In the crazy world in which we live, a blog looking to make sense of it all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

District 150 To Close and Consolidate Schools

The District 150 School Board yesterday discussed the possibility to close Woodruff High School as well as Tyng, Irving and Kingman primary schools. This measure is being considered to fix a gaping $9.2 million budget deficit projected for next year.

I learned of this news this morning as I didn't catch the news last night. At lunch time today, I learn there is going to be a meeting to discuss this issue set for tonight at 5pm at Godfather's Pizza. WTF! This is less than 24 hours to announce this meeting. People have lives. This gives them very little time to adjust for work, babysitters, etc.

You see, this is how the school board operates. Present a controversial issue to which they have already decided what they want to do regardless of teachers, parents and the public's input. Then call a meeting as short notice as you can get just to give the appearance that they care about parents' input. After the meeting, state that no one showed despite all their great efforts for the public to come together. Finally, the school board follows through on their plans.

I understand that they need to do something to stop the budget hemorrhaging. Nine million dollars is a lot of money. I guess they wish they had the nearly $900,000 they frivolously threw away from secretly buying houses in the East Bluff for the new Glen Oak school. But consolidating schools and reducing the number of teachers will increase class size, and decrease the quality of education. That fits in well with the rest of Peoria.

It is really sad. I went to District 150 schools in the late 60's and 70's and I considered it a great education. I had teachers who really cared about the students well being, inside and out of the classroom. There was discipline and a good environment conducive to learning. My how times have changed.

Update on 1/16/09: From what I've seen on the news and read on some blogs, Godfather's Pizza was packed for the meeting last night. That's great! I hope the community really gets involved in this issue instead of a select few making these critical decisions.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Peoria Chalks Up Another Failed Investment

The recent announcement that Cubs Food is going to close its Midtown Plaza store offers yet more evidence to my prediction that Peoria is becoming another Detroit and will one day be one big ghetto.

Nearly ten years ago, tax increment financing was used to bring Midtown Plaza to fruition. The Peoria City Council overwhelmingly voted for it, with the exception of one councilman to which we all know whom. Eminent domain powers were used (or should we say abused) for the benefit of a private developer. Now the project has failed and it will cost the Peoria taxpayer over $5 million. That's a high price tag for a town running into deficits, a high crime rate, crumbling infrastructure and a failing school system. Meanwhile, the developers exit out unscathed.

All of this should have not happened. But this is Peoria and it did happen. And where are all these council people who approved this mess. Most are gone. For those that remained and voted for this thing, will they take responsibility and be hold accountable?  Most likely, no. 

One would think this teaches us a valuable lesson. But the Peoria City Council still does not learn. They recently approved building a new hotel in downtown Peoria next to the Pere Marquette. And again, if this project fails, the Peoria taxpayer will again be stuck paying off the debt. Meanwhile, developers will exit out unscathed.

Let's take a look at other investments this city's leadership has undertaken.  (1)Civic Center. After 25 years, it still couldn't turn a profit. And with the HRA tax due to sunset, some action needed to be taken to restore it.  The solution is to build a $55 million expansion into this money loser. Now we know the meaning of good money going after bad. (2) Gateway Building. I don't remember offhand, but doesn't this boondoggle lose over $100,000 a year for the city. (3) Riverplex. Has this thing made any money to date? One of the benefits was to allow poor people a place to exercise and get fit. But since it doesn't make money off of poor people, they were pushed to only being allowed to use the facility during off hours. The rich folk are off on the north end of town at a private health club. (4) Ballpark/O'Brien Field. Yep, we really needed more seating capacity from Minen Field. I look around the downtown ballpark and see the same amount of fans there that were there at the previous park. And those palm trees, money well spent.

And similar projects are in the works. The aforementioned hotel, Riverfront Museum and the Glen Oak Zoo addition. One has to admit, the city council's track record on these things suck. And how many more can the city take on until it financially devastates the community? I guess the answer to that is when all the tax revenues are used to pay down interest and debt on this crap and nothing is left for essentials.