Several years ago, the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce appointed a task force to look at what we might do to improve the communication and decision-making process between various units of local government. Based on this study-and some work we'd been doing on Vision 2020-the Illinois River Valley Council of Government (IRVCOG) was formed two years ago. The IRVCOG is an organization of local government officials. At this time, it consists of general-purpose governments: representatives of counties, townships, and incorporated areas (cities and villages.) This allows elected officials to meet monthly to develop plans for the future; jointly solve problems; share information; and coordinate programs, projects, and activities. It's a member-driven organization and doesn't have any governmental power.
Our IRVCOG has a regional vision to increase population, residential development, and economic expansion for more jobs; promote the visitor-based economy; improve the efficiency of services; reduce the cost of government; and create a positive business climate and better mobility within our region and to and from the world.
We developed the IRVCOG for several reasons. We believe many of our problems and opportunities are most effectively addressed on a regional basis. For example, with storm water management, it's important that adjoining governmental jurisdictions plan and work together. This allows us to reduce confusion among developers and reduce unnecessary competition between various jurisdictions.
There's also simply a need for elected officials to get to know each other so they can call each other when there's a joint concern or an opportunity to work together to solve a problem. Previously, there had been no forum to plan for our region's future, to discuss issues, or to resolve any problems. Because of the number of governmental bodies, there's a significant overlap of services and some resulting inefficiencies.
The IRVCOG, which has been developing and implementing plans, has established four overarching goals: greater government effectiveness and efficiency, consistent land use and development process, creating an environment that supports an expansion of our regional economy, and supporting improved educational quality.
While we have a number of projects, some of the most current and significant include: agreeing on a regional response to storm water management; developing a model stream buffer ordinance for drainage; consolidating lobbying to show our agreement on highway projects such as the Eastern Bypass and bridge, the retention of our Air National Guard unit, and generally working on projects of mutual value; discussing the regional regulation of business so there's increased consistency and a positive business climate throughout our region; working on a regional housing inventory; and reviewing land use, zoning, building codes, and other elements of development regulation.
We've enjoyed a number of successes. Through coordination, we've improved our emergency response capability with plans for greater interoperability of communications equipment, allowing emergency agencies to "talk" to each other. We're working on training for officials, and we obtained a grant for the public transportation study. We believe we can be more effective in Springfield or Washington, D.C., if we can speak with one voice to advocate for key items for our region.
In addition to the efforts the IRVCOG has undertaken, we want to participate in regional economic development efforts and regional efforts to improve the quality of education. Because of the Illinois River Valley Council of Government, local governments are able to provide more value to our citizens and make our region a more attractive place to live. IBI