On January 25, I presented the Mayor¹s State of the City address to a large crowd at the Holiday Inn City Centre in downtown Peoria. I appreciated the opportunity to summarize the first nine months of the new administration. The address also afforded me a chance to identify areas of focus for 2006 and to challenge those present to get involved in our efforts to set Peoria apart as a model city in the Midwest and in the entire country.
We¹ve got a lot of work to do, but I¹m confident that the good people in our community will step forward to help us reach our potential. I urge you all to give serious consideration to joining the team now. It¹s going to be an exciting year, and with your help, we¹re going to make definite forward progress.
The need for stronger, closer, and more proactive relationships with area school districts has been a major focus of mine. Meetings between area administrators and school board members from area school districts have taken place, and they¹ve pledged to continue meeting. I applaud District 150 Superintendent Ken Hinton and President Butler¹s board in particular for their efforts to get their fiscal house in order.
The Business Focus Group is examining the city¹s regulatory structure, and their recommendations to make Peoria more competitive and business-friendly are expected very soon. I also commend The Community Group, which will address crime issues and recommend workable solutions to reduce them. The $150,000 earmarked in the 2006 city budget to utilize technology in our struggling neighborhoods is their main area of focus.
In the past year, more than 700 acres were annexed into the City of Peoria, and millions of private dollars will be invested in sewers, land acquisitions, and new development in the next 15-plus years. The nearly two-year-long efforts of Councilman Patrick Nichting, as well as staff, developers, and other intergovernmental groups, will bring in nearly half a billion dollars in new market value to the City of Peoria. In addition, we have the Caterpillar Visitors Center, the museum, Renaissance Park, the zoo, and many other projects gearing up. We recently broke ground at the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center too. You¹ll also hear more about the Peoria Wireless Initiatives, which are looking to put our area on the map as an advanced technology community.
The State of the City allowed me an opportunity to challenge our business community to help me in some endeavors I feel will increase our chances of success even more. I announced a proposal to utilize a city-school liaison to foster better communications, as well as work with our state and federal legislators to identify new funding opportunities for our schools. I requested a person or group of people come forward to lead an endeavor to get clean-up efforts in our city under control. Our business leaders were challenged to participate in a summer jobs program for kids, especially our disadvantaged kids. Lastly, I explained a plan called the ³Peoria Promise,² which is based on a similar program in Kalamazoo, Mich. The premise is to offer local students an opportunity to receive college scholarships to Illinois colleges based on the length of time they¹ve attended local schools. The amounts are dispensed on a sliding scale, with those who¹ve been enrolled since kindergarten eligible for the largest scholarship. More details of this exciting plan will be coming in future months.
Many people have contacted me to volunteer their time to participate in these new programs. I hope you will too. If you¹d like to view the entire content of the State of the City address, you can view it through the city¹s web site at www.ci.peoria.il.us. If you¹re interested in volunteering, you can contact me at [email protected] or 494-8558. IBI