The year 2000 is almost here. We've been so preoccupied with potential "Y2K" problems in our computer-driven society that we've neglected the obvious opportunity to wax nostalgic about the end of another year, the end of a decade, the end of a century-the end of a millennium.
The millennium is a bit hefty for comprehension. After all, Peoria's entire history fits into only the last few centuries, and our own personal histories, a matter of decades. We're not even that excited about a retrospective of the city and its surroundings-or even just a century's worth.
So let's talk about "modern" times, say the last few decades. There will be naysayers–primarily our colleagues in the media–who will feel the need to remain "objective" in their analysis. That means they'll divvy things up, as they always seem to do at the end of each year, between bad and good with the "bad" being more dominant. After all, that's their forte–focusing on those things that upset people.
We're not so inclined. We think we have to talk about the bad things–if only to put the good into some perspective. As our friends at Caterpillar are wont to say to market analysts, you have to look at things over a long period of time–take a long-term view. When you do that–when you look at where we've been and how far we've progressed–then you see the negative headlines for what they really are: a snapshot view of central Illinois having a disagreement. What a snapshot view doesn't show us, however, is that the disagreements are eventually resolved and we make progress! In a way, it proved Fredrick Engels old theory about thesis-antitheses-synthesis. Someone makes a proposal–there's opposition to it–and (eventually) we reach a compromise.
So let's start out with some "bad." Pick any point in central Illinois history. Look at the newspaper headlines for that period, and you'll find plenty of bad. For instance, there's no shortage of controversies right now–Hooter's, a water company buy-out, a downtown ballpark, the proposed Recplex, a proposed Woodford County golf course, the Edison Project in Peoria's schools, an argumentative Peoria City Council, the proposed Promenade Mall–and those are only a few.
In the late 1970's a handful of Peorians decided the community needed a civic center. Despite vocal opposition, they persisted, and now that complex plays host to concerts by major stars, touring theatre productions, Bradley basketball, Rivermen Hockey, Pirates football, the IHSA boys basketball finals, an incredible array of conventions and conferences, and a whole lot more. I don't know what we'd do without it.
Or how about the early 1980s, when it looked like the Peoria area was going to fade from view (a popular bumper sticker at the time: "Will the last one out of Peoria please turn out the lights?" Well, we're still here. Caterpillar and other area businesses are much stronger and our economy is much healthier. In fact, it's now "in" to be from a community like Peoria (where you enjoy many of the benefits of a much larger city without all the accompanying headaches.)
Much of the city's near south side ("Southtown") was essentially razed in the '80s. But it sat as empty space for almost a decade. Now there are precious few lots remaining–and it has become a major growth area for the city.
Then there's the riverfront. It was once a thriving commercial transportation hub, providing a key link for the area businesses. But railroads and trucks (with the interstate) took the river out of the commercial transportation business (for the most part) and the land just sat neglected for decades. That has changed–big time! Oh, we're disagreeing over what the final arrangement should be (hence the dispute over Hooter's, the Sears block and so on). But what a positive change! We predict that things along the riverfront will be thriving in the next decade, and we'll have moved on to some other controversy.
What's our point?
Simply this, there are those who accentuate the negative–they feel more comfortable doing it or it's part of their job. But most of the time, the negative elements around us are only there for a finite–hopefully short–period of time. It is not the past that is important but rather lessons from the past. The parties disagree, but out of that disagreement comes progress.
It that's a "Pollyanna" approach, so be it. It beats being a "Scrooge." Besides our glasses are clear (not rose-colored). We realize and participate in a whole bunch of disagreements at the moment. But we also realize that they are short-term verbal feuds that eventually produce good things. IBI