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Transparency in Government

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

We must expect more from our City Council

Diaz for Mayor Press Conference

12.8.20 – Full Text

Good Morning, I am Andy Diaz, candidate for Mayor of Peoria. I’m here today to question how our city engages and shares information with the residents of Peoria. Over the last few years, I have seen opportunities lost by our city to engage in meaningful dialogue, educating residents about fees, our finances, and impending burdens that the city will take on for the decades to come. When questions are asked, residents are ignored, talked down to, or told that the expense is inevitable, so find something you like about it and move on. I am tired of that kind of thinking and the implications that has on an engaged community. When government does not conduct business in a transparent manner, we squander the ability for all residents of Peoria to make meaningful contributions to our community. Asking for input after the fact, if you’re asked at all, makes it clear that your input was not valued nor wanted, and the resulting product cannot succeed. This leads to a cycle of failure for some of our ambitious projects and finger pointing within the community about the quote unquote, waste, of government. On the agenda this evening is the request to approve spending for a community center to be located on Western Avenue at the site of the old Aldi/Savealot store. Spending $550,000 on the acquisition of a building, which will require additional renovations, with no input from the local neighborhood group and without opportunity to offer public input is poor form. Coupled with the fact that in this case, the local neighborhood group, Southside Community United for Change was not part of the preliminary discussions or planning is business as usual, and that’s a problem I plan on resolving. SCUC has been using that building for the last two years as site of the Southside Farmers Market. If the people who have been using the building for the last 2 years weren’t included in the conversation, how good of a plan can you have? How successful of a project can you have, when those most engaged in the neighborhood are excluded? With the project plan as outlined in the council communications, there is an additional price tag of $100,000 a year to be committed to staffing and maintenance of the facility, not including the utilities. All this, after just having made cuts to our public safety budget. We have to do better.

As for the consent decree with the EPA, again, we have an issue that has been litigated and worked on for over a decade. 2 years ago, a fee was established to fund some of the costs of our sewer overflow problem. Depending on what information you read, the city may be on the hook for 100 to 250 million dollars worth of infrastructure improvements to get us in compliance. The stormwater fee cannot, nor was it ever planned, to cover the total burden of these upgrades. The city has had over 2 years to educate the public, they have failed. The city has a website that rarely gets updated, shares little new information, and is a hot mess. There are few references to what type of projects will need to be completed, and if you look at some of how the money has already been spent, you will see that hardly any of it addresses the combined sewer overflow issues in the impact area. The city has instead used the money for projects where they implemented growth cell strategies and greenlit projects that contributed to the problem. At this point, the city has a problem but no solutions that have been communicated to the public. We must engage our state and federal elected legislators, Darin LaHood, Cheri Bustos, Ryan Spain, Dave Koehler, and Jehan Gordon-Booth to gain their commitment to securing support in our state and federal budgets to contribute to the repairs we need to make in our city.

Regardless of your political affiliation, these legislators are our voice at the State and Federal Levels and proudly proclaim the money they bring home for other projects. We should be issuing them a challenge to secure funding to solve this problem. Over the next four years, there will be a push for infrastructure and sustainability projects to be funded by the next administration. We need to plan now and begin those conversations to be included in the 2021 and future budget cycles. These are discussions that need to be held in public and done in a way to continue to educate the taxpayers on the problems, the opportunities, and the solutions we have at hand. Engagement of our residents to come up with other solutions that may have not been previously considered is critical. Each of us has a place in the community to offer our expertise, comments, and thoughts. If we are not allowing everyone to offer their full contribution, we do ourselves a disservice. I believe that educating the electorate and engaging neighbors is a key dynamic in bringing long term prosperity to our community. We cannot expect people to invest in nor move to a city that does not have a long-term strategy and vision to manage the complex changes necessary to revitalize Peoria. With today’s technology and ability to share information via social media, hold public meetings with interaction via Zoom, Teams, or Google Meets, and the broadcast of council meetings, we can educate our people and give them answers much faster, resulting in an increase of trust in our community. As mayor, I am committed to making this happen. It is why I have invited all candidates to sit down for a series of public forums to discuss the most pressing issues we face as a community. Let’s have a dialogue where we can problem solve together and coordinate a future plan for our community. District by district, via zoom or other technology, let’s hear your thoughts and what you believe your constituents expect from our next city council. Contact Andres Diaz with questions. 309-453-6951

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