Monday, March 21, 2011

Peoria City Council Candidates Survey

Peoria Illinoisan Blogger posted these questions to the candidates on his blog site. Here are the answers. Note some did not answer which was their prerogative.

It is interesting that Eric Turner didn't have time to answer the questions. Put Eric Turner in my blog search bar. You will find my blogs on his failures to address concerns of citizens. I'm not alone.

Here are the questions and answers.

Merle


Peoria City Council At Large Question #2 Illinoisan
Do you believe Peoria is moving in a generally positive or negative direction?

Beth Akeson: In general I think we are on the wrong path because of a lack of vision, planning and very poor land use decisions.

George Azouri: I believe Peoria is moving in a negative direction. One major problem is that citylacks a long-term vision. The city does not put enough emphasis on the importance of protecting business owners and their businesses. The natural gas tax will adversely hurt businesses along with homeowners. To grow as a stronger city, we must encourage business owners, instead the council continues to impose new taxes and fees. The council squander taxpayer’s hard earned money on unwise investments. Some of these investments would include Firefly Energy and Globe Energy Eco-Systems LCC.Why in the world should we, as hardworking taxpayers, foot the bill for the council’s poor investments?

The time has come to listen to the priorities of the citizens on how they want their budget to be allocated. That is one thing I think we need to always do – are our city goals in line with the goals of the citizens? As I work with the community, the most important thing I need to do at this point is to earn the public’s confidence and trust because I’m going to be representing their interests. So when I have been speaking, I have been speaking in principles and those principles are really what is going to lead us to becoming an efficient and responsible government. There must be open, honest, transparent government. For example, the hotel deal was done behind closed doors. It is not conducive in building trust between the taxpayer and their representatives. This style of conducting business is at the heart of citizens expressing concerns about issues of trust. Lack of trust creates resistance to a number of projects in our city impeding progress for the entire community.

Chuck Grayeb: I believe with the needed course correction in the area of public safety and District 150 we can get our city back on track. This is Peoria’s Sputnik moment. In a couple of years, the water company buyout issue will reemerge. I hope the outcome will be different than last time, when we failed to buy it by one vote. If the San Koty Aquifer were oil, we would all be rich Emirs!

Gary Sandberg: Generally Negative. I feel this because even when it appears the Council recognizes the value of all portions of Peoria and create a vision and plan based on our diverse community and undertake massive and costly initiatives like the Southtown Area, the Downtown/Civic Center area, Development of the Heart of Peoria area with its form based districts, we limit our ability for success by never following thru in a comprehensive fashion. Selling a half block across from the new front door to a massive investment in the Civic center for $400,000 to build a blank wall one story limited use building is as negative as adopting the Heart of Peoria Plan and then granting variances or not following the principles at every opportunity. While engaging in these massive failed planning opportunities, we inadequately fund the basic core services that citizens and business expect of their local government.

Actions compounded like these result in getting farther and farther away from a community where the whole community has value, not just the fringe around the north and west sides.

Jim Stowell: Our medical and educational community is moving in a positive direction. Our global visibility is enhanced through Caterpillar’s dominance, but Peoria suffers due to perceptions and realities of an unfortunately growing poverty base that is not being productively engaged, or challenged.

Ryan Spain: The Great Recession has created challenges for all communities and taxpayers. Nonetheless, Peoria has weathered the economic storm better than most communities. City sales tax revenues are beginning to return. Jobless claims are dropping. And businesses have begun to invest again.

I think Peoria is moving in a generally positive direction. However, we need to work harder to create jobs, attract population growth to older neighborhoods, and ensure that our City budget is balanced and our local government is operating effectively.

Christopher (C. J.) Summers: Generally negative.

Eric Turner: Declined

Chuck Weaver: I believe we are at a critical time for Peoria and our country. This is a time when true leaders are necessary. Leaders who can influence others to action. My plan for “Revitalization Cells” is designed to engage D150, The City of Peoria, The Peoria Park District and the Citizens of Peoria to pull in the same direction to improve and stabilize neighborhoods in a systematic manner. I have been asked to lead numerous organizations. I can cast a vision, engage others in planning and implement a plan. I can’t wait to get started. Put me in coach.

Andre Williams: No response

This entry was posted on Friday, March 18th, 2011 at 6:00 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 Responses to “Peoria City Council At Large Question #2”
walk of shame Says:

March 18th, 2011 at 8:05 am
I love C.J.’s answer…to the point!

Eye in the Sky Says:

March 18th, 2011 at 10:03 am
Spain needs to ride with the 10 cars in the East Bluff on a nice warm night like lastnight .

I want to see CJ articulate his answers like he does his blog and so how stupid some of the others really are.

