With 2006 being the first full year of this new council, I’m looking forward to a full year of planning and focused efforts on the many initiatives going on throughout the city. The council will start the year with an exercise to evaluate our city manager and advise him of our expectations for 2006. This is a process the council goes through every year, and it’ll be the earliest the evaluation has been conducted in my nearly seven years on the council. The evaluation will be helpful to both the council and city manager. It’ll help the council reach a consensus on priorities. The manager will take this direction and utilize his staff to the best of his ability to achieve our goals. The process sets the bar and allows us to measure what’s accomplished this year versus our expectations.
I’m optimistic that one of areas the council will give direction to is the Heart of Peoria Commission. I’ve had several conversations with the chair and other members of the HOPC and feel a real need for the council to give them a more defined agenda for what we want them to achieve this year. This commission has proven to be very time-consuming for both the commission members as well as our staff, who provide support. I’ll appoint a new chair to carry on where Ron Budzinski left off. Ron has done an outstanding job of getting this undertaking off the ground, and he’s hopeful he’ll be able to stay on as a commissioner and contribute to their success.
The 2006 agenda for the HOP Commission hopefully will include getting Peoria’s Form Based Code written and implemented. It’s been suggested that the HOPC enabling ordinance be modified with defined expectations and timeframes for project completions.
I also will form a city council budget committee that will work with the city manager starting almost immediately this year in framing how the 2007 budget deliberations will be handled. My feeling is that if the mayor and council clearly identify consensus priorities to the manager and staff early on, the budget presentations will more clearly represent the budget of those elected and, therefore, allow the budget process to be council-driven and less contentious.
A council-management group also is looking at the city’s current policy regarding longevity payments to employees. There’s a majority on the council who’d like to see this policy change significantly, and we’re looking forward to the recommendations from the cooperative group when they come forward in the next month or so.
The council budgeted funds for my initiative to utilize camera technology in some of our troubled neighborhoods to combat crime. Other initiatives also will come forward from the Crime Focus Group. In addition, the education focus group continues to meet, and a full year of working together should provide our area with promising ways we can work together to improve on our education system.
I’m confident 2006 will be a very good year for the Peoria area, and I’m looking forward to working with the council and the community to make significant forward progress. IBI