The Observer Reports were written by volunteer observers of the Greater Peoria League of Women Voters. The reports are presented here as a public service. They are in no way “official” but are intended solely as an informal means of enabling citizens to monitor the meetings of local government bodies. Every effort has been made to make these reports accurate; however, like all materials of this nature, they are subject to human error.
The Peoria City Council met July 13, 2021 with all Council members present except John Kelly.
City Manager Urich informed Councilors that a public engagement survey would be posted on the city’s website to invite residents to give input on how the city should spend remaining state and local Coronavirus relief funds.
The city was awarded $47,089,976, with $10,301,585 spent in June to eliminate need to issue cash bond and curtail furloughs for city employees. Three public hearings will be scheduled, as well, for public input with one being virtual. Dates for public hearings are:
July 26 at 6 p.m. live streamed on city u-tube channel;
August 1 at 6 p.m. at Peoria North Branch Library; and
August 12 at 6 p.m. at Lincoln Branch Library.
In addition, paper copies of the survey will be available at all Peoria Library locations. The survey will be available until 5 p.m. August 19. City Manager Urich will give an update on public input at the August 24 meeting. Funds must be committed to specific projects by the end of 2024 and funds spent by end of 2026.
Interim Corporation Counsel Peterson updated councilors on additional measures and consequences for tobacco, liquor and retail gasoline dealer licenses due to rise in violence at some businesses. Among the options are fines, suspension or revoking licenses. The council also discussed consequences on license holders for unpaid fines, and the effect proposed changes would have on majority of license holders who are not a cause for concern. The Council will discuss this issue again at the July 27 meeting.
Panhandling and solicitation concerns were addressed next. Councilor Grayeb thanked legal department staff for research on Federal law regarding these two issues. He referred to existing laws that would prevent pedestrians from standing in the street and that the city and police should work on plan to enforce these laws. Discussion included motivations for increase in panhandling, as well as, how this could affect local non-profit groups and safety issues of pedestrians. First Amendment rights and enforcing existing laws was concern. Counsel Peterson clarified that the Supreme Court has looked at panhandling and public safety as separate issues and gave examples of two municipalities addressing prohibition of pedestrian traffic at specific locations based on local data related to collision reports and statistics. A change in ordinance would prohibit all pedestrian traffic at specified intersections and would need to be enforced for all citizens equally. The council voted to receive and file the report.
Connie Romanus, Observer
The Peoria County Election Commission met on Tuesday, July 13, 2021, with all commissioners present. They had a first discussion of the 2022 budget. It will have to be voted on during the August meeting before being submitted to the County Board. Executive Director Tom Bride expects some increases due to more Vote by Mail. There should be more money for election judges, including overtime, and more dropboxes. Some equipment is left over from 2020. Director Bride expects a 35-40% voter turnout in November of 2022 because of the new Vote by Mail law. He is concerned about a 100% increase in insurance because he not yet sure why this should be. The office has five full time and one part time employee.
The Request for Proposal for a new voting system will not affect the budget. That money comes from capital funds. Director Bride needs to sit down with IT from the County, then the attorney, and then the finance office before the RFP can be sent out.
Once redistricting is completed, the office will need to send out registration cards. It is anticipated that federal money will be available to pay for safer dropboxes and other security. Bride will check with both political parties before deciding on locations for the boxes—preferably in public locations such as libraries.
Chairman Matt Bartolo took a moment to publicly thank the League of Women Voters for helping to convince the County Board to pass the budget amendment allowing the Commission to spend the $19,000 left from the Tech and Civic Life Grant.
Irene Pritzker, Observer
The Peoria County Board held its regular meeting via face-to-face format on July 8th with all present except Members Pastucha and Bryant. A proclamation was read by Chairman Rand recognizing David Tuttle, former Director of the Emergency Communications Center, upon his retirement in June 2021 following 38 years of service. The regular agenda was short with the four items on the consent agenda passing on a 15-1 vote.
Two rezoning petitions (one in Princeville Township and another in Medina) were approved without opposition.
