How long have you been a council member?
I’ve been an at-large city councilman for 11 years. I’m completing my third term of office.
Who or what inspired your desire to seek office?
One factor was an official denial that we had a gang and drug problem in Peoria. As a dean of students at one of our large city high schools, I knew the truth. The other factor was my investment in a home downtown, where code enforcement and prostitution issues threatened the integrity of the neighborhoods. I decided to run to do what I could to deal with these problems.
What’s been the most challenging issue you’ve faced as a Peoria City Council member?
The most challenging issue is to continue to develop effective strategies to tranquilize the older neighborhoods and restore property values and peace of mind for all of the residents. We can’t afford to lose our Bluff and Valley neighborhoods. No amount of annexation will carry this city if this is allowed to happen. I’m hopeful that downtown revitalization will bring energy and reinvestment back into our older neighborhoods.
What’s your “pet issue”?
A key issue is making more progress in our older neighborhoods and developing the political case to purchase the water company. I believe public ownership would be a huge financial windfall for our city and result in a half billion dollars remaining in this community during the next three decades—money for the benefit of our people instead of foreign private investors. Currently, we’re being exploited and charged abnormally high prices for water. This impacts our schools, industry, businesses, and citizens.
Is there a common misperception about you or council members in general that you’d like to clear up?
There are some who criticize the council for having vigorous and open debate. As long as it doesn’t become personal, this is a hallmark of a vibrant, open society and city government.
What issue are you looking forward to tackling soon as a council member?
Preventing continual foreign ownership of our water system is critical. We’re blessed to sit atop a beautiful and bounteous aquifer. The people should have control here. Also, I feel the potential contamination of this water supply would be devastating. No one can convince me that the expansion of the landfill is a wise move. All liners eventually will leak, and I think the 730-plus local doctors who took a stand on this issue were courageous and foresighted.
What are the keys to a successful future for Peoria? How can the council help?
We must make wise decisions. History requires that we continue to diversify our economy to make medical the top employer, thereby placing Peoria squarely on the map as a world-class healing and medical research center. The council already has made this a priority. We also must realize that tourism eventually will be a huge draw to central Illinois as the Museum Square project comes to fruition. This will fit nicely into all of the historic destinations in our state, including the presidential sites—all within a day’s drive of Peoria.
What advice do you have for members of the public who want to be part of city decisions?
Study the issues. Get involved. Run for office or support those who believe as you do.
What’s surprised you most since becoming an elected official?
The number one thing I’ve learned is how wonderful and fair-minded the people of this city are. Those in the national media who attempt to portray Peoria as backward or less than progressive are woefully misinformed. I love Peoria and Peorians. IBI