"Don't stop thinking about tomorrow, Don't stop, it'll soon be here, It'll be better than before, Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone. Why not think about times to come?"
-"Don't Stop"-Fleetwood Mac
(…with apologies to Bill Clinton)
So here we go into another year. So much happening-and yet to happen-that it's easy to be out of breath at this, the starting line. Much will change here in the coming year, and there's no reason that change can't be for the better.
Our hopes for the year-as in any year-remain focused on economic growth and improved quality of life. Sure, those are motherhood and apple pie, but they benefit everyone.
There are pitfalls out there. Misdirected governmental priorities continue to pose the most serious threat to development and the quality of life here. We'll follow those closely in the coming months, but for now, let's look at events worth following in 2004.
Caterpillar negotiations. If there's one pending event that has the community holding its breath, it's the upcoming Caterpillar-United Auto Workers negotiations. Certainly, both Caterpillar and the UAW have responsibilities to their shareholders and members. At the same time, both have responsibilities to the community. And high among those is keeping-maybe even returning-jobs here. Don't get me wrong: Both the company and the union make contributions to this community that make it what it is. And because not everything they do is visible, neither gets the full recognition deserved for those efforts. It's no secret this past year hasn't been kind to central Illinois in terms of manufacturing. Job losses at Keystone, Komatsu, Rohn Industries, and Maytag number in the thousands. This area is all too strong of a reflection of what's happening statewide and nationally. Middle-class manufacturing jobs are disappearing, and communities live in fear of offering just white collar and minimum wage opportunities. The dream of a pleasant year would be realized if the negotiations end with both groups addressing the community and pointing with pride to the impact the new contract will have on the Peoria area.
The children. For all our concerns about this development or that road being so important to the future of the community, the real future rests with the children. We all know that, but few of us have the commendable boldness of the East Peoria Chamber, which endorsed a sales tax hike to help its troubled districts. It's a fact of life that the success of schools is directly related to the involvement of parents. But what about business involvement? Is there a role local businesses, the businesses that rely on the products of those schools, can play? Is there a business role outside the traditional structure of schools and taxes? We think there is, and we plan to look at it in the coming year.
Peoria City Council/mayor election. Wow, what timing! If tip-toeing around over-inflated egos, turning the other cheek to sophomoric name-calling, and an inability to herd cats are issues, the incumbent mayor could be in trouble if he runs. In terms of the council seats open, it behooves every facet of the community to pay close attention not only to the candidates, but who their friends-and enemies-are. The tail must not wag the dog. At this early stage, we'd settle for a signed pledge by every candidate that he/she will do nothing that could land us on the national news. I boast no future-telling abilities, but I'm reasonably certain there has never been an election in the city's history that deserved more attention from the business community. Think of your attention to and involvement in the last election, and "kick it up a notch."
It's too early to say if 2004 will be pivotal in the area's development. Nonetheless, it won't be boring, and it won't be unimportant. IBI