Thursday, March 12, 2009

Opinion: It's time to Build the Block - Vote YES on museum referendum

originally posted at the Peoria Pundit March 12, 2009
You’ve heard the arguments. It now boils down to a simple “yes” or “no” vote on an election day (April 7th) ballot referendum.

At issue is are you, a taxpayer, willing to pony up roughly $17. per resident per year to construct and maintain a fully interactive, state-of-the-art regional museum on the former Sears block in downtown Peoria?

After taking months to absorb the entirety of the facts, fallacies and feelings I have come to the conclusion that your answer should be a Hell, yeah. More specifically, A vote of YES to the final ballot question of:

To pay for public facility purposes, shall Peoria County be authorized to impose an increase on its share of local sales taxes by one quarter of one percent (1/4%) for a period not to exceed twenty (20) years? This would mean that a consumer would pay an additional twenty-five cents (.25) in sales tax for eery $100. of tangible personal property bought at retail. If imposed, the additional tax would cease being collected at the end of twenty (20) years, if not terminated earlier by a vote of the county board.

Below I have outlined my reasons in no particular order:

It’s not just about the numbers: Museum advocates and foes have bandied numbers back and forth to the extent that it will make your head spin. Many people realize that creative use of statistics can substantiate anything you want them to, on either side of an argument. The reality is, the whole project from a money standpoint, as in any large commercial endeavor is nothing more than what we call in the real business a SWAG – a sophisticated wild-assed guess. If anyone really knew how this thing would fly financially before it was built and operational they would have made a killing on Wall Street and be living on a private island. What museum foes have been ignoring is that for many, it is not about the numbers. It is about the opportunities the museum will offer to present and future generations of Peoria children. It will spark curiosity and imagination and broaden their understanding of our history, our universe and humanity’s place in it. These are intangible benefits that can not be bought or appraised. They are what Mastercard would consider, priceless.

The cost per taxpayer will not be burdensome: The referendum calls for a sales tax increase of 25 cents on every $100. Others have estimated it to be $17. per year per resident – or the cost of 4 happy meals or a carton of cigs. In short, nothing. No doubt someone will debate this point. If you do, I just hope I never stand in line behind you at Aldi’s as you throw a few packages of Ho-ho’s, Marlboro’s or National Enquirers in your cart. (Not that I would do that!) If you are not a big consumer of goods, you will be on the low end of the $17. per year estimated average.

Corporate CEO’s are every bit as capable of petty vindictive thought as the common worker: Caterpillar has stated in no uncertain terms that if this referendum doesn’t pass they are OUT. All investments pledged by them will be withdrawn and any and all plans for a Caterpillar welcome center will cease. Now some people don’t give a flying rats butt if that is true or not. That bravado will be shortlived however, if in fact those yellow feathers are so ruffled that they start moving corporate function out of state. You think times are tough now? That event would make 2009 seem like Happy Days.

Let’s stop choking on East Peoria’s dust: Admit it, it’s embarrassing. I have never been able to figure it out. Why do they get all the chocolate chips and we get graham crackers? You never hear a fuss or a fret. Just one day you’ll be driving over the Murray Baker bridge, look over to the right at some swanky hotel and exclaim wtf! Where did that come from? It’s not just East Peoria, either. It’s Springfield, Chicago, St. Louis, even Bloomington. Peoria is worlds ahead of comparable sized cities in terms of culture and history but why is that not reflected in our amenities?

If you can’t beat them, join them: No one hates government waste and controls more than I. As I sit here typing this post, I am watching Breaking News of President Obama signing the multi-billion dollar Omnibus bill, chalk full of pork and hundreds thousands of earmarks. Frankly, it makes me sick. Is this the future of our country? I wonder how many museum opponants who find the spending of taxpayer money so repulsive have contacted their Congressional representative and urged them to vote NO on the massive spending and bailouts? This obscene spending by the current Admin and congress will have far more reaching consequences and long lasting affects on our future than by comparison, this relative pittance of $40 million dollars. Additionally, it gives us local control which should translate to less waste. Numb at this point to government spending, I choose to regard it as our own private stimulus package.

Consider it a gift to our children, and our children’s children. The long awaited Spring Break is a mere few weeks away. As usual, Diane will log on to and start looking for bargain hotel availabilites within driving distance of Peoria. We will make a quadrenial pilgrimage to a destination with cool things to do. Our children have been fortunate enough to have visited pretty much every relevant museum in Illinois and adjoining states. I love museums. The existance of the Peoria Riverfront Museum will open up opportunities for ALL children, and not just children with parents that have a wander-lust and the means to travel about. In today’s uncertain economic climate, “stay-cations” have become all the rage. As a result, I would suggest the timing for this museum could not be better.

