Q&A with Jim Montelongo
What inspired you to run for Peoria mayor?
There are many people who have inspired me to run for mayor. I am inspired working side by side with neighborhood leaders who care so much about their neighborhood and Peoria that they want to discuss problems and come up with solutions. I am inspired when talking with entrepreneurs and business owners who are working hard to build their businesses. I know that many put their life savings behind their dream.
I am inspired by so many people who have come to my monthly breakfasts and coffee meetings to discuss Peoria and how we can make it better. I am also inspired by my sons who are trying to build a career here in Peoria. I want to make sure that they—and everyone else’s sons and daughters—have career opportunities. I am inspired by the many great opportunities I have been given here in Peoria, and I want others to have the same opportunities.
What are your top three issues, and how do you plan to address these issues?
To understand my top issues, I need to first describe Peoria’s challenge. The City of Peoria has hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and liabilities. The payment obligations and city expenses have and will continue to exceed our revenue. Our city has significantly cut its employees and budgets, which has impacted our ability to deliver city services and projects. The city has already raised significant taxes and fees on its residents and businesses. Any more may cause them to move from Peoria, and the city has already experienced a significant population loss. At the same time, we are working through a pandemic which has resulted in many of Peoria’s restaurants and retail businesses closing or operating at reduced capacity. This has had a significant impact on employment and a loss of tax and fee revenues for the city.
#1: Helping our businesses grow jobs and expand. This is our only way out of this predicament. The following are some of the actions that must be taken:
- We need less taxes and fees on business and more growth incentives.
- We must continue to promote Peoria and all of its great attributes through various advertising channels; partnerships, such as with the Convention and Visitors Bureau; and a new city website. This will help in recruiting new people and business to Peoria.
- Peoria needs to adopt “economic gardening” principles. We need to have a focused economic team, with business consultant resources, available to help every small and midsized business grow new customers and reach new markets. We need one specific team to work on the medical industry alone. This economic team will also provide expense reduction techniques. When hundreds of businesses start hiring new employees, our population will also be positively impacted, as will our local taxes and the city budget.
- We need to continue helping startup businesses by providing access to loans, grants and networking opportunities. The city must actively participate in helping startups.
- The federal government is the largest consumer of goods and services, purchasing $550 billion annually. I believe the city’s economic development team should work with the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council to build a consortium of businesses that can work together to respond to federal government contract opportunities.
- We must continue hosting workshops on how to do business with the City of Peoria for small, women- and minority-
- owned businesses.
- The City of Peoria and the restaurant and hospitality association need to make sure all of our restaurants and retailers are up and running at full capacity within the CDC guidelines.
- We need to do a feasibility study on any new idea that can add to city revenues or that grows our economy.
#2: Getting our financial house in order. This needs to be a top priority. Develop a budget that provides basic services and works for the residents of Peoria. We must also continue to work with all departments to find ways to do things cheaper, faster and better for taxpayers.
#3: Public safety in neighborhoods. A new police chief should be selected with City Council, public and department input. Our police officers are stretched and usually first on the scene by themselves, placing them in a dangerous situation until backup officers show up. It also creates morale issues for the officers in this situation. But adding police officers is just one component—attacking crime requires a multidimensional approach.
We need to create a neighborhood-by-neighborhood plan and rating to address all of the “broken windows” in neighborhoods. My approach includes working with Community Development and neighborhood leaders to resolve these issues. We must continue to create neighborhood associations and ensure they are all functioning. We also need to create or revive neighborhood watch programs and utilize programs like the Ring doorbell, which can deter crime and help identify the offenders.
I would like to research expanding and using more precinct offices in areas of high crime, and I would like to open another substation in the Grand Prairie area. I would like to see two police officers in a car in high-crime neighborhoods so that a team approach is used for safety. We also need to explore more options such as camera technologies.
What is your vision for Peoria’s future?
There are many great attributes about Peoria, and we must work to maintain those advantages and quality of life. Peoria is a great place to raise a family, where homeownership is affordable in many different types of neighborhoods across the city. And it only takes 15 minutes to get anywhere in Peoria, from work and school, to shops, restaurants and entertainment.
Peoria is a community with caring citizens who take the lead in solving problems alongside city government, and who support one another in improving quality of life for all. Peoria is a city where diversity and inclusion is part of all of our planning processes. We must protect and preserve our many unique neighborhoods and their individual characteristics.
Peoria is a regional location for medical services, and we want to continue to support this growth and its supply chain. Peoria is also recognized as a regional destination for retail, restaurants, art and entertainment. It is a place where the people are friendly and helpful.
Why are you the best candidate to serve in this position?
The biggest challenge for our city today centers around creating jobs—working with businesses to grow jobs and help our economy grow and expand. With an MBA and 30 years of business experience as an entrepreneur; having completed business incubator and accelerator programs from 1871, Stanford University and Bradley University; and serving as a past chairman of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce and current board member of the Greater Peoria Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I am uniquely qualified to understand how to help other businesses grow and expand in Peoria.
I have served nearly 12 years on the City Council, giving me almost twice the experience in city government over all of my competitors combined. I understand how our city government runs and operates. I am the only candidate who has served as both a district and at-large council member. My experience as a district council member has given me an opportunity to be responsible for an entire district and represent a set group of residents. On a small scale, it’s like being the mayor of a small area. I have a proven track record and method of addressing issues in a district that could be implemented across the entire city.
I will schedule meetings with neighborhood and business leaders in all districts to discuss current events and problems and to find solutions, much like my monthly coffee meetings with the 4th District. As mayor of Peoria, I will work on the city’s challenges seven days a week.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I have a 12-year proven track record of working with neighborhood associations to accomplish safety in neighborhoods, creating new neighborhood associations, and working with businesses to accomplish safety and other common goals. I’ve hosted about 90 meetings with the public and with neighborhood leaders to solve city problems. I have stopped unwanted developments, served as my constituents’ voice against tax increases, and worked with police to address hot-spot areas of crime.
Peoria is at a pivotal moment in time, with some of the biggest challenges we have ever faced. My goal as mayor is to preserve our great quality of life and continue to move the city forward. We need a strong leader with a focus on jobs and economic growth. I am running because there is nothing more important than getting our city back on track financially to being one of the best places to live in the country. PM