Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lincoln Probably Did Say This - No Matter, It's True

Ronald Reagen addressing a group at a local meeting house:

So I said to him, "Barack, I know Abe Lincoln, and you ain't Abe Lincoln."

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away people's initiative and independence.
You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.

.....Abraham Lincoln

PPD and U. S. Representative Aaron Schock

Five million dollars in "appropriations" was requested by the Peoria Park District for year 2009. I refer you back to my blog of 5/29/09 titled "PPD Taxpayer Dollar Requests". Can anyone tell me without filing an FOIA, how much of this "non-priority" $5 million from the PPD wish list has been granted so far? I know $212,000 for playground improvements was authorized for Proctor Center.

I find these non-priority requests in the process of being authorized by a Republican who is always hammering the Democrats for giving away our tax dollars as being more than interesting. I'm still waiting for the announcement of x-millions coming from the stimulus bill or some other bill, all taxpayers dollars, coming to Peoria to bail out the $17 million or more the Peoria Riverfront Museum shortfall.

When I think of so many politicians in both parties, I'm reminded of an old song, "they are all alike at the bottom, selfish, grasping......"


On September 8/08, the JS published an article by Doug Finke of Gatehouse News Service reading: "Members of the AFSCME have overwhelmingly ratified a new four year contract with the State of Illinois that will give them raises of 15.25% over the life of the pact. The union represents about 37,000 state employees. This same union represents about 125 employees working for Peoria County. To offset our counties budget deficits, the AFSCME local representative, seems to prefer a state income tax hike by saying. "If the state elects to raise taxes, some of this, (Peoria Counties deficit)if not all, is going to go away." He continues, "Not only would tax increases help the state, they would help the counties and cities as well."

The county has some disagreement with that statement. The union complains about the counties overspending and the county administration says the issue if not one of overspending, but of sharp declines in revenue streams. These comments are taken from the JS on 6/29/09 under the heading of, "Union doesn't 'look kindly on concessions".

At the time of the 15.25% increase for AFSCME state employees, a recession had more than arrived nationwide and worldwide. (and this now local recession) As of June, 2009, AFSCME union workers were getting nice salary and resulting pension increases from the state and elsewhere. I want to remind my reader of a few economic warning headlines in the JS and WSJ that all citizens should have been aware of; these headlines are as follows:

8/08, 2008, JS - Peoria Economy Slips Again - Even if the rest of the country starts to recover, Peoria could stay in the dumps.

3/14/08, WSJ - Recession is Inevitable.

2/12/08, WSJ - America on the Move, 5 states showing the fastest departures of residents, listed Illinois as #5 among the losers. Why, taxes, more taxes and other considerations.

12/15/08, JS - Study: Consumer Outlook in Area Continues to Erode.

In April 2008, Illinois Business Magazine quoted 92nd District Republican Aaron Schock as saying "the governor's proposed bloated budget proposal is full of the same gimmicks and taxes as last year." This year, new governor Quinn appears to has also bought in the the "lets spend OPM on things we don't really need, (good causes) priorities can wait".

1/11/09, Js - Peoria's empty buildings tell the story.

Not that Aaron is not cut of somewhat the same cloth. This summer will tell as some appropriations and stimulus monies sneak into some "good cause", non-priority projects as listed in an upcoming blog. But then, one strong Republican supporter, said at a 2nd Ward Republican breakfast, "we will take all the stimulus money (talking about government support for the new PRM) we can get, not matter what the cause, because more money is taken out of Peoria than we ever get back."

Interesting. Never been a question that more tax money is taken out of most any community than ever comes back. Close to 70%, more I suspect. Similar to a gambling casino where some also get back more than they bet. In government, some get back more through subsidies. Today, it seems, if you aren't being subsidized, you are not in the "in" crowd.

However, the elected are supposed to sift out the priorities from the "good causes".

Supposed to.

Anyway, all involved in passing blame are all involved in the different degrees of involvement in the blame. Citizens, for not paying closer attention as to what is going on in their community and world, the unions, as usual, demanding more of everything, public boards, often card carriers themselves and not as experienced as union bosses, public boards authorizing more spending for "good causes" (digging up the dead0 think the poor planning involved at Lincoln Library) and well-meaning ambitious administrations wanting to leave their "mark" before moving "up the ladder".

As most do.

On large problem is that Peoria County Administration is counting on an average increase of 3% for the next 30 years. I personally have not bought into that scenario.

This may be carefully thought out or wishful thinking as this county is going to see a greater need for more revenues and taxes to support all the ambitious plans, some aggrandized and considered by some as necessary, some are necessary, no doubt, on the the drawing boards of community leaders.

Anyway, our leadership and citizenry can't say they weren't warned. They were, if they wanted to listen. A few did but now enough and now even the PPD is in a bind. Today's article by Catherine, says, of course, they are operating in the black.

An interesting statement when the fell $5 million short on the zoo, cut out all the new ballparks promised years ago and close the public pools at 5:00 PM. 5:00 PM, good grief. The PPD administration brags of their assets. They should, most of their assets come from tax dollars, donation dollars, fees and grant revenues and many large and small donations of land and other valuable tangibles . And the PPD too, carries a substantial debt including the RiverPlex.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Peoria County- Minutes from Facilities CommitteeMeeting - Dated April 28, 2009

"Mr. Widmer reiterated comments he made at the Facilities meeting of February 24, 2009 regarding projects budgeted but not necessary due to the current economic stat. He mentioned that various organizations cutback on budgeted projects as well due to the bleak state of the economy. He acknowledged that as representatives for the citizens of Peoria County and, as overseers of citizens' monies, the Board has a responsibility to spend what is necessary considering the economic state. He mentioned it may cost the County more in the long run but the board would have done what is considered ethical. Mr. Phelan agrees with Mr. Widmer's ethics regarding the spending of citizens money."

