Thursday, February 26, 2009

Peoria Schools make the ISBE honor roll...

Great news coming out of Peoria Public Schools District 150. A big Congratulations and "Attaboy" to all who made this happen. From an e-mail:

The Illinois State Board of Education announced today the 2008 Honor Roll Schools. Superintendent Ken Hinton and Peoria Public Schools is proud to announce the following awards within the district:

Six Spotlight Schools
-FRANKLIN-EDISON PRIMARY SCHOOL - SPOTLIGHT
-HINES PRIMARY SCHOOL - SPOTLIGHT
-ROOSEVELT MAGNET SCHOOL - SPOTLIGHT
-THOMAS JEFFERSON PRIMARY SCHOOL - SPOTLIGHT
-WHITTIER PRIMARY SCHOOL - SPOTLIGHT
-WOODROW WILSON PRIMARY SCHOOL - SPOTLIGHT

Two Academic Improvement:
-ROOSEVELT MAGNET SCHOOL - IMPROVEMENT
-WOODROW WILSON PRIMARY SCHOOL - IMPROVEMENT

Two Academic Excellence:
-LINDBERGH MIDDLE SCHOOL - ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE
-WASHINGTON GIFTED SCHOOL - ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE

Congratulations to all winners! Look for more information in Staff News Weekly on Wednesday, March 4th. If you are interested in reviewing the winners from throughout the entire state, visit http://www.ilhonorroll.niu.edu/index.asp

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.

Home Repair Loans and Grants available for seniors through USDA


Here is an opportunity to help a Senior Citizen neighbor or loved one that is on a fixed income and in need of home repairs. USDA Rural Development has home repair 1% interest loan and up to $7,500 in grant money available. The funds can be spent on a new roof, new siding and windows, foundation repairs, new kitchen cabinets, new septic systems, furnace, air conditioners or safety hazards. Income restrictions apply and since this is a rural development program, it only applies to homes located in smaller markets. Therefore, most homes within the city limits of Peoria will not qualify. Click here to see if your home is located in an eligible area.

GRANTS

Grant limit: There is a $7,500 lifetime limit on grant funds.

Grant Applicants must:

Be 62 years of age or older

Be low income per guidelines

Use grant funds to address health, safety or accessibility issues for their home.

Be able to demonstrate in inability to make loan payments

Own and occupy the home

Agree to not sell the property for 3 years following the grant or repay the grant if the home is sold within 3 years

LOANS

The maximum loan amount is $20,000. The interest rate is 1%. Loans can be made for a term of 20 years.

For further information about these loans, first time homebuyers loans or Rural Housing loans you can call our local USDA - Rural Development office at 309-342-5138, extension 4.

If you have found this information helpful, please keep me in mind the next time you or your friend or loved one contemplates a move.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

They are babies, not octopi

I'm probably the only one on the planet that will come to the defense of the Mom to the most recent Octuplets...but c'mon! There is quite a bit of overkill going on wouldn't ya say?

Like what is up with calling her the Octomom? That would be fine if she just gave birth to a bunch of octopuses but the reality is that she has 8 infants, many in critical condition. Those kids are going to have a tough road to hoe as it is. Why pile on and have them bullied and stigmatized for life as the Octo-kids?

OK the mom is nuts and is bilking the taxpayers out of most likely millions of dollars. It's not exactly a novel concept and happens all the time. It's just that the decimal point is a little farther to the right in this case.

Now the sperm donor Dad is seeing dollar signs and getting in on the act. Apparently he was "tricked". I'm sorry but I really don't think his intent was to be Father of the Year if all he had to do was come in a jar.

I think the public and the media needs to back off this woman and let the State, her family and Children and Family Services handle it. Try, just try to drum up a little compassion if not for the Mom then for the babies some of which are undoubtedly struggling for every breath.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blog roll Merry-go-round

I'm trying to update my blogroll. Lots of new bloggers... I just added 3. Please let me know if you don't see yours here and would like to be added. Happy blogging.