Tony Says:

March 18th, 2011 at 10:11 am
Why did Turner decline?? Hopefully, he will be declined. How come nobody mentions the new Library that no one can see. It’s a beautiful building but it is hidden behind a Menards. What a waste.
CJ, to the point. Gary, is spot on. Beth appears to have it right. Spain is full of BS as is Weaver. Bench them both. Grayeb appears stuck on an old issue, the water company. Williams apparently has no clue. Azouri makes some good points but not sure if he is right for the job.

PeoriaIllinoisan Says:

March 18th, 2011 at 10:17 am
Five days after my initial email, Eric Turner said he was too busy and was not given enough time. At that point I thought it unfair to the rest who did take the time, to extend the deadline.

Andre Williams responded almost immediately that he looked forward to engaging my readers, but I never heard anything more from him even with several follow-ups.

They are both more than welcome to add their answers as comments.

Voter Says:

March 18th, 2011 at 1:32 pm
While Summers’ answer was to the point, for someone who has never been on the council, he needs to elaborate more. What I liked about Spain’s and Weaver’s answers was that they are thinking positive, something this city needs a lot more of. That being said, I’m not voting for any of those three.

C. J. Summers Says:

March 18th, 2011 at 2:03 pm
I guess I thought he was looking for a short answer, given the wording of the question.

The negative direction of the city can be seen in two primary and related ways: our ever-increasing structural deficit and the desperation/fear-oriented decisions of the Council.

The structural deficit is a combination of several factors. The federal and state governments have cut their subsidies to cities and will probably be cutting them even more. Then there are the unfunded mandates (in particular, the pension system) over which we have no local control. But setting those aside, the City has contributed to the deficit by making unwise decisions on projects such as MidTown Plaza, Firefly Energy, and the expansion of the Civic Center. These all contribute to our debt service, and as Gary Sandberg has pointed out, if our debt service were a city department, it would be the third largest department in the city.

Our deficit problems are exacerbated by the council’s desperation mentality. You can see it in Turner’s defense of the Wonderful Development (downtown hotel project): “If we didn’t give them $37 million, they would have built the hotel in East Peoria.” You can see it in Grayeb’s defense of his vote in favor of MidTown Plaza: “I saw there was a developer who was actually willing to build something south of War Memorial Drive; I was thrilled!” You can see it in the variances that are given to the zoning code. You can see it in the way we give Wal-Mart and pizza parlors Enterprise Zone status for their greenfield developments. You can see it in the common refrain from several council members that “something is better than nothing,” as if “better than nothing” is the best we can expect in Peoria.

The result is that, in order to pay for all these poor decisions and developer welfare, we either have to cut our core services or raise taxes. The council did both. A 1% tax was levied on the Hospitality Improvement Zone. A natural gas tax was levied on everyone, including District 150. Since District 150 can only raise revenue through property tax increases, guess how they’re going to pay for the additional costs of the city’s natural gas tax? That’s right; they’re going to raise your property taxes. (I call this “the city raising property taxes by proxy.”) At the same time, fire equipment maintenance and replacement is being deferred and police officers are being laid off. And the city’s infrastructure continues to crumble.

For those reasons, I believe Peoria is moving in a generally negative direction.

C. J. Summers Says:

March 18th, 2011 at 2:13 pm
Vonster: I like positive thinking, too. But positive thinking doesn’t really answer the question. In order to come up with the right solution, you have to correctly identify the problem. Otherwise you can be all positive and happy, but you’ll only make things worse. What if the positive thinkers believe the problem is that we’re not investing enough in the hotel project? Or that we’re spending too much on firefighters?

My answer to this particular question may sound negative, but I have a positive vision for the future of Peoria. And I believe the fact I’m running for council shows my desire to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Eye in the Sky Says:

March 18th, 2011 at 9:26 pm
NEVER give the short answer. You hit the nail smack on the head. It does sound bad but you’re right if you don’t see the problems how can you fix them or avoid making REPEATS.

Billy Dennis Says:

March 18th, 2011 at 11:07 pm
Even if you disagree with C.J.’s answer (and I am sure there are those who do) you have to agree that his answer is a real answer that provides voters with real information and a sense of how he would vote on the council.

That cannot be said for some who answered this questionnaire.

Voter Says:

March 19th, 2011 at 6:57 am
I liked this answer. It was way better than the short answer. You are totally against adding anything to debt services (not saying that is a bad thing) so what is your plan to bring businesses to Peoria?

C. J. Summers Says:

March 20th, 2011 at 12:43 am
Voter: I don’t believe the role of municipal government is to give out direct subsidies to businesses — i.e., we shouldn’t be paying businesses to set up shop in Peoria. Rather, the role of municipal government is to create the market conditions that will attract businesses, and provide a level playing field where all businesses have the opportunity to succeed, not just a privileged few.

I believe a basic services platform is a pro-business platform. Safe streets, excellent fire protection, good planning/code enforcement, and good infrastructure benefit everyone — businesses and residents alike. We have to create and maintain a place where people want to live and work — then we’ll see growth. And when the city grows, the tax base grows. And when more people live here, it creates a market for more businesses.

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