-you-build-it-they-will stampede on which museums have predicated their operations for the last three decades. Could it be that people are finding other things to do with their time.

Every business sector goes through cycles and their is no reason to believe that museums are an exception. Museum demand slackening may already be here."

In Peoria, sure, sports events, but don't count on hundreds of thousands coming to see the hear about the past performances of Illinois athletes. People today, especially young people, are seeking action. Look at the show being shown in the movie theatres, on computers, uTube and on TV.

Nor are they going to come in droves to see the African-American exhibits. They are sitting basically unseen now at a locked up Proctor Center Museum.

If this museum opens and closes, not only will the bondholders be stuck, so will Peoria County with a money losing white elephant on the riverfront.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Citizens For Responsible Spending

Visit our website at www.nomuseumtax.org and click on the various categories including our mission statement, why we believe the expectation bar has been raisied way too high, why people are getting fed up with "small" taxes added to existing taxes while more and larger taxes are on the horizon.

For contact information, a donation or to schedule a presentation contact Citizens for Responsible Spending, P.O. Box 641, Peoria, Il. 61652-0641. Our email address is nomuseumtax@yahoo.com Please post your opinions, etc.

The museum promoters are spending $640,000 on wild expectations, expectations if so wildly desired by the voters, why spend more than half a million dollars on advertising??

Caterpillar and museum promoters have had years and years to raise the money from the private sector. They couldn't even do that but with Ray LaHood cheer leading and still trying to slide money from the stimulus package into another one of his famous earmarks, the museum underground garage, etc.

Today, the museum needs from the taxpayer, moved to $37,000,000.00 up from $24 million a year ago and up $3,000,000.00 from less than a month ago.

Our politicians bring earmarks back to the area and then blame everybody else but themselves for government spending out of control. I'm sick of listening to them.

Good grief. Are we a bunch of idiots or what? With favorable or unfavorable interest rates, plan on $80,000,000.00 of taxpayer dollars, the large majority from Peoria County residents.

As an aside, the County Boards most ardent museum tax supporter, Board Member Tim Riggenbach, when asked what his favorite exhibit at Lakeview that he visited last year; Riggenbach said it was Rembrandt. When asked him how his kids enjoyed it, he said he didn't take them. That led me to my next question. How many times do you visit Lakeview Museum a year? After a moments hesitation, he admitted once a year.

Oh well, Tim is a nice guy, he means well and has a nice wife and kids and is a banker. I still consider him a friend.

No wonder the County Administrator and board majority are planning on raising $40,000,000.00.

Caterpillar Insider Sales

While Caterpilar stock was sliding into the tank, some insiders were selling at nice profits. Leading the "profit pack" in the last 10 months, was James Buda, $2.8 million, Dr. James Brazil, ex-Bradley President, $420,000, Ed Rapp, 620,000, and Doug Oberhelman, $223,000. Cat CEO Owens exercised another 100,000 stock options and all Cat Executives got their 2008 bonuses.

On the other hand, reportedly, 22,000 other Caterpillar employees got some kind of a boot. Anyway they want to describe it.

All this while the stock was crashing and Caterpillar and the Museum Group was asking the taxpayer for an additional $35,000,000.00 that Ray LaHood couldn't squeeze out of the feds (tax payer dollars) and the private sector big hitters who claimed to have pledged $17.2 million as of 10 months ago.

And the Peoria County Board, 13 Democrats and 4 Republicans, an apparent largely Democrat Administration, are appearing to stealthily be supporting this once in a lifetime, "spectacular", so Henry Hollings said. Hollings is Acting Peoria City Manager and ex-Cat employee. Hollings was the recipient of a recent DUI arrest, and who said in an email dated 2/24, the museum was "part of a massive positive development downtown.

Surely he wasn't talking about the Gateway Building, the One Technology Plaza, the RiverPlex that has never been able to make a single payment on the principal and interest of the 20 year bond it took to build it, Damon's, departed long ago, InPlay, recently bankrupt, RiverStation recently bankrupt and empty AGAIN. Or is he talking about the struggling Civic Center or the new hotel with the high potential of sticking the taxpayers with $39,000,000.00 or Cub's Food or maybe the 2 year behind the first planned opening date; African Exhibit zoo. (I hear some of the major new African inhabitants are "freaking out" in their new surroundings).

Or the ball park that hasn't paid this investor one dime on my investment 15 years ago and who has NO buyer for my stock. (This ballpark was funded with a minimum of $7,000,000,000.00 taxpayer dollars). And does the Stadium even have a name now that O'Brien has withdrawn their sponsorship.