Freezer space

Whoever at work is hogging all the freezer space, will you please stop? Because when you hog the freezer space, that means that I cannot hog the freezer space. And I was the one that thought of hogging the freezer space first. You are just copying off of me. OK? Thanks

Don't believe everything you hear...

This is just a general comment. If you ever hear that someone said something about you, before you repeat it or believe it as gospel, you might want to check directly with the person who the comment was attributed do. This would be true especially if the *gossiper* did not particularly like the *gossipp-ee*. Hard to believe, isn't it?

It's just a good rule of thumb, because believe it or not - people don't always tell the truth. *gasp*

"Consider the source"
My Mom

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Exclusive: Obama in Peoria with photos!

Once again a huge Thank you to Paul Wilkinson for his wonderful commentary and outstanding photos of President Obama's visit of last week. Paul is quite the mover and shaker and is never far from the action without capturing the moment on his Canon rebel. It is great that he so willingly shares his experiences right here at PeoriaRocks!

As a guest blogger of Diane's, I am taking some "blogger license" and including much of my personal opinion in this piece.

At work on Wednesday I was asked a few times if I was going to hear the President speak. I said that I had not heard whether or not I was going and was content either way. By the time I had gotten home, I received a call from Washington DC informing me that Congressman Aaron Schock had reserved a ticket for me and my friend, Curphy Smith, who is running for the 2nd District Council Seat.



I found the invitation somewhat of a shock (excuse the pun) specifically because I had just seen Aaron on Sunday and he didn't say a word about it. Always appreciate a good surprise. I called my boss and told her I would not be in Thursday due to this event. She, of course, is getting used to me flexing in and out of work, for political activities, and was most supportive.

I will admit that while I did not vote for the President, I have been curious as to how he would achieve what he has set out to do. Monitoring all the brouhaha about the stimulus package, reading, and listening to various opinions, I also realized that perhaps a better package could have been developed. Specifically in the transportation and infrastructure sections. I agree with Aaron, this could have been done much better. Knowing Aaron, I trust he has done his homework on this bill. We arrived at HH building. It was cold and sunny. There was a long wait to get in so I spent time chatting with some of various people I knew. Much of the city council was present, Reps Leitch and Gordon, Sens. Risinger and Koehler were present.






I very much enjoyed a chat with Arthur Perkins. An entire host of people were present from a variety of walks of life. Curphy is always fun to be around and great to bounce issues off. We talked quite a bit about his race for the Second District and spoke with a number of strong supporters who also waited in line.




We went through the usual security. I was very glad that I could bring in my camera. I probably am not recognized without it. There were a few opening remarks from Mr. Owens and Secretary LaHood. President Obama spoke about the stimulus package. He reported that it will greatly impact the economy, including ours here in Peoria. Interestingly enough in the audience were workers who are facing layoffs. The President called upon Congressman Schock to do the right thing and to vote for the bill. I received several texts from people not believing that Aaron was put on the spot like this, which were my personal thoughts exactly.




I have listened to much of the hype about this president and had not been sure what to expect seeing him in person. I hope great things for him and for the country in general. These times are tough, nationwide, although even with the layoffs, we as a community are still a little ahead of the game. I think back to the tough times in the 80's and remember that when things hit the coasts they slowly filtered into the Midwest and unfortunately they lingered here much longer after more fluid areas recovered. I hope that this is not the case this time. Here is a valuable quote that I took from the president's speech:
"In short, it means we're standing still. And in this new global economy, standing still is the surest way to end up falling behind. Standing still is not an option. It's not who we are; it's not who we have to be. Right now, we have a once in a generation chance to act boldly, to turn adversity into opportunity, and use this crisis as a chance to transform our economy for the 21st century."