Here's what happened on a recent attempt to award a $190,000.00 bid for County Courthouse interior signage, hardly a priority item: Democrat Junior Watkins moved and Republican Bob Baietto seconded to recommend buying. Republican Elsasseer wanted to buy part of the signage. His motion failed for want of a second. The original motion then failed with Watkins, Baietto and Elsasser voting yea and Salzer, Widmer and Phelan voting no. The vote being a tie; it failed.

This was in committee. When the same motion to buy $190,000.00 of interior signs came before the the full board, 8 board members voted to spend the money, Dillon, Harding, Hester, Mayer, Pearson, RIGGENBACH (now on the City Council), Sous, and Watkins voted to buy $190,000.00 worth of interior signage. Democrat Board member Sous said he was voting yes because of the image the County is trying to present to the public. Also Mr. Sous said "these are capital dollars that will just be rolled over to another project".

Voting no were myself and 8 others. Fortunately for the taxpayers, the motion to buy failed, 9 nays and 8 yeas with Salzer showing absent but Salzer had voted no in committee.

Administration pushed the fact that the money was "in the budget" to spend at least $190,000.00 for this non-essentials because the "money was in the budget" and the price was lower than budgeted.

Shortly after motion to spend $190,000.00 of taxpayer money for non-essentials failed, SURPRISE, we were told by administration we were going to be $3 1/2 - $4 million short in our 2009 budget.

Were we prepared? Yes, but not really or I would not have been criticized to make "pain sharing" public before administration prepared how to approach this "pain sharing" to all employees of the county. Is it possible that with all the card carrying union supporters on the board this info was'nt relayed privately by Saturday morning to some union people? It's possible, I guess. I have no proof that it was.

All the time, the JS and all media were reporting massive layoffs and firings, by the way not all are being "reported", in Peoria, but "surprise" again, since no layoffs, in the area to my knowledge, were in the layoff proof, tax-supported public sector, the news of the counties financial shortfall and possible county government wide "pain sharing" evidently had to be handled with "kid gloves" with some employees.

All this should be interesting to people in the private sector who have been fired, laid off, and business owners that have been forced out of business or gone bankrupt. No kid gloves here, many workers were told on Friday not to come to work on Monday.

Interesting and now County Administration and County Board will add another employee at $50 and hour not to exceed 10 hours a week, (who is going to keep the time card?) to help with a museum the community never really supported. In case you've forgotten, $640,000.00 was spent to sell the sales tax, think museum, but not just "museum". To my knowledge, all public elected officials with the exception of myself and Gary Sandberg supported this soon to be "tax sucker" that went from 65% private dollars and 35% public dollars, (I'm talking about the museum, not the Caterpillar funded Visitors Center) to 35% or maybe less private dollars and 65% public dollars which are taxpayer dollars. We will see but watch for a large part of the museum deficit to come from "stimulus" high priority money or grants secured by our public servants in DC and Springfield.

Sure, no projection for any major project has lived up to "projections" in the last decade in Peoria. Neither will any currently on the drawing board.

By the way, how is attendance at the new $27 million zoo? Still short $5 million to increase the parking and a new entrance, I hear. And the Children's Playhouse? It was supposed to open in 2007. And when does the new Library Tax kick in? After all the dead are removed from where half the town knew they were resting?

Yes, what do I know. Fortunately, I have my friends but none more supportive than Karrie. Thanks again, Karrie. And Diane, take note. It's all a matter of record.

Rising Taxes? Will They Never End?

This email was received from my friend Dave Hughes. Dave, unfortunately, it is way too late to stop taxes from rising every year. Public officials, with guaranteed pensions and (guaranteed jobs) may talk a good game but when it comes to action it is too easy to spend OPM. In their minds, always for a good cause. Unfortunately good causes never end.

Here is Dave's unedited email.

Governor Pat Quinn is playing the same old game. He thinks that the taxpayers are a bottomless source of funds to be tapped whenever more money is desired. Historically, Illinois government has increased taxes in both good times and bad. The income tax has never been reduced! Illinois is in the top third (and perhaps much higher) of states when measuring the overall tax burden per capita. Meanwhile, the economic landscape has changed. Unemployment rates have climbed into the double digits. The governor's response is to use the same old threats that have worked in the past. He (and other state legislators) threaten to cut services if they don't get their way. The convicted felon, George Ryan, put mentally handicapped people on the street and released criminals from prison. Governor Quinn has made statements indicating that he will act just as irresponsibly.

Some say that the United States is experiencing another Depression. The governor's actions show a callous disregard for Illinois citizens during these tough economic times. Governor Quinn, and he alone, has held up the capital spending plan which could provide jobs for some struggling Illinois workers. He threatens to cut education. You and I both know that the state has collected monies promised for education which were never spent on education. Come to think of it, the money collected for roads (state gas tax, tolls and federal transportation allocations) was not all spent on roads. The way money is handed in the state budget would be considered criminal acts if a publicly traded business did the same. It's not uncommon for a business executive to take no salary or just one dollar a year while they turn around their companies. Can you imagine the governor not taking his salary? I cannot.

