We've recently begun holding a series of town meetings for the citizens of Peoria in an attempt to establish an additional process for citizens to understand what's going on in the city and to share their concerns with the city council and city staff.
The first town meeting took place January 29 in District 1. City Councilman Clyde Gulley and our new City Manager Randy Oliver hosted the meeting. Eight council members and several city staff members joined them. There were approximately 60 interested citizens and representatives of the media also in attendance.
City Manager Oliver gave a brief presentation explaining some of the financial issues of the city and discussed a number of projects underway. The meeting then turned to a question-and-answer session where people could express their concerns.
Some constituents expressed a feeling that the south side, as part of the 1st District, is neglected and that they don't get their fair share of public support. It was pointed out that we've recently instituted a Problem Oriented Police Program (P.O.P.) to focus on some perennial hot spots where additional police help is needed; a litter program, which has been designed to clean up neighborhoods that need help; and the employment of multi-departmental teams, or Neighborhood Enhancement Action Team (N.E.A.T.), to deal with multiple problems that occur with problem properties.
There was some additional concern that there isn't sufficient activity with regard to economic development on the south side and that minority-owned businesses don't have an equal opportunity to grow and prosper. There was discussion regarding a disparity study undertaken to determine whether minority businesses have been getting their fair share of potential business. A suggestion was made that the city should consider starting some small, low-tech businesses in unused or under-utilized facilities. City staff suggested the Heart of Peoria Plan should result in some economic development, which should benefit the people on the south side.
City Manager Oliver asked that a 12-person committee be assembled to help him deal with some of the top line issues in an orderly fashion.
The second town meeting took place February 26 at Lakeview Auditorium and was hosted by 4th District Councilman Bill Spears and City Manager Oliver. This meeting was attended by 60 citizens and seven council members. Again, City Manager Oliver gave a presentation, and then a question-and-answer session was conducted.
The Illinois Department of Transportation provided an update on the I-74 reconstruction. This was very informative and well received.
There appeared to be two primary concerns in the 4th District. One is an ongoing storm water drainage problem causing serious erosion. Over the years, the city has attempted to solve these problems on an individual property basis. In spite of what's been done, the work often is washed out by additional developments up stream.
There was discussion that perhaps the only way these issues will be solved on a long-term basis is to formulate a systemic solution to deal with a whole area in an orderly fashion. We pointed out the only way the city can do this is to have access to the properties causing the problem. Because this will be expensive, funding will be a serious issue. At the present time, the city doesn't have funds to undertake such large projects. We'll investigate the possibility of creating a storm water utility, which would be a vehicle other communities have used to fund serious storm water control problems.
The other major concern dealt with the quality of curbs and sidewalks, particularly when repaving is done, which causes build-up; and when there's a small curb, essentially elimination of the curb. This allows water to wash through people's yards. It was suggested that perhaps with a change in participation or doing repairs on a more systematic basis, we can get a long-term solution to these problems.
We're in the process of scheduling town meetings in the three remaining council districts and look forward to continuing to inform our constituents and receive feedback. I hope you'll participate by attending one of these meetings. IBI