The past two months has seen an exciting slate of ideas and dreams generating tremendous enthusiasm in the community. Ranging from the announcement of the capital campaign for an expanded world class Peoria Zoo, to engaging world-renown museum planner E. Verner Johnson to identify the best downtown location for the Lakeview Regional Museum, to Mayor David Ransburg’s announcement of the Greater Peoria Vision 20/20 process and, most recently, Andres Duany and the DPZ’s week-long exercise that resulted in the presentation of the New Urbanist approach for developing the City of Peoria. Everyone seems to be talking about the future.
As Mayor Ransburg pointed out in his announcement, the biggest obstacle to overcome will be the “negative 20 percent”— those people who will be negative and non-supportive of every idea, project, etc. In the days since DPZ’s presentation, the negative 20 percent started to emerge. Some are already saying the city can’t afford to do anything because of its current economic situation—comments such as Peoria isn’t an urban area where living is desirable, District 150 will never be reformed, and older people will never want to live in the city because they’re moving to the Sun Belt region. The negativity goes on and on.
If there ever was a time for all Peorians, especially the business community, to be bold, it’s now. Now is the time, as Duany pointed out, for Peoria to think “world class” (he’s probably repeating what David Bielfeldt has said about the airport and Peoria). Duany challenged Lakeview Regional Museum officials to conduct an international search when selecting an architect. He noted a project of this magnitude and importance to Lakeview Regional Museum and downtown Peoria could begin a world class reputation for the city.
Does anyone actually believe a continuation of the past 20 years in Peoria will result in any real opportunities for Peoria’s future? Does anyone believe minor enhancements or improvements to Peoria’s schools, riverfront, Main Street, airport, highway system, downtown, etc. will have any real long-term benefit for growth in Peoria?
And what about Caterpillar’s future in Peoria? Since the decision by Boeing to move its headquarters from Washington to Chicago, our community has become very uneasy about Cat’s future in Peoria. Certainly many cities around the country would love to have Cat’s corporate headquarters move to their location and would offer huge incentives to recruit them. Does anyone believe continuation of the status quo will strengthen Caterpillar’s commitment to Peoria 10 to 20 years from now? Caterpillar, like the rest of us, needs an environment where the next generation of workers will want to move.
If Duany is correct that the workforce of tomorrow can perform many services in any area they chose in the country, then Peoria must be as bold as it can be since Peoria, indeed, will compete against cities like Chicago, New York, Seattle, Denver, and, potentially, international cities.
Only by being as bold as possible with our vision and plans for the future will we have any opportunity to set ourselves apart. Peoria once was the gold standard. Only by being bold can we return to that level. After our plans and visions are determined, discussion of how to implement them and the cost of doing so will be considered. But not now.
Let’s show the negative 20 percent their time has come and gone. IBI