As long as I can remember the state budget has increased year after year. Maybe the cost of state government needs to be reduced. I expect Illinois will experience a population decline as economic opportunities disappear and the burden of unchecked state spending becomes more and more onerous. Public officials may never know how their decisions have contributed to the number of vacant buildings, run down neighborhoods and the feelings of helplessness and pessimism. I only hope that other forces can counteract the desolation brought on by our ineffective Illinois government.


David Hughes
PO Box 9841
Peoria, IL 61612

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Peoria County Board Notes

On August 1, 2000, the Peoria County Board received a letter from David Williams, Chairman of the Health Services Committee stating that then Peoria County Administrator Jim Daken had the local architectural firm of LTZ submit a plan to renovate Bel-Wood for an all cost, hard and soft, total of $5.3 million. A 20 year carrying cost of yearly payments of $462,078.00 or a total of $9,241,560.00 would have been needed to pay for the renovations as the county did not have $5.3 million to spend on the "safety net for the poor", Bel-Wood.

Lynn Pearson was County Board Chairperson at the time to be succeeded at the next election by Mr. Williams.

Nine years later the approved new Bel-Wood will cost approximately $41 million with finance carrying costs over 30 years of approximately $65 million. These comparisons do not consider that the new Bel-Wood will be of new design with less capacity (230 beds) and a state of the art nursing home. These comparisons do not include that the existing Bel-Wood will remain with renovations including a new roof, perhaps, and used by some other county purposes.

Bel-Wood was not renovated and Mr. Daken passed on shortly thereafter. The county hired our present administrator Patrick Urich and Bel-Wood was never renovated and actually deteriorated despite the "MAINTAIN" property tax passed in year 2003. Yet a Facility Maintenance Supervisor was not hired until 2007.

From approximately year 2000, Bel_Wood went through 7 or more "managers" including at one time States Attorney Kevin Lyons. During the last nine years, Bel-Wood was "problem tagged" dozens of times and fined several times, the latest fine of $10,000.00, a fact not yet picked up by the JS, but announced by county administration in June, 2009.

The nine years I've served on the board, Bel-Wood has taken up a dis-portionate amount of administrative and the board time. Using a business profile, which it should, Bel-Wood has lost millions of dollars not just in the past nine years, but years before year 2000.

It has been my opinion not shared by administration and board that Bel-Wood should have been put on the market some years back with a contract that ensured an orderly transition period of years so that no resident was forced to leave.

My thinking was never put on the table. It was build new or renovate. When renovations estimates jumped from $12,500,000.00 in 2007 to $27-19 million in 2009, the board had no recourse but to vote to build.

In year 2000, the board did not act because they would have to borrow the money. No change today, all but $3 million of the estimated (highest scenario) $41 will need to be borrowed and in year 2012, Bel-Wood will be in heavy competition with the private sector whether administration of board members believe it or not.

The county board claims it must act now as the state is mandating nursing homes have sprinkler systems, a sprinkler system the county could have installed years ago. As well as a new roof which it has needed for years if the county keeps the old building for future county uses.

With over 400 empty nursing home beds available in the Peoria area today, Bel-Wood can hardly be called a safety net for the poor. More of a big risk for county property tax payers. Administration and consultants say not true. Only time, now, will tell.

Livingston Manor, a Livingston County Nurisng home, a benchmark used by our lead consultants MPA, is in the process of approval to be sold to a private nursing home in Woodford County.


Next challenge for the county and county taxpayers, the new museum.

Hmmmmmmm, again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Sorry, Karen, I thought with all the things the JS prints, this meeting should have had coverage. Certainly not your fault and I apologize to you. I also apologize to Administrator Patrick Urich and his management team for printing some things that I should not have printed.

Today, Administrator Urich and Financial officer Eric Bush gave the Health and Environmental Committee a well prepared and well presented overview of the new Bel-Wood. Also, a projected operating statement including all the variables I have asked for. Our Administrator and Financial Officer lent supporting figures showing that a new now $41 million (maximum scenario) Bel-Wood will be self supporting. Projected property tax revenue going to Bel-Wood would increase to about $4,500,000 a year by 2042 or 2043.

While I disagree with administration on some select issues, I reaffirm that we have the most competent administrator in Peoria County. I look to Patrick and his very knowledgeable staff to encourage cooperation from all employees to properly guide us through what I observe are the most trying times for a majority of the citizens we serve.

Karen McDonald's explanatory email follows:

I'm back to work today -- off Monday and Tuesday -- wanted at least to
let YOU know...
We knew about the meeting on Friday.I agree, it was important.
I was on "the desk" Friday, meaning, I was the assignment editor, worked
8 to 4 and thus not available to write any stories.
We had two interns. Both had other essential duties.
We simply had no one to send to the meeting. Frustrating I know, such is
the changing state of affairs.
I was off today and yesterday, thus I couldn't folo up. I see no one
else has, either, probably because they all are doing other things. I
said I could follow on the story Wednesday when I return. I'm back and I
Talk to you soon

Karen McDonald
Political reporter
Journal Star
1 News Plaza
Peoria, IL 61643
(309) 686-3285 - Office phone
(309) 696-6453 - Cell
(309) 686-3296 - Fax

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Supressed Local News - Financial Shortfall at Peoria County

I believe the Journal Star has some reason not to print some of the most important news. What these reasons are, I can only speculate. But here is some factual news about what is going on with the Peoria Board and Administration. Even though the JS had no reporter attending this meeting, they do have access to committee minutes.

