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Like those of you who enjoy reading InterBusiness Issues each month, it is difficult to realize another year is almost history. And what a year it has been as we continue to struggle with the challenges of a very slow economic recovery and cope with the accompanying uncertainties this brings. And yet, the holiday season of giving thanks for our blessings and celebrating the beauty of our spiritual beliefs offers new hope and promise.

You will note a consistency in my iBi columns. Early in the year, I offer my State of the City comments, and I like to end the year with words of thanks for our local public servants. This December is no exception, and I submit my personal “thank you” for the true gift of local public service. It is a true gift because most citizens are reluctant to stand before their neighbors and friends and say, “Here is what I believe and what I will do; please vote for me.” Thank goodness some of our fellow citizens are willing to come forward.

It is in the belief that there is a renewal of hope and promise that I share a few thoughts from a mayoral and local government perspective. What better time than this to pause, count our successes and plan as best we can for a new year?

Peoria, like our peers in other units of local government, has carried the burden of economic malaise more than those at the federal and state levels who dictate much of the framework within which we function. The City cannot print and issue more currency. We cannot continue to pile on debt which simply postpones the day of fiscal reckoning. No, we must live within our means with the recognition that the citizen taxpayer faces tough choices just as we do and cannot afford higher expenses for essential local government services.

We have had to make very difficult decisions as to the prioritization of services, levels of staffing and planning for the future. These decisions required courageous leadership from the city council, solid and dedicated staff work by our administration, and continued commitment by our volunteers on more than 30 boards and commissions.

So first, I offer a word of sincere and humble appreciation and thanks to our city council. On a daily basis, they have to balance the demands of their “real” lives with the constant “inbox” of public service. Of course, we may not agree on all the policy choices before us, but we are united in our dedication to the best interests of this city.

And even with the so-called mid-term elections just behind us, we have elections this coming spring for the five at-large council seats. And as a matter of fact, these coming elections also include two District 150 board members. Increasingly, the city and school district share a common destiny. And so it is that having committed and serious-minded people stand for elected office is so critical. It takes leadership, courage, hard work and long hours. But it is worth it, and I will continue to do my part to help identify brave and dedicated souls to place their names on the ballot. Those who choose to serve in the public arena are offering the “gift” of talents, treasure and time for the overall benefit of Peoria.

I am also thankful for and mindful of the quality work of our administrative team, who takes the council’s policy decisions and carefully crafts the operational plans and programs to make them work. It’s been said that “it takes a village to raise a child.” I would paraphrase this and say that it takes a well-run managerial team to make a village exist in the first place. It is with personal gratitude that I acknowledge their professionalism and dedication.

And let’s acknowledge the legions of unpaid volunteers who dedicate their energies and skills to the work of our boards and commissions. Peoria could not function if not for their efforts. They help us plan for the future; they help us select the finest police and firemen; they help us make sure our operations favorably impact the environment; they help us reach out to our sister cities; they help us monitor compliance with our ordinances so there is consistency and fairness in application. And these examples are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Of the many dimensions of my job as mayor, it is the identification and selection of our fellow citizens to fill the seats on our advisory bodies that I find most satisfying.
As we give thanks and look to a new year, I would like to end with a personal note of admiration, respect and affection to our friend and colleague, Councilman George Jacob, and his family. He is recovering from a terrible accident that took place on Memorial Day. The constant love of his wife, Jeannine, five children, parents and close friends continues to sustain him. We continue to pray for his full recovery and strength, and God’s grace for his family.

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