Schlepping about Northwoods Mall and Shoppes at Grande Prairie doesn’t cut it after K-garten: Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE these Malls. Unfortunately, as winter drags on, many Peorians feel that this is pretty much their only entertainment option. The kids get out of the house, run up and down the aisles like maniacs, and will undoubtedly arrive home with some useless trinket that will be cast aside within minutes. Those moments can be fun, but are intellectually void and subliminally suggest to children that shopping is an acceptable substitute for boredom.

Can you imagine Peoria without the Civic Center? I can’t. In a few years the Museum will have a similar relevance to our perceived quality of life.

The Museum Plans are AWESOME!: Some of the criticism has revolved around the plans themselves, and not merely the existence of a museum. Have to say, they look great to me! Highly interactive and something for everyone. This post would be too long if I included a description of the plan, but please visit the site to familiarize yourself with the highlights. Of special note should be the African American Hall of fame – offering an amazing opportunity for young children to identify with and aspire to the accomplishments of great African-Americans.

I realize that this may be an unpopular stance to take in the Peoria blogosphere. I have nothing but admiration and respect for Karrie Alms and feel that if more people were like her, we wouldn’t have the systemic dysfunction that is prevalent throughout all levels of our government. She is truly a hero.

I understand her concern that many families cannot afford this expense, but it is my contention that those are the same families that will benefit from the Peoria Riverfront Museum the most. You may not be able to offer your children material wealth. You can, however, through this referendum, offer them something much greater- the gift of enlightenment and curiosity about their world, of wonder and humility. Lead them into a world that extends beyond drugs, gangs and poverty. Ignite a fire within each child that will help them realize their full potential. Our children deserve it. Don’t let a box of ho-ho’s and a double cafe latte stand in the way. C’mon Peoria, lets not screw it up.

This entry was posted on March 11, 2009 at 11:26 pm and is filed under Citizen Journalism, Uncategorized with tags downtown museum, referendum. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed Both comments and pings are currently closed.

46 Responses to “Opinion: It’s time to Build the Block – Vote YES on museum referendum”

Emtronics Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 4:02 am
You are kidding? Vote NO. It’s only a little tax. Like the garbage fee and all the other little taxes we have now and if this fails, the taxpayers are on the hook. Of course I knew you, Mrs. Vespa, would be behind this project no matter if anyone posted numbers or not. The numbers do not make my head spin, they are very clear and the museum supports are the only ones doing any spinning.

To be frank, I don’t trust our local politicians to handle this in any way shape or form. We have been sold down the tubes before like Campustown, Midtown Plaza, ballpark, RenPark, and many many other projects that were going to work but failed after the developers left.

Mazr Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 5:00 am
I’m all for a museum……just not this one.

I feel bad on voting no because I have a close friend who’s a laid-off construction worker right now and he’s really hoping for this to pass.

You can rattle off project after project that was the “next big thing”. All the while, the city has no salt for roads, neighborhoods have no sidewalks, sewers need to be upgraded, runoff problems, bad roads, …….the list goes on and on. In this current economy with the many basics needs of the city that still need to be addressed, this isn’t the time.

I agree with Vonster. The land needs to have a for-sale sign stuck in it. If it’s the grand jewel of Peoria property, then someone will gladly pony up for it.

Mr Skeptic Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 5:26 am
Vote Noooooo!
I guess the central question is whether this expensive experiment will generate revenue for the city or not. One only has to look at another expensive project the city plowed, the Civic Center, to determine if a museum is worth it. The Civic Center has only lost money and continues to do so with no end in sight. The newest baseball field is a loser too—no parking and bad a location. Restaurants on the riverfront continue to open and then fold up because of the lack of customers who aren’t willing to drive there. Let’s face it folks, the only successful events that ever occur on the riverfront involves beer tents and rock bands. A museum in that area will only attract winos, bums and vagrants, oops, I mean, homeless persons who are looking for a place to stay warm in the cold weather. Vote NO to show that you have an ounce of brain and a good memory!

mapleton Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 5:36 am
gee what a surprise…little miss wonder boy can do no wrong stumps for the hole in the ground. perhaps for spring break you can pack up the fam and go to the museum in Cedar Rapids. oh, my bad, it’s closed and broke. the same state this boondoggle will be in in 5 yrs or less if enough morons vote yes. do a little research and google closed Imax. and for the love of God, quit comparing this issue with the civic center. they are not the same thing nor will they ever be. if this was such a lead pipe cinch, the private sector would be fighting tooth and nail for the right to develop it. I won’t even start on the worthless numbers they are throwing out for attendance projections as anyone with a brain knows what a joke they are. no NO and HELL NO!

C. J. Summers Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 6:00 am
Let’s review:

Reason 1: Nobody knows if it will be profitable, so what the heck? Let’s jump in with our eyes closed and hope for the best. It’s only $40 million.

Reason 2: Let’s forget about the public policy question of spending $40 million for a private museum that has been raising funds for 7 years and is still $11 million short in private funding. Instead, let’s look at self-interest. How much will cost me personally? Not that much? Then it’s all good.