At Friday's important joint meeting (attended only by a reporter from WCBU) chaired by two County Committee chairmen, one chaired by Michael Phelan and one by Jim Dillon, our County Administrator, Patrick Urich announced that the county revenues are in a steep decline (surprise??) and that we may run out of money in our reserves (cash) sometime at the end of year 2011 unless we change our spending ways. A plan was presented to offer certain employees voluntary early retirement. Discussed was to ask union members for certain concessions. Board member voted yes unanimously on both issues.

All capital Project expenditures are immediately suspended except any near completion. And perhaps, even some of them. Administrator Urich said that he was going to take a voluntary pay cut to lead the way in asking employees for pay cuts, voluntary retirement packages or wage freezes. Democrat Bud Sous asked if there were ways we could raise more revenue (interpretation - taxes or fees). I said, "sure, and drive more people out of Peoria County"

When asked, Administrator Urich stated the the $30 some million new BelWood had enough money to "build", a statement I questioned as we had not yet sold the $30+ million in bonds to finance the project and whether "build" included the $7 million or so "soft costs". I will continue to pursue my questioning and keep asking, "when is an 'operating statement' for the new facility is going to be made available to all board members? How can intelligent decisions be made if "profit and loss, revenues and expenditures" information is not available to the full voting board?

Since BW was supported by approximately $3 million in property taxes last year, this upward trend must continue for the next 30+ years. Obviously, yes, and by 3% EVA each year for 30 years+. But, if overall property taxes collected by the county continue to shrink, how will the deficit be made up? By lower wages, benefits, early retirement, layoffs, increased revenues, greater efficiency or more taxes on a soon to be greatly overtaxed community?

In 1998, 10 years ago, property taxes in the amount of $125,000.00 were collected by Bel-Wood. The facility showed a loss of $1,333,405. 10 years later, 2008, BW collected $2,971,245.00 in property taxes, showing a profit of $600,000 which included the property tax of almost $3 million. In the past 6 years, Bel-Wood has collected $14,274,842.00 in property taxes to MAINTAIN Bel-Wood.

A decision was made in 2002, to pay BelWood IMRF (retirement) and FICA out of non Bel-Wood funds. In 2004, these benefits amounted to $772,246. In 2008, these benefits, now including Medicare costs amounted to $1,220,636.00. These costs plus property taxes collected, indicate Bel-Wood was subsidized by at least a total of $4,191,881.00 in 2008. At one time, the board approved that $300,000 be taken out of the General Fund to install a partial ceiling; this new ceiling showing some damage from a leaking roof that should have been replaced in the early 2000's.

By government standards, which includes property taxes as income and other costs shifted away from a money losing entity, a profit can be claimed. By "business accounting" standards, substantial losses are occurring each year at BW. One county board member, Mayer, as well as Bel-Wood Administrator, Matt Neukirk, have publicly stated that that BW is contributing profits to the bottom line. And Carol Trumpe, Committee Chairwoman of the Land Use Committee, believes with the help of our consultants, BW is breaking even.

These facts are not acknowledged publicly or denied by our County Administrator.

All figures on this blog were obtained through county records and emails from county officials. What's happening at Bel-Wood is another illustration of the lack of transparency for the community. Stating the county is building a "safety net" for the poor, this county board and administration is building a continuing big loss leader supported by county rising taxes for the next 30 YEARS, committing a total of $62-80 million dollars ($1.2-!.6 million in yearly payments for the next 30 years) to a nursing home many feel, including myself, the county no longer needs to be in this non-mandated business or subsidizing BW which would mean less money extracted from county property tax payers.

Then, probably not. The money saved would be spent on other pending county projects.

Another fact not mentioned by the media, is that the county has already spent close to $500,000.00 in "soft costs" in planning and estimating consultants, etc. Soft costs may add as much as $7 million dollars to the "building" costs.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Peoria Area Firings and Layoffs

Reports indicate that the Peoria area businesses have either ceased operations, gone bankrupt, fired employees or laid off at least 9,000 workers in the past year.

Yet to my knowledge, not a single employee from the public sector has been laid off or fired.

Please correct me if I'm wrong as I am reminded daily how quickly the economy can and has changed.

On 4/24/09, union boss Mike Everett, who lives in Washington, Tazewell County, advised the best way to fight a recession and aid others, is by spending. He quoted Thomas Paine, "these are the times that try men's souls". Well, my friend Mike, lot's of people's souls have been tried in the private sector. Unfortunately, a lot of people have spent more than they can repay, a lot more are victims of rising taxes with little to show for the money spent and a lot more don't have the money to spend. Maybe Mike, who is a respectable gentleman, should take that almost half a million the union was going to gift to the museum and instead give it to the food pantries as he says we should do.

Oh, I forgot, building the museum is jobs but why haven't they stated building? All those private donations sitting in banks drawing little interest while building costs are escalating. Remember, Mark Johnson, retired from Caterpillar, who our administrator wants to hire to help him with the museum takeover, said rising construction costs caused the $65 million museum to jump to $78 million last year. If that is true then $78 million should jump to $93 million by the time they get started next year. The only thing the museum (county) is going to start this year is the $9 million underground garage, all taxpayer funded, thanks to our elected officials, past and present.

