Heartland partnership: Going, going, gone
Jim McConoughey, CEO of Heartland Partnership, is apparently gone or close to it as I put this column to bed. Reportedly, others are unsure of their future with the organization. One of those is city councilman, Ryan Spain, managing director. I’ve heard he applied to become the marketing director at the Peoria airport without success. Too bad. He’s a sharp and articulate community leader. If Aaron Shock decides to run for Illinois governor, and we think he will, look for Spain to seriously consider seeking to replace Shock for Congress. But I digress….
The Heartland Partnership mission is to “develop solutions that target and encourage quality innovation and increase economic opportunity through our regional collaboration.” That’s a great mission statement. So why is the media person doing video interviews on its web site about subjects that have nothing to do with economic opportunity and regional collaboration?
Peoria taxpayers are scratching their heads over the latest District 150 spending plan. After closing Woodruff High School to save money, with a one vote majority, the board is spending money to buy houses to expand PeoriaHigh School. The board says Peoria High needs space for athletic fields, this after spending millions to renovate the aged building to accommodate the additional 600 Woodruff students. Former district superintendent Harry Whitaker has maintained closing schools for alleged economic reasons never translates into savings for taxpayers. What’s happening at Peoria High illustrates Whitaker’s wisdom and the board’s failure to provide fiscal leadership. Meanwhile, Woodruff has a newer physical plant, a more modern building complete with a fantastic swimming facility (Peoria High has none), a large baseball field and an even larger football and track field, with no need to spend taxpayer money to buy houses for expansion. A bad decision by the likes of Debbie Wolfmeyer and Laura Petelle is being compounded with more bad decisions by this board. Peoria students and families deserve better, especially those who live on the city’s northside.
But wait. There’s more. Now rumors are circulating board members and 150 officials are quietly entertaining the possibility of constructing a new track and football stadium near Peoria High School. They’re considering closure of Peoria Stadium. Building a stadium around central Peoria will have all kinds of area high schools eager to come for night games, I’m sure.
Once again District 150 board members turned their backs on Martha Ross as she failed to be elected president losing to newcomer Chris Crawford. Even newer member Rick Cloyd leaped over Ross to be named vice president. I’ve talked to several community insiders and no one has an answer as to why Ross is being, pardon the expression, black-listed by the likes of Wolfmeyer, Petelle, Butler, and now Crawford and Cloyd. I think it’s insulting. What bothers me most is the decision of Crawford and Cloyd to be too willing to ignore the tenure, service and commitment of Ms. Ross.
Most people are taught to be fair by their parents. Unfortunately, some forget when they become adults, especially when elected to public office. Voters and taxpayers demand and deserve transparency in government. Crawford and Cloyd should explain what they have against the black woman on the school board.
I’ve heard Superintendent Grenita Lathan has issued letters to principals, coaches, and teachers to go easy on enforcement of the student dress code come the new school year. The letters come at a time when employee morale is at an all time low. Despite an accompanying warning that the subject is not to be discussed with the media, some have quietly expressed anger at the “lowering of dress standards.” One source told me, “I have high standards for my students and have no intention of following administrative dictates.” He went on to say students want discipline and guidance. When asked why the alleged easing of dress standards, the teacher had no answer.
Ray LaHood, Transportation Secretary for President Obama, attempted to praise his boss in a recent speech, but wound up with egg on his face. According to Fox News, the Peorian said Lexus had just come out with a hybrid. “Who would’ve thought that would happen two years ago,” LaHood proudly pronounced. He was wrong. Fox News anchor Brett Baier pointed out, “Lexus introduced its hybrid in 2005.” I believe it was when Bush was president. Then the Peorian, now serving for President Obama, in an almost campaign speech mode, shouted to a crowd at the Amtrak building dedication in Normal, “People are saying the stimulus didn’t work. Here’s an example that it is working.” But, I thought we were promised that passage of the stimulus bill would keep unemployment from exceeding 8%. Everyone who follows the news knows it went as high as 10%, that is officially and unofficially zoomed to 14.9%. By the way, when did Republican Ray LaHood become Democrat Ray LaHood?
WHO TO BELIEVE?
