A Publication of WTVP

Peoria city government, like other units of local government, is towards the end of the food chain in terms of realizing the positive ripple effects of a slowly recovering economy. For this reason, it is imperative for those of us entrusted with leadership positions to find “better ways of doing business” in order to live within our relatively tepid revenue outlook and steady demands for more municipal services—and the overhead that accompanies these services, such as escalating pension and health benefit costs.

Even before my second term as mayor, I had searched for policy and operational options different from the “old” way of running municipal government. There are a number of initiatives underway to fundamentally change the way we do business in policy, structural, managerial and physical terms. If these initiatives produce the benefits I have observed in governments elsewhere—and in businesses—we should be able to successfully navigate the still-rough economic waters with stability, affordable costs and confidence.

From the policy perspective—that is, the overall directional guidance provided by the City Council—the initiatives we have underway include “Strategic Planning and Leadership” (What are the best policy pathways—our vision and goals—for Peoria?), and a “Core Services” review (What products and services do we want to provide—and can afford—in the future?).

The “Strategic Planning and Leadership” initiative is underway with the assistance of municipal consultant Lyle Sumek, who helped guide the Peoria County Board to a clearer understanding of achievable policy goals. Closely allied to this is the “Core Services” review, led by Caterpillar strategic planning expert Tim Cunningham and a group of volunteers representing small business and labor. I asked for this core analysis during my State of the City address this year. A central policy question for the City Council is: “What are the critical products and services expected of an urban community such as Peoria?” Mr. Cunningham’s group evaluation will help provide answers.

The findings of the policy initiatives will fold nicely into the second set of efforts to improve our efficiency and effectiveness—the structural framework. For several years, the City Council has recognized the need to reconfigure the administrative organization in order to become a leaner and more affordable city government. And of course, with consensus on what are in fact our “core services,” reorganization can proceed within a template of transparency and agreed-upon vision of what we want to be as the central local governmental entity in the Tri-County Area.

The “managerial” dimensions of our initiatives to determine and implement the city government most responsive to citizen expectations rest upon the findings and conclusions of three efforts: Peoria Area Shared Services (PASS) Forward, led by retired Caterpillar executive Doug Crew; the City-County Intergovernmental Communications Ad-Hoc committee, chaired by Councilman Bill Spears; and a high-profile project of Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard and Sheriff Mike McCoy to identify possible areas of law enforcement amalgamation of (some) services.

The common denominator of these three activities is the tax-paying public who support both the city and county governments. If we can, in fact, achieve operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness by merging, melding or sharing some city and county services, we are providing the taxpayers the ultimate “bang” for their buck…and in the process, our city manager and his team will be able to manage within a clearer environment of what is expected, what is affordable, and ultimately, what is most effective.

The final, and in many ways, most important ingredient in our initiatives is the recently approved comprehensive plan and future land use map. This is the tangible blueprint of our vision as an urban community. I can’t say enough about the outstanding work of the Planning Commission and our Planning and Growth Management Department in leading and completing this four-year-plus project. Commission Chairman Ray Lees and Planning Director Pat Landes and their teams deserve to take a bow for a job very well done.

We are beginning a new era in Peoria city government. The recruitment of an experienced and accomplished city manager and the swearing in of new council members offer a generational opportunity to make ourselves the best we can be for the benefit of the citizens and taxpayers of Peoria. I cannot predict the outcome of our various initiatives, but it is fair to say that the serious review and revamping of our policy, structural, managerial and physical foundations promote the public good and advance commonly held expectations for higher quality of life, all within the vision of a growing and vibrant community. iBi