Reason 3: Cat said to vote yes; ergo, we must vote yes.

Reason 4: East Peoria is so much better than Peoria. Just look at their beautiful riverfront with the butt end of Wal-Mart next to the water. Who isn’t jealous of that? Gosh I wish we could get all those pretty chain restaurants like they do. Lucky dogs.

Reason 5: If you hate earmarks and obscene spending on non-essentials, then you should show fiscal restraint locally gamble $40 million on a museum project instead of spending it on schools, roads, sewers, or other basic infrastructure needs.

Reason 6: What better gift to give to our children than $40 million in debt? It’s the American way!

Reason 7: Because I can afford to spend $7-$15 per ticket for each of my children to go to the museum several times during the winter, everyone must be able to.

Reason 8: It will be just like the Civic Center: i.e., it will never turn a profit; it will require perpetual funding by taxpayers; it will bring in shows that most people south of Forrest Hill can’t afford to attend even though they have to pay for the venue whenever they go to McDonald’s….

Reason 9: The museum plans are so AWESOME that excited residents have pledged or donated more than enough to build it there’s still an $11 million shortfall in private funds.

Reason 10: Think of the children!!! And try not to think of the proposed children’s museum and how much more appropriate that project might be for kids.

PeoriaIllinoisan Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 6:07 am
You point out the African American Hall of Fame. This already exists. It’s located at the Proctor Center.

conrad stinnett Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 6:16 am
I’m for building the block, but not this way. Sorry, Bill, but I think you’re way off on this one.

James Lansberry Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 6:20 am
Conrad, this is Diane Vespa, not bill.

Diane, I agree with you more often than many of the commenters here, but this museum needs not to be built this way.

Everytime we use taxpayer dollars to fund something that only part of the taxpayers want, it’s simple out and out theft. And all it does is breed more power grabbing so the “public funds” can be used to support *my* project next time.

$17 or $1700–it’s wrong. Raise the funds and do it as a non-profit, and I’m all for it. No more taxpayer dollars for gambled projects like Cub Foods Midtown! Not 1 dime!

conrad stinnett Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 6:42 am
Sorry, Bill. Diane, you’re way off on this one. Build the block, but so it the right way- fine tune the concept, sell it to the commmunity and raise $$ through private donations.

Chase Ingersoll Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 12:11 pm
Diane: You’ve still given the best argument in favor because you are at least admitting the liabilities, not overselling and not personally attacking the people that disagree with you.

You understand that it is like someone buying a house where the one they really like costs more and people will “sell themselves” on their ability to pay for it. Some end up finding a way to pay and stay in their dream home and others do not.

I think there are too many unknown, unknowns as to how the economy is going to be be on a local, national and international level really be able to be optimistic. But if people really want it, they will make it work, even if it takes making their tax paying neighbors pay for it. And that is something that a significant percentage of us seem to value – being able to make a minority pay for for what even the slimmest of majorities might want. From that perspective their are much greater assessed injustices.

mjj Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 2:20 pm
Why can noone answer these questions….

If this is such a can’t miss opportunity (numbers via bradley professors), why hasn’t a private individual/corporation picked up the tab?

Why is CAT so very apathetic all of the sudden?

Most importantly…

How much money is actually raised/needed/projected? No one knows! Everyone has different numbers. This is all a mystery! It’s no different than the 3 stooges ramming the stimulus bill through with noone having time to read it or ask questions.

Mazr Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 2:21 pm
And check your mail folks. The “Build the Block” group did a nice little mailing today.

the Whole Truth LLC Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 3:08 pm
Congratulations Diane, it takes courage to be a positive visionary in Peoria, where parapharsing my old political hero, Spiro T. It is apparent today, that Peoria has “more than our share of nattering nabobs of negativisim”

vonster Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 3:08 pm
Seems Diane had her own Mr. Jensen moment, eh?

I’m disappointed, D.

diane vespa Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 3:19 pm
Sorry, to let you down, V, and thanks everybody for your comments. Is this a great country or what?

I understand and respect all of the dissenting opinions. I still believe it will be a very sad day for Peoria if we lose this opportunity, and will not reflect well on us as a community.

C. J. Summers Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 3:57 pm
Spiro Agnew is your political hero? Spiro Tax-Fraud-and-Bribery-Resigned-in-Disgrace Agnew? Well, that explains a lot.

Mazr Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 5:09 pm
“I still believe it will be a very sad day for Peoria if we lose this opportunity, and will not reflect well on us as a community.”

I would say a city that can’t provide basic city services for it’s residents does not reflect well on us a community. I would think the ball park, One technology, the PeoriaNext building, Midtown Plaza, Campustown, heck look at the Riverfront now. Our prime peice of real estate and we have a pizza place and a seafood place on stilts. Have our leaders not learned anything?

