June 20, 2017 - Mayor Phelan started the meeting at 6:30. All Trustees were present. Trustee reports:
a) Trustees report on specific areas: Only Public Works had a report - On June 27 from 8 am to 3:30 pm, the Forrest Park Hill will be closed.
4/19/2017: The meeting took place in order to certify the results of the April 4 consolidated general election The first order of business was to end the tie in the election for Hollis Park District. Mother, Anita Zeine, and son, Russell Zeine, were tied after the April 4 election. It was the first time members of the Commission used the tie-breaker protocol. First, Chairman Collins pulled a party name out of a bag to determine who would draw a number first. Then Anita Zeine drew a four from chits numbered one through ten. Russell Zeine drew a six and was declared the winner.
The Commission approved a change in the hours that the office would be open to the public. Even though staff arrives at 8:00 am, the doors will not open until 8:30 to give staff time to get organized and ready for the day.
There was actually higher voter turnout for the April 4 election than in the last two off-season elections.
The percent voting in the city was almost 20%, but because there were more registered voters this year, actual numbers were higher.
After an update on the Brandywine building, the Commission wanted it on the record that they were unhappy with the length of time it has taken to ready the building. Unfortunately, the Commission is not the leaseholder; the County is. Hopefully, things are now on track for remodeling to occur and for a tentative move in date to be planned.
In answer to a question from an attendee, Director Tom Bride explained in detail what determines a valid mail-in ballot. First, the ballot must be postmarked no later than Election Day. Then two judges, one from each major party, determine if the signature is a match. If there is any question about the validity of the signature, the voter is given the opportunity to prove that the ballot should count. That is why there is such a gap between Election Day and the day votes are certified. -- Irene Pritzker, Observer
July 12, 2017 - Agenda issues relevant to LWV state or local positions or programs
1. Riverfront Program & Policy Advisory Committee
The Riverfront Apartments project will begin Phase 1 in the fall of 2017. Board members and some attendees discussed concerns over the loss of green space for entertainment events to the apartment development project. Concerns included the possible impact upon future revenue for the city if larger entertainment events can no longer be accommodated. The City of Peoria has encouraged the Peoria Park District to attract larger venues to the Riverfront and may not be fully aware of the restrictions the Riverfront Apartment development may place upon future entertainment planning.
9/9/2017: Start with facts on potential water company purchase
I want to thank the city of Peoria for giving residents an opportunity to offer suggestions through the online "budget challenge." The City Council may find a gem or two among the dozens or hundreds of ideas that come forward.
However, in at least one circumstance, the "budget challenge" offers Peorians a false choice. Peorians are asked to choose one of these options:
• Spend $1 million to study issues surrounding the buyout of the water company.
• Status quo: Do not pursue a study of the buyout of the water company at this time.
The numbers are flawed.
By David Ransburg and Lowell
Posted Nov 3, 2017 at 5:00 PM
As the two most recent former mayors of the city of Peoria, we have been following with great interest the current discussion over the future of the water system. During our tenures, the question of remunicipalizing our water system was explored but never fully pursued. We regret not having done so.
It is evident that a public water system has great potential for Peoria residents. From significant revenue for the city to local control of our most valuable asset to greater stability in rates, a city-owned water system could be of meaningful long-term and short-term benefit.
Since we served, much has changed. Consider:
* Peoria’s budget deficit has gotten more severe and the need for additional revenue is greater than ever. The City Council would do a disservice to its taxpayers not to explore every option before cutting services or raising taxes.
* During the past 12 years, residential rates charged by Illinois American Water Company have increased more than 60 percent, much greater than the rate of inflation. The Council should try to limit this hidden tax upon every Peorian.
* With the severe drought in the Southwest, we are much more sensitive to the value of water and who controls it. A publicly owned water system would safeguard this life-sustaining natural resource for our children and grandchildren.
* Two well-respected civic organizations, the CEO Council and the League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria, have done independent analyses and arrived at similar conclusions. Both urged the City Council to conduct the due diligence to arrive at a purchase price. If this support had been available when we were mayor, we are confident the the City Council would have had more and better information to go forward with due diligence and possible purchase.