Well, I've tried to cheer everybody in the private sector up, and some in the public sector perhaps, and it's past my bedtime, so I'll call it a day.

Next week should be interesting, too.

Caterpillar News is Not Getting Any Better

This local company who has laid off or fired over 25,000 workers worldwide reported this week that retail sales of machines in North America for the three month rolling period ended May 31 were down 57% from last year's comparable sales.

On April 9, Caterpillar announced that they were suspending all cash payments to the planned downtown museum (they would continue to make matching gifts from employees and retirees) and that the Visitors Center spending plan would also depend on the economy. Stock was trading at $33 and change at the close of business Friday.

However, none of this bad news and the financial distress of Peoria County has stopped the county administration and board from moving rapidly to take possession of the museum.

When the Titanic was sinking, the captain was assuring everyone on the dance floor or at dinner that his ship was "unsinkable". No, we are not the Titanic but most experts are predicting a flat economy maybe stretching out five years.

By the way, has strong museum promoter CEO Michael Bryant resumed building at his Methodist Hospital?

This local scenario is interesting as this recession plays out and how people react when "facts" get in the way of their expansive plans.

Luciano Chronicles

The JS columnist and WMBD-AM radio personality was charged with misdemeanor battery, so says the company he works for. Some too late advice for Phil, at the age of 45 it is not wise to be in bar's at 1:15 A.M. on a Saturday night especially if you are going to make early Mass on Sunday.

Anyway, good luck.

Symptoms of the Recession in Peoria

I drove north out Allen Road last week and turned into the entrance to Augusta Estates.This once gated community is now "gateless". Could it be because 8 out the first 9 houses I saw were for sale? Wonder if the property taxes on these "for sale" properties have been reduced?

I do a lot of wondering these days especially as I wind down my last term as a member of the Peoria County Board. Particularly I reflect on a quotation attributed to recently deceased philanthropist, Bill Rutherford, "You know, most people live like a bug on the surface of the water. They never look too deeply at anything. They don't think enough. They ask too few questions. Worse, they don't care".

I wonder how the Journal Star tomorrow is going to report on the financial distress at Peoria County. Bel-Wood costs county property tax payers close to $4 million out of the $25 million property taxes projected to be collected from county property owners this year. Back in 2003, in the April General Election, yes it was the only General Election that year, only 25% of the registered voters came out to vote and approximately 10,000 voted to MAINTAIN Bel-Wood as the promotional hype was that the poor would have no place to go if BW closed. Now in today's JS, comes a Dave Weiman (no listing for him in the phone directory) who says his group "has not taken a position" on building a new BW, but he has recommended a concept called Green Houses, where 12 elders would live in a small, home like structure on a landscaped campus...." What Mr. Weiman leaves out that all "Green Houses" that have been built or in the process of some type of planning or development, are either privately funded or funded by religious groups.

Sure, as I advised the County Board at Friday's special meeting to discuss how to handle our financial distress, keep sticking the property tax payers in Peoria and wondering "Where is Everyone Going" "Census Report Shows Peoria County Loses Population...'., JS 6/18/09.

Whike we were discussing ways to reduce costs, Democrat Bud Sous was asking how the county can raise revenues. Way to go, Mr. Sous. Bud is a city fireman with the prospect of a "substantial" pension. And Republican Carol Trumpe was saying "now that Bel-Wood is making a profit.....".

Good grief.

Terry Bibo - Column in Today's Journal Star

Terry wrote a good summation of my day in court. Thanks, Terry, I appreciate your coverage.

I cannot comment on my case against the city as Judge Vespa is allowing both parties to file any additional or supplemental affidavits or pleadings on July 31, 1:00, in Room 210 in the Peoria County Court House.

I can blog about some events leading up to my decision to sue. The accident happened last August. I had asked my insurance company to collect my $500 deductible. When I was notified by them that they could not collect my $500 deductible, I considered suing and to represent myself as I felt I could get this maybe 40 year dangerous situation corrected. I felt it should have been reconstructed many years ago for the safety of all vehicles exiting Oak Cliff Park to Lake Ave.

Eventually, I learned that the city's insurance carrier had notified my insurance company that the accident area was the responsibility of the Greater Peoria Sanitary District. At my request, a GSPD Engineer came out with his computer and quickly determined it was not in any way connected the GPSD.

I enlisted the help of City Councilman Gary Sandberg, who interrupted a Yankee baseball game he was watching and rode his motorcycle out to the scene of the accident. From there, he called City Planning Director Pat Landes, who came out in the evening hours to look at the problem area. I very much appreciate Pat's concern and dedication to her job.

I knew if I called Gary to visit the scene of the accident, Gary would take an interest as Gary has great concern for the well-being of the citizens of the City of Peoria. I had previously told then City Councilman Patrick Nichting who represented the district where I live. He said that he would check into it. Sometime later, he suggested I contact David Barber, Public Works Director. I did and Mr. Barber told me he would personally go out and look at the problem area.

The winter season changed to spring and no corrective action had been taken. The 12" deep "hole" was scarred all along the edges showing many vehicles had accidentally dropped into this "hole" (storm water inlet) over the years.

My thanks to Gary and my appreciation of Judge Joe Vespa's concern for the safety of the citizens and visitors to the City of Peoria.