And if it passes and the glitter wears off in a few years, will the schools be any better? Will crime be any less? Will we have sidewalks in every neighborhood?

nontimendum Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 5:21 pm
I’m beginning to reconsider this one. While I don’t believe the pro forma financial projections, there are intangible benefits that I believe the museum would inure to Peoria. It would have been much easier to accept had they created a true metropolitan museum with some cost sharing by surrounding communities.

Floyd Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 5:22 pm
Mazr said: “And if it passes and the glitter wears off in a few years, will the schools be any better? Will crime be any less? Will we have sidewalks in every neighborhood?”

I don’t think this will change no matter which way the museum question goes.

Mazr Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 5:32 pm
Sadly, I agree Floyd.

Virginia Macentire Says:

March 12th, 2009 at 8:14 pm
I vote no

I going have to stare my children starve. For the children of peoria vote no save them

When belittle the cost aggressively, it not the case, will be a nite mare of money.

No wants to be down town they hover like vultures to pick your wallet, tickets for everyone

How about a high speed train to normal instead

Christi Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 6:11 am
I’m going to put up a better reply soon Diane, you know I’ve got pretty strong feelings with regard to this issue and don’t have the time to formulate them right now. I only wanted to let you know that while I’ve aggressively argued that to build this museum would be a benefit to our city I also understand the opposition. This does not mean I’m thoroughly convinced they are right, only that I respect them enough to take pause and listen.

Having said that, I steadfastly believe that the longer we stand back and wait for improvements to happen, the longer it’s going to be before we get anywhere. This kind of procrastination is what caused Peoria to slip behind in the first place. What happened to our beautiful city? How long are we going to wait before we realize that tomorrow never comes?

If there are so many potential investors out there willing to take that project and run with it, where are they? And do you really want a for sale sign sitting over a black hole for an indeterminable amount of time? Especially while there are laid off construction workers desperately waiting for work.

Somethings got to give people, who’s going to flinch first?

Karrie E. Alms Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 7:25 am

Having said that, I steadfastly believe that the longer we stand back and wait for improvements to happen, the longer it’s going to be before we get anywhere.

I agree with your statement in part. First, our community needs to have a plan which is developed from the heart of our community, ie by the citizens. Our community leaders have forums and charettes and ask for citizens to participate and then spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on plans and either do not complete the plans or disregard the plans. Regrettably our elected officials do not seem to have the fortitude (aka stomach) to stay the course and deliver what the citizens say the citizens want done. Some build it now they will come silver bullet project is always going to save Peoria. Hasn’t happened in the past 15 years in which I have lived in Peoria. What do we want to give our posterity — our children and grandchildren and beyond — we are being told lifelong learning for a museum. What about lifelong learning for schools? What about living within our means and giving our posterity a debt-free future? Not the continuation of mortaging their future ad infinitum!

We can all appreciate that the construction workers are desperately waiting for work. There are many community members waiting for work and each day the number grows as more are being shown the door. What about the workers who have no jobs and will have no opportunity to get a build the block job yet get to pay more even though the higher tax would start Jan 1, 2010?

As more people are laid off, there will be less money to spend and then more people in the retail sector will be laid off and so the cycle goes. Less money spent, less sales tax revenue collected. At the most recent Peoria County Finance / Legislative Committee, a report was given that there will be anticipated revenue decreases which would impact the county. The county is being proactive and already looking to tighten their belts and act in a fiscally responsible manner. Thank heavens for that.

At a recent town hall meeting for the museum — the taxpayer next to me had called every taxing entity on his tax bill. Current debt plus approved (ie ICC new building project, etc.) was $600M. That did not include the proposed museum at $40M — plus the interest. The taxpayer continued that did not include the CSO project for the city of Peoria estimated at $150-300M which would bring the total close to $1B. That is about one billion dollars of debt WITHOUT interest.

Perhaps that has no meaning with the zeros being thrown around in the economic meltdown and billions here and billions there in stimulus money. It is deeply concerning to me and the dozens of taxpayers who have spoken with me about this issue.

Whose responsibility is it that the museum project has been stalled for private financing remains short? Even now, potential private donors are taking a wait and see approach to see what happens on April 7. As the economy appears to weaken each day, say the referendum passes, what then if the private donations do not come forward and the construction bid documents come in over budget and and and and … there are several more details to be worked our …. what then?

Would voters have approved a sales tax with the intent to fund the museum yet the state statute language is broad ‘public facility purposes’ so that a blank check would be given to the county? Perhaps there would not be enough money in this economic downturn to spend at present, but a ‘rainy day’ fund for public facility purposes would be established?

So many public policy questions unanswered because this is the last election cycle for the museum to advance their ’cause’ until April 2010. From my viewpoint, it is another rush to get taxpayer money without a truckload of details being established. You can trust us to work out all the details scenario. Hum, ever heard or witnessed the expression ” the devil is in the details’?

