Rightly so, the City of Peoria is receiving a great deal of attention. The council meets this month with a new mayor and two new council members. But it's more than just new members. These weren't open seats. The incumbents ran-hard-and were defeated.
It's nothing new for officials to win office on agendas that don't necessarily have every detailed line filled in. Nor is it unusual for incumbents to lose their seats on a single vote that isn't even miniscule in importance to the countless other decisions they made in their elected careers. It's the way our system works, and it's worked quite well, thank you, for more than 200 years.
It doesn't take a television talking head to figure out that the Peoria election turned on a perception of long-term vs. short-term priorities. The majority of voters were of the mind that the pendulum of public focus had swung too far in favor of the former at the expense of the latter. Now it's time for thousands of others to worry that the opposite could occur.
Obviously, successful cities strike and maintain a balance. Their decisions are proactive, and they seem to have well-thought-out answers to the proverbial "what if" questions.
Crime seems to have moved to the forefront of public opinion. People need to be-or at least feel-safe. Without that most basic foundation, all else is for naught. Assuming we can't have a police officer and a fire station on every corner, the council's life boils down to priorities. What will come, what will stay, what will go? Some interesting times are ahead for all of Peoria.
It's important that the council doesn't ignore the cause while treating the symptom. Getting criminals off the street is a worthwhile, albeit expensive, objective. Keeping people from becoming criminals in the first place can pay enormous financial benefits.
As priorities are set, serious devotion to a "get crime" agenda means looking at city expenses with an eye toward their individual impact on not just current crime, but preventing future crime.
Much is being done now. It wouldn't be fair to all those involved with the numerous programs that make a positive impact on Peoria to come up with a list and claim it to be all-inclusive. Nonetheless, some things pop quickly to mind:
- Workforce Development. Its work is critical to our economic vitality. People need to be trained to do the jobs of the future. If we could eliminate unemployment and under-employment, would there be many criminals left?
- The Med-Tech District. If we don't have the jobs of the future…
- District 150. The city can't prosper if its schools don't prosper. Many potential city actions here would be valuable investments toward reducing present and future crime.
- A business-friendly environment. What's the source of the city's economic vitality? What would be the impact of empty storefronts?
- Quality-of-life investments. Why would people want to move to Peoria, to stay in Peoria? The old days of creating jobs and waiting for people to come are dying. Young professionals today move and expect the jobs to come to them. The more diverse a community, the more they're attracted. That means we need businesses, activities, and attractions that not everyone may use-or even like.
The "more services, less cost" wins elections. Prosperity comes from reasoned decisions regarding which services and at what cost. IBI