Thursday, February 26, 2009

The rise of the common man

First I shall state right up front that this is not an anti-museum post. Truth be told, my shallow self is rather keen on the idea. What mother of 2 young children wouldn't like the idea of another entertainment option for her family? As a Realtor, offering another amenity to an out-of-towner who is considering job offers in multiple cities may increase the likelihood of selling that client on Peoria rather than, say, the Quad Cities. I also like the idea of special projects being funded through sales tax rather than picking on the already strapped homeowner via increased property taxes. Let those who visit and work but don't live here share in the love.

That said, I am also tickled to see the emergence of Citizens for Responsible Spending for a variety of reasons. For one thing, if the proposed museum is all they say and more, it should stand up to the light of day. Hopefully museum advocates realize that Peorians are not so naive to realize that despite the onslaught of slick full color glossy photo brochures, the presence of a museum has a flip side. That flip side of course boils down to more dollars and cents out of our collective pockets. That flip side means that delivery of other city services may be compromised. For instance, my puny little mind worries that perhaps even more Peoria city streets will be coated with the oil and chip (or as I call it molten lava and shards of glass from the street to your living room) surface.

There is only so much water in the well folks, and we should know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. All projects in this day and age must be put under the microscope. Let the public hack away at it like kids at a pinata party. Examine all its warts pimples and imperfections, the good the bad and the ugly. Community leaders should not marry an idea until it has been fully vetted by all those they expect to pay for it. All citizens should have an ownership interest in the outcome. The same principle applies to our public schools who have already been put on notice. If the plans survive the process (consider it a primary) then we can consider it worthwhile. If the public feels they entered into this project with eyes wide open, when and if things go wrong, we can all hold hands and still be friends.

The days of carte blanche do-whatever-you-want management are coming to an end, not just in Peoria but everywhere. Karrie Alms, the leader behind Citizens for Responsible Spending reported on WMBD today that she asked repeatedly to be part of the town hall hearings regarding the upcoming museum tax referendum. She wanted to present the case for voting "no" alongside the case for voting "yes". She was flatly denied. It seems they didn't want a public "debate". Bad move. We must let dissension be heard... or expect more public resistance groups like this to form from anyone with a connection and a brain. It sounds messy and troublesome, but eventually the powers that be will catch on, adapt, and deliver better thought out and more stream-lined projects.

Myself, I'm not sure how I'll vote come April. I'm leaning towards "yes", given shallow reasons noted above. However, being the average finicky depends-on-the-day type voter, there's a good chance that if our street isn't swept by then, I'll vote "No". Sad, but true.

Added text 2/27: They say the increase in tax would equate to 25 cents on every $100. purchase. If that is going to be a dealbreaker for the consumer, um, maybe they should be re-considering the purchase.

3 comments:

Billy Dennis said...

Decay is all over the place in this city.

Take, for example, eastbound War Memorial Drive approaching the Glen Hallow shopping center. That stretch of the road has no lighting whatsoever. That's bad enough, but the lines separating the lanes is almost worn away. The seams in the pavement don't match the lanes, and every single night SOME driver ahead of me almost drives off the road because of it.

I can go on.

There the two-foot long, tire killing run in North Street in front of Central High School that I have to dodge every morning.

There's a segment of west-bound War Drive near Willow Knolls shopping center that's like an obstacle course, there are so many bone rattling potholes.

Get in your car and wander around the South Side one rainy day and marvel at the standing water.

You would think city government would concentrate on essential services -- like roads, sidewalks and draining.

But no.

The people who make the decisions in this city are convinced we need to use every single available form of tax revenue building boondoggles like the museum.

Bread and circuses, people. Bread and circuses.

Karrie E. Alms said...

Diane:

Thank you for your honest post. You are correct - it is about the process and the spending. Let's have public input at the front or beginning of the process. After all, taxpayers are paying for any given 'public' project whether sales, property or some other tax whether local, state or federal.

Gone are the days of the telegraph. The internet is a wonderful tool to research best practices and success stories for effective development application to create a healthy and vibrant community in Peoria.

Of course we would like everyone to vote down the referendum. At the end of the day, casting an informed vote can only occur if access to information for both sides can be presented and disseminated in a timely fashion.

Unfortunately, many public projects are advanced on a two day lead time --- eg: Friday debut and a Tuesday vote. This type of timing creates little time to gather the details needed to make an informed vote unless you are seriously following the particular issue being discussed. And where is the public input if the project is already in 'finished' form? Just how many people can attend open meetings during the day while trying to retain employment?

So, thank you for the dialogue. CFRS still hope to persuade you to the NO column. Please check our website --- www.nomuseumtax.org for additional information and features will be added as we post in our 'spare' time.

sugar'n'spice said...

My street looks just like yours, after the City resurfaced it last summer. They promised to come back to sweep the street after a couple of weeks, but they never did. We now have black gravel (or whatever that is) covering our sidewalks and spilling onto our driveways. What a mess! As to the museum, I also have mixed feelings. Sure, it would be nice to have a museum, but not so nice to pay another tax. I'm glad the tax would be for the County, not just those of us who live in the City of Peoria, but I would rather have it be supported by private funds or a Tri-County tax, as I'm certain folks living in Metamora, East Peoria, Pekin, etc., will use the museum, as they do our Peoria parks without paying a cent. Also, 25 cents on a $100.00 doesn't seem like much, until I realize that we spend at least a thousand dollars in Peoria each month, resulting in about $50.00 a year and extrapolating to $600.00 over twenty years. That's really a lot of money for my family to put into the museum. And, while it has lots to offer, I doubt that I will go more than once or twice a year, just like the zoo. Also, I really like the more central location of Lakeview Park, which is within 10 minutes drive, versus going downtown, finding a place to park, paying to park, etc. Also, while I might walk through the African American and I. H. S. A. sections of the museum once, I wouldn't go through them more than once. While Lakeview Museum is for the Arts and Sciences, I haven't seen anything about putting art in the new museum. I think they plan to have science, history (we don't have a museum of history in Peoria, so that would be good), African American history, I. H. S. A., and the Caterpillar Visitors Center. I'm surprised Caterpillar won't build their Visitors Center without the museum, but that's what they say. That alone could be draw in visitors, although, again, I probably wouldn't go more than once. So, I need to decide how to vote pretty soon, and I'm still not sure.