Since the block has been under contract since 2003 — no other plan can be considered. Missed goals, deadlines and projections have stalled this projection. Is it even remotely possible that the idea (which I have seen written elsewhere in several different forms) that the people do not like this museum plan is true? That this project competes with funding for all of the arts? with the zoo? with the Children’s Museum?

Our community today and our posterity tomorrow require that our community builds a better block. We have to create the future or others will do it for us.

Please vote no.

diane vespa Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 7:55 am
The deterioration of the heart of Peoria and the Downtown areas can be posed as a classic “chicken or the egg” question. Are people leaving Peoria because of a lack of amenities, or is there a lack of amenities because people are leaving Peoria?

I think the first scenario is at least partially true. If we can re-invigorate the downtown area and get people excited about these areas again I believe many of our financial and social problems will resolve spontaneously.

What we should NOT do, is keep doing the same things over again and expect different results. Downtown commercial development is passing us by and we must be pro-active in changing that.

How many more years do we want to look at a giant hole in the ground in one of our most visible locations? What does that say about Peoria to those visiting Peoria? How long will we have to wait before another investor steps up to take a stab at it? How much TIF money and incentives will Peoria have to cough up to lure another investor?

The museum would be something that Peorians can point to with pride. Business owners and corporate CEO’s can use it to “sell” the area to their preferred candidates. It may give Peoria a slight edge, all that is necessary to compel a buyer to relocate to Peoria over a similar community. Wouldn’t that help us all?

I just think we have an opportunity here to resolve a host of Peoria’s problems at a nominal cost. How we respond to this challenge will define us for years to come.

Diane Vespa Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 8:12 am
Sorry, one further thought to those who argue that we need to address the issues of crappy roads, schools, etc. first. Surely you don’t think that if the referendum fails that the next morning you will wake up and miraculously our roads will be smoothly blacktopped and Valedictorians will be everywhere. The fact is that one has virtually no impact on the other. Unless you subscribe to my argument above that a healthy downtown and healthy community image will assist in resolving these very issues!

Leslie Chinn Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 8:26 am
Why would people come stay in a big hotel with river views if there is nothing to do here?

I disagree with the notion that District 150 needs more money, they need to hire people who can manage it better. I don’t think their problems are due to funding but more of mismanagement.

I have decided that if the museum vote fails that I will try my hardest to not make purchases in Peoria. I know that will not always be possible but I can go to Bloomington, it is almost as close, and make my big purchases there. I live in Morton so instead of going to Northwoods Mall I can go to Bloomington, instead of going to Walgreens on University I will go in East Peoria. If the residents won’t invest in their own community why should I?

Super J Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 10:43 am
Three years ago, Bloomington opened the US Cellular Coliseum. Promoted as a “sure thing” that would be profitable right out of the gate, they pitched study after study and oodles of numbers and data to show how it was going to be like a license to print money.

The public was unconvinced. The project was put to a public (nonbinding) referendum, where 70% of the public voted AGAINST the project. The city council and mayor ignored that vote and approved the project anyway. We were all told how negative we were, just a bunch of haters who had no vision.

Fast forward to today. The losses tally as follows:

2009 $2.4 million (projected, fiscal year ends next month)
2008 $1.9 million
2007 $2.5 million

So much for all those feasability studies that showed how profitable the thing would be from the get-go. It’s costing the taxpayers $195,000 a month just to service the bond debt. Ridiculous.

Then the same people who provided all those feasibility numbers trot out a bunch of “economic impact studies” to try to put a positive spin on it. But how can we trust those numbers, when their previous numbers were so remarkably perverted?

So now they’re trying to spin the whole “quality of life” yarn, but it’s hard to take that argument seriously when the biggest events on the calendar for the next three months are a WWF card, along with arena football and hockey teams that are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy due to anemic attendance. Oh, and the Doobie Brothers. Quality, indeed.

Look where our “buy now, pay later” mentality has led us. We’ve oinked our way to the brink of the cliff. It’s time to back away from that cliff, and the only way we can do it is by making responsible choices – not by throwing yet more millions after projects that may or may not be financially feasible.

“I’m sick of the mall” isn’t a good reason to build anything. And I’m tired of hearing people use the “do it for the children” argument to justify their spendthrift ways…it’s the equivalent of an economic “human shield.”

Block the Block.

Diane Vespa Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 11:05 am
Well guess who has 2 tickets to the Doobie Brothers concert?

Your argument is a good one, but you can find sad sack stories all over the US. You can also find similar success stories. Should we all just live frozen in fear and never accomplish anything? Nothing comes with guarantees. We kiss our children at the bus stop every morning and hope they return in the afternoon.

If the only you thing you got out of my post above was that we are bored at the Mall then please re-read it.

As far as jumping over the cliff, your Congress already did it.