The Executive Committee of the Peoria County Board has voted to ask November voters whether to eliminate the elected offices of Recorder of Deeds and Auditor. The measure now goes to the full board for a vote. It will bring a spirited debate as it did with the Executive Committee that voted 5-3 to place it on the ballot as a binding referendum.
Supporters claim eliminating the offices will save $1 million, but so far have provided no concrete evidence to prove their assertion. Those who oppose eliminating the offices say there will be no independent protection of taxpayer money if those responsibilities are rolled into other county departments. I didn’t hear the debate, but one opposing the mergers could easily point to Dixon, Illinois, where the non-elected financial officer, Rita Crundwell, has been charged with stealing $53 mil lion over more than 20 years. It makes it easy for embezzlement when finances are hidden from the public in large departments. Could it happen in Peoria County? I doubt it, but why make it easier? In supporting dumping Democrat Auditor Carol Van Winkle and Republican Recorder of Deeds, Nancy Horton, county board member Steve Morris said, “It’s beyond me that we would not allow voters to have a say in this.” I wonder why Morris and those who agree with him have never allowed voters to decide whether board members deserve a raise.
BRADLEY PLANNING NEW ATHLETIC BRAND
Bradley University has a relative new basketball coach who finished his first year with a dismal performance and record. Someone on the Hilltop has apparently decided the school needs a new “brand.” That’s marketing lingo for a theme or trademark to better identify and sell a service, product, or in this case, an athletic program. The school’s alumni association is holding focus groups to receive feedback about the new branding plan. I’ve been invited to attend one of the meetings and look forward to learning details. My early comment is winning teams will do the best job in branding a school’s athletic programs.
ANNUAL TRIP TO HARRY CARAY’S
Speaking of Bradley alumni, each year Pete Vonachen and Ron Ferguson organize a group of local Bradley folk to attend a luncheon with some fellow Chicago area graduates at Harry Caray’s in Lombard, Illinois. In recent years the locals climb aboard our family RV for the trip north. This year, in addition to Vonachen and Ferguson, the others were Lee O’Connell, Ed Dwyer, Ken Goldin, Eddie King, this writer and son, Zack, who drove the wagon.
Among those joining us at the restaurant luncheon were Gene Melchiorrie and brother Dino; former NFL official, Don Hakes; former NBC-TV news reporter, Dick Kay; Mike Chianakas; Dean Medford; and others, numbering 25 in all. That also includes Pete’s good friend and owner, Dutchie Caray who makes it a regular habit to be a part of the happy gathering. By the way, Dutchie celebrates a birthday August 22 and Pete will celebrate his 87th on August 31 with friends and family. The Peoria group always heads for Toluca for dinner at Mona’s or Capponi’s before returning home. Everyone looks forward to next year’s fun trip, God willing.
CBS, like other national media including our local newspaper, is in full campaign mode to support the re-election of President Obama. On a recent trip to London, Republican nominee (eventually) Mitt Romney was asked for his assessment of Britain’s Olympic preparations. As the guy who saved the U.S. Winter Olympics in 2000, Romney gave his honest opinion instead of some public relations baloney as Charles Krauthammer on Fox suggested. CBS called his remarks a blunder. Funny, never heard that from the national media when Obama wrongly opined that the private sector of the economy was doing okay or when he wrongly stated that no individual can make it on his own or when Clinton said falsely before the nation and a grand jury, “I did not have sex with that woman.” It’s my blunder for watching CBS news.
GREAT NBC COVERAGE
Kudos to NBC for its magnificent coverage of the opening Olympic ceremonies in London. Bob Costas did his usual great job, but we could do without Matt Lauer who contributed nothing. The welcome remarks by the British spokesman were delivered without flaw and without a single smile, even when he pronounced that “Tonight I’m proud to be British.” Queen Elizabeth brought a smile, I’m sure, in her brief acting stint with “James Bond.” However, when she announced the start of the games, did it again without a smile. Why are the British wearing so many sour expressions? On the other hand, the young men and women sparkled with enthusiasm and excitement and smiles. Go USA!
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“Look at everything as if you’re seeing it for the very first and last time.” —Kate Nowak