As Peoria Magazine greets the new year with another timely theme of “Health & Wellness,” I’d like to commend its growing importance and substantive quality. In addition, as they launch their 31st year of business in 2020, I am reminded that this will be my 21st year in Peoria city government. I’ve witnessed many peaks and valleys since first being elected as an at-large council member in 1999, but the constant has been doing what’s best for our great citizens. With this in mind, I’d like to discuss how city government plays a central role in our region’s overall health and wellness.
Quality City Services
Peoria and its neighboring communities are among the finest in the nation with top-quality healthcare providers and related educational and employment opportunities. With regard to the City of Peoria, I’m referring to our unconditional, 24/7/365 provision of police, fire protection and emergency communications services. This includes the services of the Public Works Department as well—especially when severe weather conditions threaten safe transit to hospitals or other healthcare providers, or when Illinois River flooding forces businesses to close.
Based on my experience and in conversations with mayors around the country, a city’s reputation as a place to invest, work, live, study and access essential healthcare services ultimately rests on the quality of fire, police, emergency communications and infrastructure support services. Anyone following the Peoria City Council’s budget deliberations knows these items constitute the dominant portions of our budget. That is why it is no small accomplishment to develop, debate and approve a balanced budget that sustains and strengthens these essential responsibilities of city government.
The budgeting process which concluded last November did include some modest additional fees. And just like every other property owner in Peoria, my colleagues on the City Council and I will pay these additional fees. With property values plateauing and in some cases declining—coupled with increased expenditures largely driven by the public safety employee pension crisis—it is essential we approve a budget plan that preserves our financial health and related credit standing.
Boosting Economic Health
Here’s the good news: many organizations, employers and individuals are working hard—and successfully—to strengthen our economic base and pursue robust economic development. The energetic and visionary work of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, for example, is especially noteworthy. This is why CEO Chris Setti and his team were recently recognized as Community Partner of the Year by the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University.
Another sterling partnership with public and private entities was announced in November with the launch of the Peoria Innovation Hub. Along with the support of Governor Pritzker, Rep. Ryan Spain and other state legislators, the Innovation Hub includes partnerships with Illinois Central College, OSF HealthCare and the University of Illinois, as well as innovative private enterprises like AutonomouStuff. Located on Adams Street across from the new OSF HealthCare headquarters now under construction, this initiative will propel an additional renaissance of the central downtown core.
We are blessed to have the visionary leadership and community loyalty of the Sisters of St. Francis and their team. This represents Peoria’s “health and wellness” on a big scale! And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the other entrepreneurs and organizations contributing to Peoria’s economic development, including Christine and Leland Deerhing’s Bump Boxes, Denise Moore’s leadership of the Minority Business Development Center, and many others.
Advancing Out Mutual Interests
The health and wellness of Peoria have many dimensions. Physical, mental and emotional health are a huge part of the equation, but they are only successful in a stable environment characterized by social, educational, economic and cultural wellness. By providing responsible, accessible, high-quality and transparent local governance, the City of Peoria will continue to do its best to advance all of our mutual interests in a thriving and healthy community.
2020 will certainly have many challenges—but it also affords many opportunities to improve our community’s quality of life. I approach the new year with enthusiasm and look forward to your continuing support and dedication to be the very best we can be. PM