Diane Vespa Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 11:05 am
And Bloomington is no Peoria.

admin Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 11:16 am
I guess it all boils down to whether one is willing to risk the continued financial viability of the city in order to give people who don’t live in the city a place to play for a few hours.

C. J. Summers Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 12:44 pm
Diane said:

Are people leaving Peoria because of a lack of amenities, or is there a lack of amenities because people are leaving Peoria?

What amenities are we lacking in Peoria, Diane? We have the Civic Center, ballpark, RiverPlex, Riverfront Village, One Technology Plaza, libraries, malls, Lakeview Museum, etc., etc., etc. Peoria isn’t lacking “amenities.” It is lacking sidewalks, improved roads, separated sewer system, and other basic infrastructure needs. We just expanded the Civic Center for $55 million and extended the HRA tax. When are we finally going to have enough “amenities”? When all our infrastructure is in the crapper? When the Illinois river is filled with feces? At what point do we stop spending taxpayer money on bread and circuses and focus on basic public needs?

If we can re-invigorate the downtown area and get people excited about these areas again I believe many of our financial and social problems will resolve spontaneously.

And just how is this project going to “re-invigorate the downtown area and get people excited about these areas again”? Think it through, Diane. People are going to leave their homes in Dunlap, Germantown Hills, and Brimfield, and drive downtown to the museum block, pull into the underground parking, and then take an elevator up into the museum. They’re going to take in the museum exhibits or maybe a movie. Then they’re going to go back down the elevator to their car, pull out of the museum deck and hop back on the interstate and go back home to Dunlap, Germantown Hills, and Brimfield. Or wherever. My point is, it does nothing to re-invigorate downtown or get people excited about these areas again. Which is why my head explodes when you say this:

What we should NOT do, is keep doing the same things over again and expect different results.

Because that’s exactly what you’re doing!!! We’ve tried to re-invigorate downtown and get people excited about these areas again with the Civic Center, the RiverPlex, Riverfront Village, the baseball stadium, etc., etc., etc., and none of them have worked. Why? Because they leave their homes in Dunlap, Germantown Hills, and Brimfield and drive to downtown Peoria for a show, a game, a swim, or whatever, and then they get back in their cars and drive back to Dulap, Germantown Hills, and Brimfield. You see, they’re all single-use, event-oriented projects. They don’t energize the streets. There’s no built-in market for retail development because there are no regular patrons. There’s no feeling of safety downtown. In short, none of the conditions exist that would, in fact, re-invigorate downtown and get people excited about these areas again. And this museum project is just going to be the latest in a long line of projects that fail to revitalize downtown. Why? Because we’re doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.

Downtown commercial development is passing us by and we must be pro-active in changing that.

Yes, but the museum is not going to attract downtown commercial development. It’s simply not. First of all, the best place for commercial development would be on the Sears block. But the museum & Cat Experience is taking up the whole block. So where is the commercial development going to go now? In Riverfront Village? In the Cat parking deck? On Courthouse Square? In the old Bergner’s parking deck? Where is the commercial development going to go, Diane?

Development follows people. People don’t follow development. If you want downtown to be revitalized, you have to get people living down there. When there’s a built-in market, you have demand, and demand brings development. And there is demand for residential options downtown. Just ask Craig Hullinger in the City’s Economic Development Department. They recently did a study on it that was very favorable toward residential development downtown.

Should we all just live frozen in fear and never accomplish anything?

Who’s acting in fear? Those who vote “yes,” or those who vote “no”? Answer: Those who vote “yes.” Fear that Caterpillar will leave. Fear that we will have missed our “now or never moment.” Fear that it will remain a hole in the ground for eternity. Fear that construction workers won’t have jobs. Fear that we will lose out to East Peoria. Fear that nothing better will ever come along and this is the best we can hope for, so we need to just settle.

I’m not acting in fear. I’m acting in hope that we can develop the block the right way, that we can really revitalize downtown by doing things differently and not just building the latest tax-supported silver-bullet theory to come down the pike, that we don’t have to settle for “good enough” this time but strive for excellence, that we can stick to and deliver on the vision that was set out by the citizens of Peoria.

Don’t act in fear. Vote NO on April 7.

Karrie E. Alms Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 2:12 pm
Leslie wrote: I disagree with the notion that District 150 needs more money, they need to hire people who can manage it better. I don’t think their problems are due to funding but more of mismanagement.

Leslie: If you were referring to my comments … about schools and life long learning …. I was not referring to D150, I was referring to Peoria County schools.

Would you support a tax for Peoria County schools?

Mazr Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 7:05 pm
“Are people leaving Peoria because of a lack of amenities, or is there a lack of amenities because people are leaving Peoria?”

Seriously? You think that people are leaving Peoria because of a “lack of amenities”?

The reason people leave Peoria is plain and simple in my opinion: District 150

“Surely you don’t think that if the referendum fails that the next morning you will wake up and miraculously our roads will be smoothly blacktopped and Valedictorians will be everywhere.”