Been kind of quiet down at the old ball park despite the season opening in a little more than a month. Hmmmmmmm.

Or what is Hollings talking about? The new 2% downtown hospitality sales tax on the suckers, I mean downtown hotel visitors? Possibly a new Caterpillar Headquarters on the Riverfront? A new $39,000,000.00 Peoria County BellWood Nursing Home closer to the center of the city as some are proposing?

Who knows who is going to win the race in raising local taxes? We know who is winning in raising taxes in Washington and Springfield.

You blame it all on George? Don't be "silly"

Caterpillar Layoffs Continue

As Caterpillar layoffs continue and white collars work under stress of potential layoffs, as Caterpillar stock drops to $22 and change today, down from its high of $85, meaning someone who bought say one thousand shares and held is now out on paper $60,000, as the stock market continues to tank, as business fold in Peoria at what appears to be an accelerated rate, as the world appears to near a depression, Caterpillar and the museum backers charge on to build another unneeded amenity to the community, sticking taxpayers with a never ending tax. Those in charge say it will end in 20 years after taking $72-80 million out of buyers hands. You know, they could spende these high millions going for interest payments for, say, merchandise. What a novel idea! How many taxes once enacted ever go away? Maybe a new referendum and if that fails then what? The Riverfront Museum will join the other white elephants that dot the Peoria landscape.

So how do you feel if you have no job at Cat anymore but Jim Owens got his option stock, the managers get their bonus and you get a $40-50 million dollar Visitor Center, with a $2 million a year operating cost; a center they never actually wanted or they would have built it years ago? But you can visit it for free.

Maybe you feel a little like stockholders who ask, upper Cat management is doing fine, one just built a several million dollar home, what about the stockholders who thought Cat executives knew what they were doing?

Not only do they not go away, taxes are coming at an ever accelerated rate in Peoria.

I believe as Peoria gets more and more government workers; Obama believes bigger government is the answer to our problems, when most people with a modicum of common sense knows that bigger government IS THE PROBLEM, that the push toward a socialistic type government abetted mainly by the Democrats and stealthily supported by a number of Republicans and Independents, maybe those of us who support the private sector as the way out of our morass, maybe Peoria will wake up, the call I have been making for going on 2 decades.

BelWood, administration and most board members are pushing for a $39 million and rising new building, with rooms that will eventually be available at between $200 and 300 a day. The building will be built with bonds costing taxpayers another $40 plus million over 20 or more years.

Hold on to your pants, those of you in the private sector, your wallets and purses will be gone in the next decade. Look at the evidence as detailed in my blogs starting with "Missed Projections", dated October, 19, 2008.

Don't forget the new library, $28 million financed through new [property taxes or new bonds, still taxes, the new schools, the new downtown hotel, the potholed streets and crumbling curbs, the Civic Center expansion of $55 million, look out here with conventions competition growing and conventions shrinking, and oh, yes, the hundreds of millions for sewers and our drinking water lines in need of millions in replacements, am I making you feel good. I hope not so you will help me to sort out the priorities for this community that I think have gotten lost in our rush to "keep up with the Joneses".

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Museum Closing

An interesting article in today's JS reads "The Sports Museum of America, which housed a variety of memorabilia on loan from individuals and sports organizations, including the Heisman Trophy, has closed after nine months. The non-profit museum opened in May in New York. It could reopen if a buyer is found, (so could Cub Foods building) but otherwise its collection will be dismantled. Officials had hoped to draw one million visitors in the first year, but the museum was falling short of that goal.

Construction costs also ran over by $5 million."

Not to worry, you museum promoters, this is Peoria, not New York. And besides we are a big sports draw and who wants to see stuff like the Heisman Trophy when we will have pictures and stuff of all Illinois sports heroes.

But unlike New York, Peoria rivferfront facilities promoters are only expecting 360,000-400,000 vistors a year.

Plus, the museum will include the African-American exhibit which will be moved from Proctor Center where it is now free to see. These days, free to see by appointment only because too few volunteered to keep it open during Proctor Center hours.

Our downtown museum will only charge an $8-12 admission fee, plus the cost of undergroung parking, of course.

While promoters say if the our museum, built with largely public dollars, does not succeed, the loss would be borne by the bondholders, not the taxpayers. Sure, just what we need is ANOTHER white elephant in town, especially on the once promising riverfront.