Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Miracle on Water Street

Those were the sentiments expressed by Brad McMillan as the Block-heads watched their dream for a Peoria Regional museum become a reality last night. Over 100 people crowded the back room at Old Chicago Pizza Tuesday evening to watch the election results roll in.

Supporters embrace and lovingly accept the name of Block-head at Museum wrap party

It was a nail biter till the very end. When we first arrived, they had just posted the results of early voting - which were heavily in favor of the museum. That thrill was short-lived, however, as throughout the evening the pendulum swung in one direction and then the other.

Many of us were trying to predict the trends. It appeared that the city of Peoria was voting in favor at over 60% of the vote. The county, however, was less than enthusiastic and was returning "Yes" votes of less than 40%. So not only were we focused on the number of votes, but the percentages of the county and city that had reported.

Several hours into the evening, I noticed the stats were stuck on +88 votes in favor of the museum. The atmosphere could be cut with a knife. Girls were hanging on to each other for dear life. There was very little conversation. All eyes were glued, I'm telling ya glued to the overhead. I started breathing a little easier upon the realization that almost the entire county had reported, but only 50% of the city. I felt encouraged by the knowledge that with the city of Peoria turning in an average 60% "yes" vote, it was highly likely that the YES votes would end up in even higher positive territory.

Ryan Spain, the technology guru of the evening, agreed. Young people in politics are a gift from God, and Mr. Spain was exactly that last night. He had his computer hooked up to a thingy magiggy, and the thingy magiggy hooked up to an overhead. He and an accomplice must have hit the refresh tab over 1000 times last night as they studied the Peoria Votes site. They would then type up-to-the-minute results into a thingamabob - and poof - out popped the projections on the overhead. "Oohs", "aahs" and gasps perpetually filled the air. At one point, Senator David Koehler sat with Ryan as they concentrated and analyzed results.

Finally, we saw a shift- up 180 votes, up 240 votes, up over 400 votes - and then magically - 100% precincts reporting. The room went wild. People were hugging, laughing, crying, and hugging again! It was an awesome moment. I was so happy, feeling in my heart that the citizens of Peoria had just taken a huge vote of confidence in their community, their future and their children. My mind filled with images of thousands of present and future generations of Peorian's experiencing life altering moments. Of course, I have stated from the beginning that those are intangibles you simply cannot put a price on.

There was one point in the evening when the "yes" votes were down almost 200. For some strange reason, so unlike myself, I believed at that moment (and only for a moment) that the referendum would fail. I try to hold on to that feeling to acknowledge that for many, that is how they feel today. I hope in time, they will begin to see the value in the museum, too. They may be surprised.

Finally, I would like to address the incorrect notion that the museum plan was put forth and supported only by the privileged and elite. That is preposterous. Open your eyes and look around. The museum was supported by people from all walks of life. Parents, grandparents, teachers, students, educators, laborers, execs - thousands of people see the value clearly. There is no ownership of an appreciation of the arts, history and science. The only commonality that was shared, and I noticed this last night, was a vision and a hope that we can do better for Peoria.

Although I don't want to understate my pleasure, I do want to acknowledge the disappointment of the opposition. Their strategies were remarkable, and I respect their opinions and their efforts for the most part. Every night I will add an extra bedtime prayer - Dear Lord, please don't ever let me be on the opposite side of an issue with Karrie Alms again.

Please allow me to share this thought... Imagine for a moment Chicagoans in the 1870's immediately following the Great Chicago fire. Chicago had just been devastated and it's residents left with nothing. They did not give up. They did not slink away in despair. On the contrary. They started dreaming. They started planning. They started building. Out of nothing rose the 3rd largest city in the United States. I guess you could say they were Block- heads too. Being a block head really isn't that bad. A big thank you to all of them for their relentless hard work.


Marilyn Leyland said...

Thanks, Diane.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed my first lunch in East Peoria today, the first of many, many to come. Yes, I know the tax hasn't kicked in yet...but my boycotting of the tax increase has. Unfortunate that a Peoria deli has lost my almost daily business over this ridiculous museum.

Diane Vespa said...

Fortunately, in a free society, you have the right to make that decision.

Off the subject, what is it about East Peoria that makes me get lost there every time I go, though?

Anonymous said...

your hair color?

Diane Vespa said...

OMG that was a good one! Touche!

Paul Wilkinson said...

I had stayed out of the museum race as I had a battle of my own to fight. Upon reflection, A small group of concerned citizens with 6 weeks and about $3000 took on a multimillion project with seemingly unlimited ad funds and you guys only won by 400 votes. Hardly a resounding victory and I hope that someone will again look at the project to fix the flaws before it is built, there is still time. I support the idea of a museum. I think we could and should have done better with this one. This is a 100 year or more legacy, we need to do it correctly.

Vonster said...

DV: You DO KNOW that this was rigged?

Ashamed of you.

Diane Vespa said...

Vonster - I didn't see a single person with a gun to their head at the polling place, did you?

Your rebuke of Tuesday's election is very un-Republican of you! For shame....

mazr said...

"Their strategies were remarkable"

Pointing out the "fairy land" figures conjured up by the blockers and the many problems with this project isn't really remarkable. Kind of a common sense approach to a project this large.

I would have loved to see a roster of the citizens at Old Chicago. I have a feeling it's probably the same people who are in favor of the "next great thing" that will transform the city.

"My mind filled with images of thousands of present and future generations of Peorian's experiencing life altering moments."

I could maybe see this outcome from the Field Museum or Science and Industry. Maybe I'll be proven wrong on this whole thing, but every time I drive by the Whatever ballpark it's kind of hard to believe.

Atomic Lib Smasher said...

Great. All of us are gonna be taxed even more for a giant building with a moat (since the Illinois River is at record flood stage) that is not even going to be looked at once the nice shiny novelty wears off.

Why can't they just fix the damn potholes on University and Knoxville and be happy with that?