Enough is enough for North Peoria

DeWayne Bartels

It was not numbers, but the opportunity for citizens to offer quality input to city officials on the municipal budget, that motivated two Aug. 4 budget open houses in Peoria.

And, the input from one Central Peoria resident who has the ear of the city council, is that the city has expended enough resources in North Peoria.

Enough for North Peoria

Paul Wilkinson, president of the Altamont Neighborhood Association on Sheridan Road, near McClure, and vice-president of the Neighborhood Alliance, attended the meeting at the health department.

Wilkinson said he was pleased by the opportunity to express his views.

He had no shortage of views on the municipal budget. 

Wilkinson said, in his view, the budget process is flawed.

“In looking at the budget, we are putting the cart before the horse. We are planning to spend money without a specific vision for the city of Peoria,” he said.

“Without a specific vision statement, the unofficial version for years on end has been growth to the north and the west. This process has monopolized staff time for planning, searching and implementation of various resources for the development of the various growth cells.”

He said the city has operated under a theory that economic development in North Peoria would sustain the remainder of the city. 

“In reality, we have achieved that growth, but the cycle of decay in the remainder of the city and the associated environmental, behavioral and social issues has increased in an exponential fashion,” Wilkinson said.

“A recent study available through Catholic Charities confirms increased poverty rates within the older sections of town, namely, one out of four families are below federal poverty rates. The school district reports upwards of a 60-70 percent poverty rate, some specific schools at even higher rates.”

Wilkinson said as poverty rates have grown in older parts of the city, many families have packed up and left.

“This has created a vacuum, a poverty of values and a lack of social responsibility. These factors have inundated our schools, creating not only less desirable neighborhoods, but undesirable schools,” Wilkinson said. 

“When longterm homeowners give up or are driven away, houses are most generally purchased as rental. When families look for affordable housing, they steer clear of areas with struggling schools, streets strewn with litter, unkempt houses, dangerous sidewalks, gangs of people partying off the porches or blocking the streets, and so on.”

Wilkinson said the associated impact for taxpayers throughout the city is increased operational costs due to an “ever-increasing need for police officers, code enforcement and zoning staff.”  

“Increased staff numbers lead to higher ancillary benefit costs. Unchecked growth to the north has increased the need for infrastructure, police and fire protection and other city services. As these sections age, they, too, will need the increased services which the older parts of town now require," he said.

For more on this story see the 8/13/08 issue of the Peoria Times-Observer.