Previously, I explained that one of my goals as Peoria County Chairman is to improve communications between my board colleagues, countywide elected officials, department staff and with you, the citizens we serve. To date, citizens in Peoria County have only played a small role in the decision-making and policy-setting processes of county government; decisions and policies that, not coincidentally, affect those same citizens.
In fact, many citizens never get involved in local government beyond Election Day. And one in five Peoria County residents of voting age does not even get involved on Election Day because they are not registered to vote. Of those registered, typically only 50 percent elect candidates to represent them in local, state and federal units of government; the other half do not vote. And in Peoria County, approximately 40 percent of the people elect government officials who make decisions and set policies for the whole.
Citizen engagement in local government is as important to effective governance as getting things done and measuring the results. Toward that end, Peoria County offers ways, other than at the ballot box, for citizens to express themselves: they can speak openly at public meetings, committee meetings or board meetings and they can call or email their representative directly. These venues are the status quo, however, and Peoria County needs to do more to advance citizen inclusion.
For an organization that puts most of its effort into getting things done and measuring results, citizen participation in these efforts is somewhat lacking. Where are the citizens when we decide what needs to get done and which results to measure? Without citizen input, who can say that what we are accomplishing is what you really want or that our achievements are the results you actually desire?
You are to say this and as your County Board Chairman, I help create more avenues for you to do so. Thus, aligning county government’s goals with its citizens’ by improving communication and creating and strengthening partnerships is a top priority during the next two years. For us to be effective, our vision for the community’s future and yours must be one and the same.
During the first quarter of 2007, Peoria County will be developing a citizen survey to more accurately determine your priorities relative to the community. This baseline survey will include questions which assess citizens’ current perception of Peoria County and the services we provide. Thereafter, citizens will be re-surveyed frequently to ensure congruent goals and to gauge improvement by measuring results. Also beginning in 2007, we will create citizen focus groups to gain further insight into citizens’ needs and desires.
Please watch for these and additional opportunities to become more involved in local government by sharing your opinions and ideas. All government exists solely because of and for the people it serves. Peoria County government is committed to engaging those people, our citizens, in the decision-making and policy-setting processes for our future. IBI