And thanks again Terry for a well written "Widmer Fights City Over Big Hole".

Friday, June 19, 2009

That's Our Man, Richard

Credit for this summation of Richard Durbin is at the bottom of this blog. All my readers, or now ex-readers, who think Durbin is a friend of ALL the people can "have a go" at refuting this compilation. Otherwise, I think this is a fairly accurate background on our man in D.C.

My re-publication of this article should not cause the reader to believe I support all the statements printed on this page. Durbin has supported causes that did and do benefit most people of all parties.


June 18, 2009

U.S. Senator representing Illinois
Compared America's treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the manner in which prisoners were treated by the Nazis, the Soviet gulags, and Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge
Staunch supporter of gun control, abortion rights, and organized labor

The Washington Times reports that on September 18 of last year, Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois participated in a closed-door meeting with then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who briefed Durbin and other congressional leaders on the gravity of the financial crisis. The next day, Durbin sold off $42,696 in mutual-fund shares, and subsequently sold off another $73,000 during the remainder of that month. Then the stock market collapsed. By October 3, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had plunged by 9 percent; by October 17, it was down over 22 percent. In 2002 Durbin, who has been one of the Senate's most outspoken critics of the alleged greed of Wall Street bankers, complained that corporate executives guilty of insider trading did not face sufficiently severe criminal penalties. "I think it is odd," he said, "that a shoplifting actress in Hollywood [Winona Ryder] is facing more time in jail than any officer in Enron."

Born in November 1944 in East St. Louis, Richard Durbin was raised in southern Illinois by parents who were active trade unionists. After earning his undergraduate degree (in Foreign Services and Economics) at Georgetown University in 1966, he attended Georgetown Law School and received his Juris Doctorate in 1969. Durbin worked as Legal Counsel for the Illinois Lieutenant Governor from 1969-73, and for the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee from 1972-82, before serving in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983-96. He has been a Democratic U.S. Senator representing Illinois since 1996.

As a freshman member of the Senate Government Reform Committee in 1997, Durbin skillfully helped deflect the well-substantiated allegations that the Bill Clinton White House and the Democratic National Committee had received campaign contributions from Communist China to influence the 1996 elections. In 1998-99, Durbin was one of Mr. Clinton's most ardent and effective defenders during the President's impeachment proceedings.

In the aftermath of the Clinton administration, Durbin consistently provided vocal opposition to the presidency of George W. Bush. In 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report blasting the CIA for its inaccurate pre-war judgments about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and absolving the Bush White House of any blame for the intelligence failures. Nevertheless, Durbin wrote a column in The Washington Post claiming that senior Bush administration officials "should have been more diligent in challenging the validity of analytical assumptions and the adequacy of intelligence collection and reporting."

Durbin's voting record on immigration issues is worthy of note; on most occasions, he has voted against bills designed to strengthen the integrity of America's borders and to maintain firm control over the influx of foreign-born immigrants. For example:
In 1996 Durbin voted against mandatory workplace-verification programs.
In 1997 he voted in favor of amnesty for nearly a million illegal aliens from Nicaragua and Cuba.
In 1998 he led an effort to grant amnesty to 50,000 illegal aliens from Haiti, plus their families.
In 2000 he voted in favor of amnesty for illegal aliens from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti.
In 2002 he supported a bill to grant amnesty and in-state college-tuition benefits to illegal aliens; in 2003-2004 he co-sponsored another bill that contained similar provisions.
In 2003, 2004, and 2005 he co-sponsored bills creating amnesty for illegal agricultural workers.
In 2005 he voted against an amendment to provide funding for additional border-patrol agents.
In 2006 he voted in favor of an Immigration Reform Bill that would have created a path to citizenship for all illegal aliens who had resided in the U.S. for at least five years.
Twice in 2006, and again in 2008, he voted against bills to finance the construction of several hundred miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In 2007 he voted in favor of a proposal to end the use of a point-based immigration system, (I.e., a system that seeks to ensure that people with skills that society needs are given preference for entry into the United States).
Also in 2007, he voted in favor of a bill to fund the REAL ID Act of 2005, which proposed to set minimal security requirements for state driver licenses and identification cards.
During his years in the Senate, Durbin has supported the use of military force by Democratic presidents but opposed it during Republican administrations. For example, on January 12, 1991 (during the George H.W. Bush presidency), Durbin voted against authorizing the invasion of Iraq pursuant to U.N. Security Council Resolution 678, in the wake of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. A few years later, however, the senator voted repeatedly to support President Clinton's military ventures in the Balkans and Iraq. But in October 2002 (when Republican George W. Bush occupied the Oval Office), Durbin voted against the joint resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq.

Although Durbin voted in favor of the Patriot Act in October 2001, he has repeatedly criticized it for what he perceives to be its excesses. In 2005 he introduced legislation, the "SAFE Act," proposing to repeal several key elements of the anti-terrorism measure.

For an overview of additional key votes that Durbin has cast during his legislative career, click here.

In 2004 Durbin took advantage of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal to capitalize politically, introducing legislation to reaffirm the U.S. ban on torture and grilling White House counsel Alberto Gonzales on the issue during the latter's confirmation hearings to be Attorney General.

