March is finally here—less than three weeks until spring! This has been one of the coldest, wettest winters we’ve had in quite some time. All the snow took a toll on our salt supply, and our roads are showing the wear and tear of extreme temperatures, moisture, chemicals and snow plows. We must give a lot of credit to our now not-so-new director of Public Works, David Barber, and his team for a very good job of snow removal this winter. Long hours, hard work and a considerable amount of planning seem to have paid off. After the winter weather is officially behind us, we’ll take another look at the snow plan to make sure we’re doing our best at snow event management.
The search for a new city manager is currently in progress. Interim City Manager Henry Holling has been at the helm for several weeks now and has spent a lot of time talking with council members, department heads, community leaders and citizens to get up to speed on city issues. I don’t expect the City Hall machine to coast during this temporary time of searching for a new manager—Mr. Holling will challenge the council to keep moving forward, and he has hit the ground running.
The city manager’s job is an important one, and we plan to expedite our search and find a well-qualified person who will progressively and aggressively move Peoria forward. The Council and I would like to see this process completed in 90 to 120 days, and I am confident we can accomplish the task.
I also expect that Mr. Holling will help formulate plans to hold a serious discussion regarding rental properties. Council members Manning and Jacob, among others, have been working with our department heads from Zoning and Code Enforcement so we’ll have the necessary information when discussing rental properties and their impact on the city, especially in our older neighborhoods.
I expect discussions in the coming weeks pertaining to the proposed downtown Hospitality Improvement Zone, or HIZ. We’re exploring options that would help those within a specified downtown zone to finance improvements to their properties. Economic Development Director Craig Hullinger has been working diligently on this proposal, and I am hopeful that the discussion will help to answer the important questions relating to our need for additional hotel rooms downtown.
I would like to invite you to participate in planning Peoria’s future. We are in the process of working on our Comprehensive Plan, which serves two major functions for a community. First, it sets an overall vision for the growth and development of the community over the next 10 to 20 years. Second, it establishes the legal basis for a zoning ordinance and for development control over a one-and-a-half mile area outside the current city limits. Please visit our Comprehensive Plan website at planpeoria.com, where the Comprehensive Plan Survey is available for viewing and commenting. I also encourage you to attend one of the final three general public meetings this month. The final dates and locations are:
- 6pm, March 5th at Woodruff High School
- 6pm, March 12th at Manual High School
- 6pm, March 19th at Peoria High School
Many thanks to Planning and Growth Management Director Pat Landes, her assistant, Ross Black and their entire staff, along with Planning Commission Chairman Ray Lees and the rest of the Commission for many hours of hard work on this effort.
Peoria Promise was the subject of a considerable amount of attention last month. Through the generous contributions of Caterpillar, ELM, Illinois American Water Company, RLI, OSF Saint Francis, CEFCU, Commerce Bank, AmerenCILCO, the Hotel Pere Marquette, and David Vaughn and Associates, we are on our way to providing the funding that will allow our children to attend Illinois Central College starting with the fall class of 2008. These community-minded companies who share this vision of providing enhanced educational opportunities for our kids made this possible. Make no mistake—we have a long, steep road to climb to get Peoria Promise endowed. I urge you to do your part for our community and get involved.
Don’t forget that Peoria Promise is the beneficiary of this year’s Pere Gala on May 2nd, when Michael Israel will bring his unbelievable “Art in Concert” show to the Pere Marquette. This is a show unlike any you’ve seen in Peoria before, and it will sell out quickly. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call (866) 376-8886. To preview the Michael Israel show, visit michaelisrael.com. You may want to wear a seatbelt!
March is typically an exciting month for us. This marks the 13th year that the March Madness Experience of the IHSA Boys State Basketball Tournament has played in Peoria. We are anxious for thousands of out-of-town guests to descend on Peoria for two weekends of great high school boys’ games. The vision of Steve Kouri and others to move the tournament to Peoria was a huge coup, and it has paid dividends many times over. You can’t put a price tag on the exposure we get from this tournament, as it provides a wonderful opportunity to showcase our city to tens of thousands of visitors every year. We all look forward to the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Peoria this month too. Everyone’s Irish on March 17th! I hope you all come downtown to enjoy one of the most popular and fun-loving parades of the year. IBI