I agree. With the global economy, many countries are able to undersell our products, albeit not the quality we once enjoyed. With that change in our economy, we need to develop those goods and services which are more unique to us: technology for example. as a product to sell to the world. Companies have been global for a number of years. That is not going to stop. We need to shift gears, re-educate or retrain the workforce for the new markets we must seek to balance our gross national product against our growing debt. We need strong infrastructure projects for manufacturing jobs. We need strong, responsible investment in our educational system. Businesses need to be able to reinvest in capital projects and pay our workers family wages and health care benefits.




Although excited about attending the event, I did not feel the awe and inspiration that I have felt with my other recent experiences. Perhaps because this visit from the President is on such a somber note. Perhaps subsequent interviews with Mr. Owens have revealed deeper cuts which will greatly effect our local economy and perhaps more of my friends will face more intense struggles trying to feed their families. After the speech, Curphy was able to shake hands with President Obama. It is always an honor to attend a event with a sitting president and much more of an honor to have any personal contact. For that experience I am thankful to Aaron for thinking of me once again.



I did have a chance to greet Secretary Ray LaHood after the event. I had spoken with him in Washington just prior to his appointment. He was excited then and seemed very happy in his current post.



The entire event was yet another honor for the city of Peoria and the region as a whole. For a few brief moments in time, we were the focus of an anxious nation.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Local businesses can submit their own on-line coupons for FREE!

Peoria.com now has a new feature where businesses can promote themselves for FREE! Here is the link:

www.peoria.com/coupons

Check it out. You can submit a downloadable coupon for your business on line! Right now it is in the beta testing phase but as soon as Joe, our love-able webmaster has a few coupons uploaded the page will go live and it will be linked to from the homepage.

While you are there, stop by the community forums and give us a shout out.

We hope vendors and customers alike enjoy and make good use of the new coupon feature. Be sure to spread the news!

It's just one more free service brought to you by your friends at Peoria.com.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Interest free $$$ for first time home buyers!

Recently, congress passed the "Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008". A part of that act provided for an interest free tax credit of up to $7,500 for first time home buyers that purchase homes between April 9 of 2008 and July 1, 2009. The income limits for the participant are $75,000 per year for a single person or $150,000 for married, filing jointly.

Here is how it works. You find and purchase a home through Diane Vespa. Well, actually, you can use any Realtor but since this is MY blog I'm going to take the liberty to embellish it in my favor! Lol! You finance the home through the lender of your choice and close as usual.

Come tax time at the end of the year, you claim a $7,500 tax credit on your tax return. For example, if you would have otherwise been entitled to a $2,000 refund, you will now receive a whopping $9,500 tax refund! If your tax return says you OWE $2,000., you will actually get a refund for $5,500, with the tax credit applied.

You will then be expected to pay back the loan to the tune of $500. per year for 15 years. Voila! $7,500 tax free loan for 15 years. What a great way to get a jump start on some equity, or upgrade or redecorate your new home. Hurry though! This program, if not renewed, will expire on July 1, 2009. The full details of the program are available here.

Of course, my explanation of this new program is very general. Please don't rely on anything herein as tax advice. For more specific information about this program and how it applies to your personal circumstances, please contact your tax preparer.

If you are a first time home-buyer and would like an e-mail list of homes in your price range please drop me an e-mail at dianevespa@yahoo.com, or give me a call at 309-645-8608!

Pass the buck...

Yesterday, while dining at the food court at Northwoods Mall, I was forced to participate in the following conversation:

Our Son: "Dad, what color is God's skin?"

The Dh: "Ask your mom."

Me: "Huh?" (As I was rudely diverted from my enjoyment of a veggie Charlie's grilled sub.)

The son: "Mom, what color is God's skin?"

Me: (looked rudely towards DH as I took the liberty of a long, laborious thinking moment) "I think that God's skin would be a mixture of the color of every person's in the universe". That seemed to satisfy him.. although I could tell he was still thinking. "What color do you think it is?"

The son: "I think it is clear, because God is all around us."

Me: "Son, I think you might be on to something there!"

The Daughter: "I think it is green!"

End of discussion.