Durbin also joined with several of his Democrat colleagues in calling for the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, where al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists and enemy combatants were being held. On June 14, 2005, Durbin went to the Senate floor and likened American techniques of interrogating the Guantanamo detainees to methods used by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and the Khmer Rouge. Specifically, after reading an account which claimed that detainees were being held in rooms that were either too cold or too hot, and where loud rap music was being played, Durbin said:

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

Durbin's remarks were subsequently exploited for propaganda purposes by anti-American organizations like Al-Jazeera and others. Nevertheless, Durbin initially refused to express remorse for his comments. Eventually, however, he issued a tearful apology on the Senate floor.

Senator Richard Durbin's Voting Record

Senator Richard Durbin's Voting Record
By DiscoverTheNetworks.org
June 2009

During the course of his legislative career, Senator Richard Durbin has voted:

in favor of a 2003 bill to ban oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;
against major tax-cut proposals in 1999, 2000, 2000 (again), 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2006;
in favor of a 2008 bill imposing a 25 percent tax on the "windfall profits" of major oil companies;
against a 2006 proposal to create military commissions to try unlawful enemy combatants for war crimes they had committed against the U.S.;
in favor of separate proposals (in 2006 and 2007) to impose an arbitrary timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq;
in favor of a 2008 amendment removing telecommunications companies' immunity from the FISA Amendments Act of 2008;
in favor of affirmative-action policies awarding preferential treatment to business enterprises owned by nonwhite minorities and women;
against separate proposals (in 2004 and 2005) to ban lawsuits against gun manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers for damages resulting from the misuse of their products by others;
against separate bills (in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2003) designed to ban the late-term procedure commonly known as "partial-birth abortion"; and
against a 2004 proposal to make it an added criminal offense for someone to injure or kill a fetus while carrying out a crime against a pregnant woman.

Forwarded to me by Robert Huschen, a staunch Republicn and pro-life supporter. Bob is a resident of Woodford County and Mayor of Roanoke, Il.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bel-Wood Safety Net - Or Local Nursing Home Competitor? Part 2

Last night, the County Board approved by a 16-2 vote to build a $37 million new BelWood. Yet JS newspaper reporter, Karen McDonald, keeps writing the project will cost the property tax payer $26-29 million; sorry, Karen, it's $34-37 million by estimate. Since the county only has $2 million of the estimated cost, administration plans to borrow the money paying it back over 30 years with an ACTUAL cost of $62-80 million. Not including the subsidies (property taxes and IMRF, FICA, Social Security. etc., totaling over $3 million that BW receives annually and growing. This information is all a matter of record. Karen also said I made the motion to defer committing more taxpayer dollars until after we work out our CURRENT DEFICIT. Pat Hidden made the motion and I seconded it. Karen, check last night's board minutes. Small stuff, I know, but we are all obligated to get right what we print for others to read.

Over at least the past 10 years Bel-Wood Nursing Home has had a very poor track record. We have gone through at least 8 administrators, interim administrators; one interim, was our States Attorney, and management groups. Our current BW administrator was hired on On May 19, 07. Our outside Project Management & Coordinator (MPA, from Chesterfield, Missouri, who is charging Peoria County $1,300,000 plus, who wrote to our County Administrator that to renovate the existing 40 year old facility would cost $21,000,000 (this cost varies depending on which report you wish to believe, it's now up to $27-29 million) including lost revenue from patient transfer. Also, that the existing building would not have a COMPETITIVE dementia facility. Competitive against who? Bel-Wood is being sold by the consultants, the administration and the board as a SAFETY NET FOR POOR PEOPLE. In several places throughout the consultants recommendations is wording that Bel-Wood would not be "competitive" unless we built a new nursing home.

The administration and the board are compassionate board members looking out for the poor while the county uses a tax collecting nursing home to compete against the tax paying local nursing homes?

The construction company, different from the Project Manager, will receive 4.5% of the total cost of the facility. The same construction company did the renovation cost and the new build cost. They will send out the bids and recommend to the board the contractors to do the the construction. It was pointed out by our project consultant that "low bid would not necessarily be the one the contract is awarded".

Since a voters referendum was approved in 2003 to MAINTAIN Bel-Wood through tax rate hikes, BW collected over $14,500,000 in property taxes and used that money to pay off $4 million in previous debts and most of the balance to make up yearly BW deficits. The county also paid roughly $1 million a year ($1.2 million in 2008) in retirement, FICA, Social Security and Medicare payments totaling over $4 million more in subsidies but still evidently didn't have enough taxpayer dollars to make the necessary repairs as needed to properly maintain the nursing home. (7/04/09 CORRECTION) Figure of "$4 million more" should be a total $2,3871,568.00 from property tax subsidies. Sorry, I added direct and indirect taxes and then added indirect taxes again.

Board member Allen Mayer insisted that BW is making a profit. But then Allen is a Democrat working down in Springfield. Probably on the states budget? Hmmmmmm. So why didn't we do the maintaining of BW instead like we do the County Courthouse, part of the courthouse or Caterpillar headquarters built before BW was built...??

Republican Board Member Carol Trumpe also stated the BW was making a profit. Now you see my dilemma on the County Board and why both Democrats and Republicans have trouble getting things right in Springfield and DC.

OK, more competition to the private sector who PAY taxes rather than COLLECT them.

Hold your hat because in a few more years, Peoria will be right up their with the highest property taxed citizens in the nation.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bel-Wood Safety Net - Or Local Nursing Home Competitor?

After the full board approves the building of a new Bel-Wood believing they do not need to bring the issue to the public, I will blog on the dialogue and facts presented or not presented.

