Straight Talk | Bad PHA decision



It was a bad decision. The board of the Peoria Housing Authority hired the director of the Springfield Housing Authority and agreed to pay her $168,000 a year. On the surface, that sounds reasonable, although the salary is rather exorbitant. The trouble is the new director of the Peoria Housing Authority, Jackie Newman, will continue as director of the Springfield agency. Newman says she will drive to Peoria at least one day a week to earn that $168,000. Now that’s a deal –– for Jackie Newman.

It also means the folks running the PHA are desperate. And when people are desperate, they have a tendency to do dumb things. Hiring and paying someone $168,000 for working part-time is an example of a board using poor judgment. It’s hard to believe there’s no one in Peoria or central Illinois capable of managing the Peoria housing complex.
It was also surprising that only one person openly criticized the PHA decision. City councilman Chuck Grayeb called the action “disgraceful.” He did it at a council meeting and again on my morning radio show, “Breakfast with Roger and Friends” on FM 90.7. Days later, no one else raised hell about it. That’s odd, especially since it’s our tax dollars that support public housing. I realize filling pot holes is top priority for most people and management of low income public housing holds little if any interest. I tip my hat to Chuck Grayeb for “throwing the flag” for what appears to be a bad decision by the PHA board. Grayeb has called for a discussion of the matter.

Is he in trouble?

Since the troubles of the Pere Marquette Hotel continue to make news, there are rumbles that not everyone on the council is happy with the leadership of City Manager Patrick Urich. There have been whispers and rumors about Urich’s tenure for more than a year. Throw in the alleged scandal involving Police Chief Jerry Mitchell and how that matter was handled, and the comments are growing in number. Others say, “No way. We have full confidence in Patrick.” The average tenure for county and city managers by some accounts is six to seven years. Urich has exceeded the average primarily because he’s above average in management and interpersonal skills. Besides, he’s a Cub fan. I think his job is secure.

Goodbye Bergner’s

I made a farewell visit to Bergner’s in Sheridan Village, and like going to a visitation for an old friend, it was sad. You see, I’m old enough to remember shopping as a child with my mother and later with my wife Nancy at the downtown Bergner’s. We were, and are, old friends of Bergner’s. The downtown store died years ago. We could handle that because there was the Sheridan Village store.

As I walked around the soon-to-be-closed Bergner’s, flashes of happy memories bounded in my small and getting smaller brain. The “Talking Christmas Tree” was a treat for me as much as for our children. I loved the free Christmas wrapping on the second floor and the meals we had in the Scandia Restaurant. During the holidays, WIRL would play the store jingle, “Christmas shopping at Bergner’s.” Of course, there were the animals, deer, at the back of the store. The clerks were always, though not lately, cheerful and helpful. It was easy to shop for my wife in the cologne and perfume section because the clerks, sometimes wearing too much of what they sold, were so helpful in making gift selections. Over the years, the Sheridan Village store changed, especially the lower level. At one time, that part of Bergner’s was alive and well. It had a great card section, luggage, a variety of appliances and even a hot dog stand of sorts. Not anymore.

As I looked at the 70 percent off signs and the small and getting smaller inventory, I realized nothing is forever. Walking between worthless shelving and other junk, my fond memories began to be replaced by a strong desire to leave. It was like going to an estate sale where people look to get a bargain because someone died. In this case, that someone was our Bergner’s store. I decided I didn’t want to buy anything. I didn’t.

What I remember most about Bergner’s is the decision ownership made years ago to be a charter supporter of St. Jude when the Midwest Affiliate opened in Peoria at Methodist Hospital. With the leadership of Jim Maloof and Bill Adams of WEEK-TV, Bergner’s became the anchor sponsor for the annual St. Jude Telethon which has raised millions of dollars for treating children with cancer.

Thanks Bergner’s for the memories.


“If you do a good job for others, you heal yourself at the same time, because a dose of joy is a spiritual cure.” –– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Roger Monroe

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