I think you missed the point. Put a referendum on the ballot and see if the citizens would support a tax increase for road repairs or a tax increase for a revamp of the sewer systems. I have a feeling there might be a little more community support for something like that.

“Business owners and corporate CEO’s can use it to “sell” the area to their preferred candidates. It may give Peoria a slight edge, all that is necessary to compel a buyer to relocate to Peoria over a similar community. Wouldn’t that help us all?”

I think that when people are relocating the two most important factors in their minds are “Is the neighborhood safe?” and “are the schools any good?” I can’t imagine that given the current state of 150 that someone would look at a new museum and use that as a deciding factor in choosing between Peoria vs Dunlap or over the river. Wouldn’t they rather go somewhere where the schools are better and just come and visit the museum?

Diane Vespa Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 7:20 pm
I’m anxious to reply… but on my way out. Hopefully I don’t blog while drunk upon my return

Ramble On Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 7:32 pm
$17.00 a year (for one person) is not the issue. Best and highest use of our limited resources is the issue. Open land in Peoria is rare. The city is water or land locked. Why not build a museum out Route 91 someplace. I have nothing against museums. On April 7th, my vote is a resounding, NO.

C. J. Summers Says:

March 13th, 2009 at 8:29 pm
Diane — Are you implying that you were sober when you wrote this post?


BJ Stone Says:

March 14th, 2009 at 11:39 am
Super J, you’re way off base about many things in your post about Bloomington. Way off. Particularly about the sports franchises. They’ve both never been in a better financial position. BTW, football season opens tonight, and as of yesterday afternoon, they’d already sold 5,000 tickets. Averaged over 4,500 last year. Fact.

diane vespa Says:

March 14th, 2009 at 1:10 pm
CJ wrote:

People are going to leave their homes in Dunlap, Germantown Hills, and Brimfield, and drive downtown to the museum block, pull into the underground parking, and then take an elevator up into the museum. They’re going to take in the museum exhibits or maybe a movie. Then they’re going to go back down the elevator to their car, pull out of the museum deck and hop back on the interstate and go back home to Dunlap, Germantown Hills, and Brimfield. Or wherever.

Your powers of clairvoyance are amazing CJ. You not only know where the visitors will come from, but also exactly what they will do while here and when they will leave. Will you please be my stockbroker?

I also wonder why you think that your level of knowlege of museum development surpasses the knowlege of the professional architects and planners that do this for a living? You must have slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night. I mean, its not like Caterpillar Inc. doesn’t have a proven record of performance, and surely you don’t question that they want to see it succeed?

As I scroll through my original post and its replies for and against, I realize that we are all arguing subjectively. It’s a classic glass half empty/half full debate. We all have the same information to believe or not to believe. We all see the same drawings, the same graphics, the same projections. We may all arrive at different conclusions. That is what this referendum is all about- let the people decide. No matter what the outcome on April 7, the will of the people will have been expressed and I will accept it. Democracy may not be perfect, but there’s nothing better.

Vote YES on April 7.

Super J Says:

March 14th, 2009 at 1:57 pm
BJ – my statement was incorrect regarding the Extreme. Though their attendance is down about 15-20% from their peak (5,500 in ‘06 vs. 4,500 in ‘08), all indications are that the team is still well into the black.

Can’t back down from the hockey team, however. They are not faring nearly as well, as outlined in a Pantagraph article from a couple months ago, with problems including failure to pay vendors and players. (Be careful if you open the PDF in the article; it crashed my browser a couple of times.)

The issue is that the Arena management is required to maintain BOTH a football and hockey team as part of their agreement. That’s where the confusion came on my part and I regret implying that the football team was in trouble when it apparently is not.

However, my other numbers are either close (the 70% referendum failure was actually 67%) or dead on (the total losses I cited are verified via multiple articles from The Pantagraph).

C. J. Summers Says:

March 14th, 2009 at 2:55 pm
Diane — Neither Caterpillar nor ZGF (the architects of the museum) are town planners. That’s Andres Duany’s job. And it doesn’t take a fortune teller to observe that a building/parking area that’s designed to help people avoid the street is likely to succeed. It was museum supporters who trotted out the “safety” of parking underground and entering the museum from the deck. Think that one through. The assumptions are (a) the street is not safe, and (b) it’s best to avoid it by parking in the deck and entering from there. What the museum supporters are not addressing is how their building design is contributing to the lack of safety (real and perceived) on the street.

And what was it you said? Oh yes, “The deterioration of the heart of Peoria and the Downtown areas….” You yourself are stating that the heart of Peoria and downtown are “deteriorating” and thus needs “reinvigorating.” This despite the fact that you can’t imagine downtown without the Civic Center. And despite the fact that the RiverPlex, ballpark, One Technology Plaza, Riverfront Village, etc., etc., etc., were all promised as the surefire ways to revitalize downtown.