A recommendation from the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and the County Administrator recommending approval of an appropriation of unused grant funds from the Center for Tech and Civic Life in the amount of $19,430 into the FY2021 Election Commission budget was approved on a 12-4 vote following a brief discussion that included one citizen’s comment and one member expressing opposition to the resolution. LWVGP President Terry Kohlbuss was present in support and had written a letter asking the County Board members to revise the budget to accept the no-strings-attached grant money. Peoria Election Executive Director Tom Bride and Election Commission Chairman Matt Bartolo were present to answer any questions from board members but none were asked.
A resolution was unanimously approved recommending approval of a permanent easement for the construction of an overflow spillway at the Peoria County Landfill #3. The Peoria City Council had already voted in favor of this same resolution.
Under Miscellaneous and Announcements, Administrator Sorrell and Member Salzer spoke to the recent dedication of the “Final Salute” statute dedicated on July 3rd. Member Salzer encouraged attendance at the upcoming HOI Fair. Member Dillon recognized LWVGP for again assigning an observer to their board meetings.
Jim Runyon, Observer
The Board of Commissioners of the PHA met virtually on July 6. Board meeting minutes from June 14, 2021 meeting were approved, as well as, minutes of board training meeting of April 23. The board approved a resolution to authorize and approve Taft Home Redevelopment closing documents. This was required to give CEO authority to submit these documents to keep Taft redevelopment project on target.
Chairman Cannon asked for an update from CEO Search Committee. Commissioner Heffner reported committee will be reviewing proposals from search firms and selecting firms for presentation overview to committee.
Commissioner Brown reported there were no issues from Resident and Safety Committee. July 4th holiday was uneventful and no issues reported. The regular meeting was adjourned at 4:51 P.M.
A special meeting of the PHA Development Corporation, a not-for-profit entity, was held immediately after the regular monthly meeting. Melissa Huffstedtler, Deputy Director of PHA, presented an overview of the PHADC. The corporation will meet quarterly, with special meetings as needed and will serve as a partner in the Taft redevelopment project, as well as, the purchase of vacant property for future and/or redevelopment for the PHA. By-laws were presented and approved by the board, as well as, resolutions to authorize and approve Taft conversion project and Taft rental assistance conversion project. Meeting adjourned at 5:01 PM.
The next Board of Commissioners meeting will be August 2, 2021 at 4:30 P.M.
Connie Romanus, Observer
The Peoria County Board of Election Commissioners held its monthly meeting on June 8, 2021, with all commissioners present except for Commissioner Burke. The only unusual expenditure was for property tax on the building. It was thought that they would not have to pay that tax since they are a government body, but that has proven not to be true. The whole year’s levy was paid to the owner of the building for 55% of the total due. The owner is responsible for paying the real estate tax.
Much of the rest of the meeting was spent discussing an issue with the Center for Tech & Civic Life Grant. This grant was received last year to help defray election costs arising from the pandemic. The County Board approved the receipt of this grant. The total grant was for $109,000, and there is $19,000 left that can be spent until the end of July 2021. Director Tom Bride asked the County Board to amend the Commission’s budget so that this money can be spent. At the last County Board meeting, this request was voted down. Some County Board members expressed an unwillingness to accept money for elections from a private entity, even though there were no strings attached. When Director Bride tried to explain that the money was already here, he was not allowed to speak! Only two Board members voted against receiving the grant last year, but a 2/3 vote was needed to pass the amendment to the budget. Director Bride will go back to the Ways and Means committee on June 21, and hopefully will be able to gain passage at the July 8 full Board meeting.
A Request For Proposal for a new voting system should be going out by the end of June. There was a slight delay due to a new voting law passed recently by the State of Illinois. The next primary will be June 28, so there is plenty of time. Director Bride, also, expects growth in Vote-By-Mail since voters will be able to have a permanent mail-in ability. He wants to gather data from other states so that information can be included in the RFP. There will be some advantages in having numbers known in advance, but there could be staffing changes as well.