What’s clear is that the city of Peoria does not have enough revenue to support our current level of service. The water system has a revenue stream the city could access to benefit all Peorians, if it could be purchased for a “fair” price.
We write to urge the City Council to take this unique opportunity to find out what the cost of the water system would be. If the city gets an appraisal that is excessively high, we will be the first to say a purchase should not proceed. If, however, the appraisal price is affordable, the Council and the citizenry will know the facts, and we would support municipalizing the water system.
This is really a simple question: Do the people of Peoria want to know the cost of purchasing this public asset? We urge the Council to say yes.
David P. Ransburg
Lowell “Bud” Grieves
Public Input: Cheryl Budzinski commented that the commission website was difficult to navigate and that it affected transparency and the ability to access FOIA forms and information.
Executive Director report: Outreach activities were expanding with mayors and boards of approx. 15 -16 communities contacted over the last 6 months to find out how the commission can be of assistance
The commission approved a total of 2.5% salary increase based on merit for full time employees (a lump sum total of $9276). A member from Woodford County objected because Woodford County was only giving its employees a 2% increase.
June 20, 2017 - The manager reported that the “Records Preservation” project is behind desired plan. The mausoleum crypt project is working to mark vacant crypts to make sales easier. Previously planned staff employment reviews and wage adjustments were recently completed. Overdue accounts amount to $6,300 and work is underway to address them appropriately.
The manager is proposing August 4 for dedication of the new entrance. The City of Peoria spent 40 or 50 hours doing drainage investigation; the manager sent a list of related priorities he feels he needs help from City to the public works director.
12/12/2017: With all members in attendance, the meeting went smoothly. The Election Commission is still overpaying on the water bill at Brandywine. The County, as leaseholder, is supposed to take care of changing this, but Mr. O'Connor has not yet met with the landlord. Director Tom Bride will bring this up to the County Adminstrator when he meets with him soon. The new Election Commission website should be up and running since Friday, December 15. It is using the same platform as Peoria County.
Three Peoria polling places might be changing. Northwoods Community Church no longer wishes to be a polling place. Unless they change their minds, precinct 92 will vote to the North Branch Library, and precincts 91 and 94 will move to Prayerview Church on Wilhelm Rd.
Candidate filing for local primary races went smoothly without any objections. Software for the pollbooks is being upgraded. And the State's Attorney's office is working on tax exemption for the Brandywine property.
Chairman Cummins expressed concern about the LWV website review which downgraded the Election Commission site because it was difficult to find the dates of meetings. Director Bride explained that the new website should be more user friendly.
12/12/2017: By Lowell (Bud) Grieves
Re. Nov. 25 Forum letter by Doug Johnson, “Why should private company own Peoria’s water?”:
I want to take this opportunity to clarify a statement made in the above letter that when mayor I was personally offered $50,000 to make the water buyout issue disappear. The facts are that shortly after my taking office in 1997, water company executives met privately with me concerning the 1889 option granting the city the option every five years to purchase the water company. Their contention was that this option, because of its age and other factors, was no longer valid. They urged me to meet with the council and get them to approve the city’s dissolution of this contract.
They also stated that they were willing to pay the city $50,000 to end this “nuisance” issue for both parties. To their great credit, the council refused, and bolstered by a group of community-minded citizens who provided the funds for a legal challenge, the city went to court to prove the validity of this option. In 2002, after a five-year legal battle, the courts ruled in the city’s favor to uphold the 1889 franchise agreement, forcing the water company to participate in the city’s process of exploring a buyout every five years.
Establishment of the validity of this option is now a very valuable tool for the city, and one I am glad we did not relinquish for $50,000
Lowell (Bud) Grieves
Former Peoria mayor
3/18/2017: The Peoria Election Commission held their monthly board meeting on Tuesday afternoon at the Election Commission offices. They started by approving the payment of various bills and the changes to several polling places. All county polling places are now set, except for the one at Lake Camelot which has an issue with accessibility because of a bridge being out. That change will take place after the bridge repair is finished. Single polling places were merged in order to save on the cost of elections. One polling place was changed because of a poor cell phone signal required for same day registration.
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