If you don’t like what you saw in Washington, D.C. last month, start change by paying attention to elected officials here at home. For example, here are some highlights gathered by the League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria:
In December, Peoria City Council members continued to wrestle with tough choices.
On Dec. 8, council members:
- Approved a 10% fee cap for third-party food delivery services. This is in response to restaurants having limited dining or no dining and relying on third party delivery services for take-out food. These delivery services charged as much as 30% of the purchase price, which many restaurant owners felt was unsustainable.
- Placed two advisory referendums on the April ballot –– a Firefighters’ Pension Tax and and a separate Police Pension Tax.
- Was told by City Manager Patrick Urich that the city receives complaints about businesses not complying with COVID-19 mitigation orders through the “Restore HOI” website. Restaurant-related complaints are shared with the public health department. The police department and community development office visit the establishment, document the issue, and file the matter with the state’s attorney’s office. Urich said the city has not discussed revoking city liquor licenses and is trying to ensure compliance instead.
- Accepted a $516,000 Strategies in Policing Innovations grant and purchased a list of public safety equipment including Street Smart software.
- Deferred to Jan. 12 the possible purchase of 210 S. Western (a former grocery store) using South Village Tax Increment Financing funds for $550,000. Those opposed said the city shouldn’t purchase property to enable a private grocery to come into the space. Discussion had always been about a community center. A 3/5 vote is needed to amend the budget and purchase this property.
- Voted to use Eagle View TIF money to take action as an emergency demolition of particular properties near Harrison School.
Regarding Councilman John Kelly’s Urban Decay Tax Abatement Area proposal, state statute requires a joint review board to review the proposed ordinance and offer comments. Kelly said a joint review board held two meetings and voted to approve the tax abatement plan, with Peoria Public Schools abstaining, noting the school district wanted advice and consent from the school board. Action taken was to receive and file the joint review board’s recommendation, noting approval still had to come back at a minimum of 45 days to remove the property from the existing TIF with an ordinance to establish the Urban Decay Area. This is controversial with District 1 councilperson saying it would lead to gentrification.
On Dec. 15, a special meeting was held to cap a long-standing problem. The council approved a consent decree between the city, Greater Peoria Sanitary District, U.S. EPA and Illinois EPA regarding the combined sewer overflow (CSO) issue. The solution costs $110 million over the next couple decades. Key points for the city’s part of the deal are a civil penalty of $100,000, an 18-year timeline, green infrastructure, additional modeling/reporting to EPA and IEPA for rainfall/storm flows, and public participation in the creation of a CSO Remedial Measures Program.
This is a performance-based consent decree. There are still fines for noncompliance. In the 1980s the combined sewage overflow was about 640 million gallons of sewage annually into the Illinois River. Changes already made have overflow down to 180 million gallons per year. Ultimately the goal is maximum of 16 million gallons per year.
An additional requirement of the IEPA is a Supplemental Environmental Project, a $200,000 stream restoration. It means work on Turkey Creek in Springdale Cemetery to improve water quality, reduce the continued degradation of existing waterways and lower sedimentation to the Illinois River.
To see the four-page presentation on the CSO decree, go to: http://www.peoriagov.org/content/uploads/2020/12/CSO-Fact-Sheet-12-9-2020_1607623358_add.pdf
After huge turnouts and stresses during the Nov. 3 election, Peoria County Election Commission appears set for spring. Director Tom Bride told commissioners there is “plenty” of personal protective equipment left for the upcoming elections. Grants have paid for Ballot Trax, posting, stickers and training, with some money left over that can be used through July. Bride said he wanted to offer hazard pay: $1,500 to full-time employees, $500 for part-time employees and $100 to judges.
The total number of voters in the fall election was almost 85,000. Turnout was 73%, split almost evenly into vote by mail (35%), early voting (31%) and election day voting (34%).
The Election Commission office is working with reduced staff. Two full- and one part-time staffer work remotely. The only employees working in the building are Director Bride, his assistant in the office and a worker in the warehouse.
Peoria Housing Authority Board of Commissioners met Dec. 9. All commissioners were present.
The Rev. Marvin Hightower, president of the local NAACP, urged staff and board to closely follow federal guidelines in the upcoming Taft Housing project. Section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Act of 1968 provides employment and other economic opportunities generated by certain HUD projects be directed to public housing residents, individuals of low to very low income, and businesses that provide economy to such people.
CEO Jackie Newman said PHA is collaborating with Illinois Central College and local trade unions for job training. PHA has sent out letters to inform residents of the opportunities, as well as a survey regarding educational and job training. A memorandum of understanding will provide pre-employment education and training of PHA residents with referrals from PHA for work on the Taft project. A stipend may be available to individuals of $10 an hour while training; this stipend would be excluded from income calculation for PHA rent. It is anticipated that two cohorts of individuals will be trained by late spring, prior to the Taft demolition.
Newman also said PHA offices at all locations have scaled back in-person contact with residents due to Illinois Department of Public Health COVID-19 guidelines, including non-emergency repairs of properties. Emergency needs are being addressed.
In other business, the Oct. 5, 2020 and Nov. 9, 2020 board meeting minutes were approved. Also approved: Blue Cross/Blue Shield health contract for employees, at less than 1% increase in cost; writing off $21,176 in tenant accounts deemed uncollectible; replacement of roofing at scattered site housing; submission of Mainstream Voucher program to HUD; contract for issues addressing bed bug infestation; contract for pest control; contract for cleaning administrative offices with new minority-owned company.
Chairman Cannon inquired if the new company would be open to hiring PHA residents for jobs; response from PHA staff was positive.
League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria observers attend and report on local government meetings. Check https://www.lwvgp.org/news/category/observer-reports-logo.