Irene Pritzker, Observer
The Peoria County Election Commission met on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, with all present except for Commissioner Burke. In the discussion of expenditures, Director Bride pointed out that the Commission was $65,000 under budget, even with the added expense of cleaning three voting locations which was promised before the election. These savings were due primarily to having fewer judges than in the past.
Director Bride pointed out that the Commissioners were only getting ½ of their normal pay (which is set by statute). Last spring the Peoria County Board had asked all departments to cut their budgets by 11% because the pandemic had decimated income. Full pay had been included in the 2020-21 budget, but Director Bride had forgotten to notify the County to return the Commissioners to full pay. The Board voted to deviate from the statute for the first six months of this year rather than receive that pay retroactively.
A Request for Proposal for new voting equipment will be sent out soon. Proposals will come to the Commission office, and a committee will be formed to evaluate them. The committee will consist of two Commissioners, staff, someone from IT, the attorney, and maybe a County Board member. Someone from the local disability community will be asked to check accessibility.
Irene Pritzker, Observer
On April 13, 2021, the Peoria City Council approved the following by Omnibus Vote:
In unfinished business, the council adopted Ordinance updating the City Code for Short Term Rental Uses after many months of delay. Currently, short term rentals through Airbnb, VRBO and other websites by owner of home are not been legal in Peoria. Under this agreement, home owners wanting to rent room or single- family home would have to live in home in order to meet guidelines for rental. Property not lived in by an owner would require a special use permit to rent out the home. In addition, existing covenants or rules of neighborhood associations could prohibit rentals. Currently, hotel taxes are not collected on rentals; Airbnb has reported it would collect hotel taxes from property owners if city required that, forwarding funds to the City. In addition, Airbnb would work with Peoria Police Department through law enforcement portal for any issues on property rented through Airbnb.
On a final note, Council Person Riggenbach questioned safety of panhandlers at busy intersections. Interim Corporation Counsel, Chrissie Peterson, related that it is difficult to enforce limitations on this but that it should be done in safe manner. She will provide report back at next meeting. Ms. Peterson reported the ACLU has upheld protection for individuals holding a sign and soliciting money on public property and prohibits discrimination of these persons.
Connie Romanus, Observer
The Peoria County Board of Election Commissioners held its monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. All commissioners were present except for Dr. Pinto, who is out of town.
According to Executive Director Tom Bride, the April 6 general election went relatively smoothly. They were a little short of judges, having only 243 available that day. A few judges had quit, and there were not as many student judges working as in the past. One-third of voters cast their votes early, either at early voting locations or by mail, and two-thirds voted on election day. Total turnout was 17 ½% of those eligible to vote.
With the next election not occurring until March of 2022, it is time to discuss upcoming projects:
Only one question arose during public comments. Would the RFP be open to the public? The answer was yes, and probably even presentations by vendors.
Irene Pritzker, Observer
Public Hearing for Annual Town Meeting for Township of Peoria will be held at City Hall on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 6:00 PM. This will include Town Budget, Appropriation Ordinance and Annual Meeting of Town Board of Trustees.
The Council members approved resolution to remove access restriction to Jamestown Road for multi-family residential development on W. King James RD and N. Queen Frances Lane; road improvement project for Northmoor Rd. from Allen Rd. to University St.; denied liquor license at neighborhood grocery store at 1500 NE Jefferson - the business owner was referred to Economic Development for assistance, as well as the small business development program through Bradley University.
After several delays, the Council passed Ordinance designating an area of urban decay and adopting tax abatement for portions of the north valley and south side of Peoria. Councilperson John Kelly has proposed this as a means to invest in the neighborhoods and encourage building and improve land values in the area. Taxes would be paid on value of land but not on new construction for first six years; taxes on new construction would be phased in years seven though ten. Kelly sees this program as an opportunity to recognize and increase the property values in the area for all owners. This measure was opposed by Council Persons Moore, Jenson and Ali. Council Person Moore was concerned about effect on Peoria Public Schools which could be impacted by loss of tax revenue by abatement.
Finally, the Council unanimously deferred Ordinance to approve special use General Commercial use of property at 1217 W. Glen Ave. and 4926 N. University until April 13, 2021.
Connie Romanus, Observer
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