One fact that Bel-Wood was fined $10,000 for failure to provide adequate service to residents. Board Member Bob Baietto told me he was not aware of the fine yet the one line info was in our board packet weeks ago. (At the board meeting last night, he said I was wrong and that he did lnow we were fined and what we were fined for. So what were we fined for doing wrong, Bob? No one seems to want to say so let's hear it from you.

Another is that we all agreed we needed a sprinkler system at BW and collected over $14 million in property taxes since 2003 that went directly to Bel-Wood. Why didn't we install one years ago like in 1999, estimated cost $2 million, as recommended by then County Administrator, Jim Dakin? And why not a new roof that has leaked for years?

With property taxes totaling $14 million and other subsidies totaling almost $5 million ("other subsidies of $5 million" is not correct, closer to $1.5 million, sorry) made by the county to BW starting in 2003, the question is, why didn't we put on a new roof and put in the sprinkler system?

And our BW administrator said on 12/17/2007, we were making a profit at BW? When we were taking in all this taxpayer money?

Of course, we all know there is no glory in "renovating". "New" in Peoria, is in.


I hit the wrong key and this blog published so I'll leave it and add other details why BelWood operations have been the major concern of the county for at least 15 years. Lawsuits? "Of course", said States Attorney Kevin Lyons, "every nursing home has them". But as big as the one we recently settled for over $300,000.00??

Stay tuned.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Spotlight - Journal Star Editorial Page Saturday, June 6 Edition

In year 2000, Bel-Wood Nursing Home census was close to capacity: 290 clients in a 300-bed facility. In May of 2003, it was 271; this year it was 266 - 15 Medicare, 54 private pay and 197 Medicaid. No growth, no waiting list. Budget estimates were to average 275 clients. The board and administration wants a new building to house up to 230 clients.

Hard constructions costs range from $26-$29 million; soft costs will make it $34-$37 million. Renovation of the present facility is estimated to be $27-$29 million. The local company we hired to oversee the construction did both estimates. Their fee is 4.5 percent of overall costs, with add-ons.

In 2007, a paid firm did a study for renovating Bel-Wood, including sprinklers, new roof, plumbing, electrical, etc. The estimated cost was $12.5 million. With lost revenues and soft costs, our new consultants now say the actual costs would be $21 million. The new building's soft and hard costs are pegged at $37 million - a spread of $16 million. Not chump change when the county is facing a deficit of almost $4 million.

The bond to finance this new building will be 30 years, with principal and interest payments of between $2.1-$2.6 million per year, totaling $64-80 million depending on the bond rate.

In 2003, the county asked for a tax increase to cover Bel-Wood's operations. The referendum read: "Shall the maximum rate of the tax levied by Peoria County for the purposes of MAINTAINING a County nursing home, Bel-Wood, be increased from .025% to .06%?" (emphasis mine). It passed by a 3-to-1 margin. Bel-Wood collected $2,971,245.00 last year in property taxes.

I suggest that if that money had been spent to maintain the building, it should be in pretty good condition. It is only 40-some years old. Yet our consultants and our administration say Bel-Wood is in "poor condition."

On Dec. 30, 2007, County Administrator Patrick Urich was quoted saying the county wanted to use the 2003 tax, "for capital improvements or build a new building." Last week, the Facilities Committee voted 4-1 to recommend that a new building be built. The administration and most of the board believe the 2003 referendum and the later "public facility tax" give the county the authority to do as it wishes.

More and more I am hearing that if we don't do certain things as Bel-Wood, we will not be competitive against the private sector. But that's not its job. Private nursing homes aren't encumbered by museums, jails, juvenile detention centers, roadways, health departments, landfills and elections. Bel-Wood was to be a safety net for the poor.

Many taxpayers like myself believe that times have changed and nursing homes belong to the private sector. With the county running a deficit, the world in a recession with no real "promise" of an end in sight, I believe we should do the necessary renovations - new roof and sprinkler system, mainly - and not add another potentially high cost to the community, or we should sell the business to the highest responsible bidder and write the contract to allow all residents to leave by attrition and reserve a specified number of beds for Medicaid residents.

From: Merle Widmer [mailto:merlewidmer@msn.com]
Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2009 2:36 PM
To: Chris J. Kaergard
Subject: Re: Bel-Wood Spotlight piece

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Bel-Wood Spotlight Column in Today's JS Opinion Page

My column and Phil Salzers column in today's JS Spotlight on the opinion page are worth a read. I will blog more information on the subject tonight or tomorrow.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Keep Checking My Site

I'll be back. I've been doing a lot of research; we have two strong bids from WM and PDC to expand and operate the City/County Landfill. Four hours of testimony and questions this morning. Two massive hard copy presentations to try to understand. Full Board meeting tonight on County issues. Peoria County is in pretty strong financial shape as are our fund balances. We carry less than $2 million in debt. I am in full agreement with Administrator Urich that we wan't to maintain a strong financial position. We are not in agreement on some spending but our full board advises our administrator.

We've lost some money on investments but so have most other governmental bodies not to mention the private sector. (Includes me) All capital expenditures are on hold.

I wrote an "Opinion" on Bel-Wood that will appear in the JS this weekend with Board member Salzer writing an opposite opinion.

Doing a lot of reading. playing tennis plus I seem to have less energy than I had 5 years ago. Hmmmmm.