But despite your admission that these have all been failures (downtown is still “deteriorating”) you want to add another tax-sucking facility to the roster. This time it will be different, you effectively say, despite all evidence to the contrary. We’ll do the same thing again and expect different results.

Vote NO on April 7.

Diane Vespa Says:

March 14th, 2009 at 3:38 pm
CJ – I was against the Riverplex. The Ballpark and Riverfront Village is seasonal use only. I don’t know anything about One Tech Plaza other than its not a family destination so not sure what your point is there. And re: the Civic Center, surely you are not suggesting Peoria would be better off without it?

The Museum would fill a void that currently does not exist. I have never said it is a cure-all bullet but rather, a powerful step in the right direction.

Vote YES YES YES on April 7.

C. J. Summers Says:

March 14th, 2009 at 6:07 pm
Diane said:

The Museum would fill a void that currently does not exist.

Truer words were never spoken, considering the fact we already have a museum at the corner of Lake and University.

Vote NO on April 7.

JTS Says:

March 15th, 2009 at 6:41 am
Vote No

You want to sell more houses Diane improve the schools, decrease crime. Building the museum will not bring enough people to Peoria to make building the museum worthwhile.

Cat has said that this project will not bring a single dime to the shareholder and that if it is not built that the world will not end. As a shareholder I want them to use the money on a project that will improve shareholder value.

vonster Says:

March 15th, 2009 at 2:54 pm

imtami75 Says:

March 16th, 2009 at 9:44 am
I do picture person and have for the last 2 years. The kids love it! Imagine what we can do with this museum here.

We need this in Peoria for the jobs, the opportunities for our kids to learn, etc.

“Over a 25-month construction period, beginning in late 2009, The Block project would employ 250 to 300 workers per month and contribute $1.8 million in monthly labor payroll to our economy. Also, because of the strong private funding support for The Block, the positive return on the public investment would be very high, generating an estimated $572 million in total economic impact over 20 years”

looks like quite a few jobs here.

“The Block will offer hands-on learning for people of all ages—and the ultimate field trip for school-age kids. Among its many opportunities will be: an interactive, behind-the-scenes look at Caterpillar’s past, present and future sure to enthrall adults and kids alike, five-stories-tall IMAX documentaries, cutting-edge planetarium shows, Discovery Worlds play-and-learn kids’ galleries, IHSA Peak Performance Center challenges for mind and body and Illinois River Encounter Science Lab experiments. Learning materials and classrooms will be available for teachers and young visitors”

learning opportunities for our kids

“The Block design includes retail areas for shopping and dining inside the museum and Caterpillar Experience, all accessible without purchasing admission to the facilities. In addition, 15,000 square feet within The Block along Water Street have been reserved for retail and commercial development.”

What is this? hmmm…seems to me like possibly more job opportunities

“Water Street will provide access to the museum‟s preschool,…” more jobs?

“The chosen architect of the Museum must be an acknowledged master, appropriate to the scale and importance of this civic site.” maybe this is another – high end job?…maybe…

“Using energy wisely. The Block‟s design will maximizes the use of natural daylight for lighting, helping to reduce energy use. In common areas and galleries not light-sensitive, energy-efficient windows will be used to maximize daylight. Outdoor lighting will be energy efficient and designed to contribute as little as possible to night-time light pollution.” cost cutting efforts???

I just don’t get the cave man mentality that I am seeing with this. This is progress. They plan on even making this a beautiful scenic walk for people who just want to walk along the river front. If we don’t want to support this, we are creating a huge disservice to our youth.

artlvr Says:

March 17th, 2009 at 9:48 am
The following paragraphs are excerpts from my contribution on a local message board where the museum discussion has been brought up. Being an arts advocate…you can imagine where my words turn…..

“……………Not to mention the many fine art students who work there for intern hours from Bradley and ISU. They don’t even get paid, yet their efforts help support many aspects of the museum! I believe there are many more people influenced in positive ways thru the museum today than what is accounted for in dollars. Picture Person, though competely volunteer run besides the museum educator, Ann Schmidt, touches countless numbers of students, parents and teachers every school year!”

“You cannot put a price tag on good educational, historical, cultural investments into a community. Most here are counting the revenue in dollars only. What about the many local artists that will be featured here? Having a wonderfully up to date facility to showcase and explore the history of our river town… Knowing that local schools will have a fun place to take classes on field trips that aren’t an hours drive away… Building on the very fundamentals our community (not just peoria, but the surrounding towns as well) was built on by making available a facility that this all can be viewed, learned, and built upon in the years to come. Gains aren’t always measured with dollar signs in front of them. Greed gets you no where, especially when you are looking at generations to come.

Just my opinion.

“If the fine arts and humanities don’t make a difference, then much of what we have called civilization has been a mistake….”

~Dr. James Croft

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