In my first column of 2012, I would like to thank Central Illinois Business Publishers for once again permitting me to share my thoughts of our great city with the IBI audience. This service not only informs our fellow citizens but helps me crystallize my thoughts regarding who we are as a community and who we should and want to be. IBI has earned a strong reputation in the business community because of the quality of information contained within.
In January, I was privileged to deliver my seventh “State of the City Address” to business and civic leaders under the auspices of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce. I addressed several topics, and my intent is to not repeat those points here. Rather, in looking back, I recognize that I was focusing on a call to better emphasize, enhance and enable our unique assets as an “urban” community.
Our greatest asset, of course, is Peoria’s diverse and dynamic population. By its very nature, the notion of an urban community stresses variety and individualism. Peoria attracts people from all walks of life and all cultural backgrounds. The excitement and opportunity of serving an urban citizenry far outweighs the challenges that come with attempting to accommodate the differing expectations as to what constitutes “quality of life.”
As mayor, with the partnership of our city council, our ultimate goal is to do whatever we can within our financial and legal resources to further the aspirations of our citizens for a good and decent life. I firmly believe that to “emphasize” the strength and capability of our population, “enhance” their chances for success, and “enable” them to pursue their dreams in an affordable urban setting, we need to do our utmost to stimulate economic growth.
As I look at the menu of opportunities we have before us to “emphasize, enhance and enable,” we must stay focused on improving those services and activities directly under our control. And it is no secret that people choose to live in an urban setting for security, convenience, education and the ability to select among many cultural and social offerings.
In our deliberations on the 2012 budget, we had to make painful choices that included, among other things, the downsizing of city staff, laying the groundwork for reorganization, and most importantly, living within our means. But all our decisions were aimed at providing the resources necessary to our police and fire departments to ensure we remain “best of class” in public safety services; to strengthen the ability of our public works department to maintain and expand infrastructure to facilitate mobility and economic development; to accomplish greater effectiveness in planning, code enforcement and building inspection programs through structural realignment and greater coordination with Peoria County; and to look at overall economic development as a shared responsibility with other governmental and non-governmental organizations. Enter more public-private partnership discussions—that topic to be continued…
But in the final analysis, all of these efforts—those we can move along as a city government and those that will succeed through greater connectivity among many groups—will flourish only within a viable and enriching educational environment. I am encouraged with the leadership and direction of Peoria Public School District 150. Its leaders recognize that they hold an important key to the decisions of where people choose to live—and Peoria must be the community of choice when it comes to public education; otherwise, we cannot fulfill our essential need for sustainable economic growth.
The efforts of Superintendent Grenita Lathan, the District 150 Board and staff, as well as my valued education liaison and advisor, Dr. Bill Collier, are making headway. Like city government, District 150 has had to make painful choices to become more effective in its mission and efficient in the use of physical assets. As a city, we will continue to pursue full cooperation with District 150 in terms of providing overall public safety and infrastructure improvements adjacent to the new and renovated education campuses. When all school districts in our area achieve results and deserved reputations like Peoria-Dunlap 323 schools, we will be successful.
We, as a community, are blessed with outstanding human talent and unique physical resources. By emphasizing, enhancing and enabling our assets, we will achieve an enviable quality of life as strong as any in the nation. iBi