The Year Ahead

by Mayor Jim Ardis, City of Peoria

Every year presents Peoria city government with opportunities for success and achievement. Those of us who serve in elected positions are held responsible for quality, affordable and reliable performance. And so it is that on the heels of a major mid-term election—especially at the national and state levels—we enter yet another election cycle.

Of particular importance for the City of Peoria is the election of at-large council members on April 7, 2015. If there are 11 candidates, a primary election will be held on February 24th next year. At the time of writing this article in early November, I do not know how many people have taken out petitions for at-large, as the first date for filing is November 17th. I can say, however, that Peoria has been blessed with serious-minded and dedicated at-large members. I am certain that most, if not all, our current at-large members will again seek election. And I am equally certain that they would be the first to acknowledge that the health of our democratic system of government rests on participation by many.

Peoria will have ample opportunities in 2015 to provide responsible government committed to measurable performance. The recent gubernatorial election presents a new opportunity to address the impact of state government on how we in Peoria City Hall plan and finance our work. The election is also critical in addressing a statewide business climate that has been characterized as one of the least friendly to private-sector investment and job creation. Without a robust Illinois economy, the squeeze on our ability to finance services within the existing revenue structure continues to tighten and constrict performance.

I’m hopeful Governor-elect Rauner and the General Assembly will work together to make Illinois one of the best-performing states, instead of loafing at the rear of the pack. Peoria will certainly do all it can to help advance a rebirth in our economy, our will to succeed, and our dedication to performance-oriented government.

With respect to our economy and “will,” Peoria has a lot going for it. I’ve mentioned before the progress we’re making in providing public services that stimulate private investment, development and sustainable growth. The groundwork is in place for more dynamic changes in our downtown, warehouse district, medical center campuses, Route 91 and Orange Prairie Road developments, and elsewhere. There is huge potential for redevelopment of Caterpillar’s downtown facilities, and on the near north side, Komatsu has transformed its property into an attractive and welcome industrial setting. There’s more to come, so keep tuned!

To maintain this momentum, we need the very best local governance; that is why our at-large elections are so important. The fact is that good government—good local government—is the product of good people running for office. My initial elected office was in 1999 as a councilman at-large. I was privileged to be re-elected to that position in 2003, and served until 2005 when I successfully ran for mayor. Based on those six years, I can safely say that at-large council members have a unique opportunity to impact our city’s success because they can look at the entire city. They can focus their energies not only on helping district council members achieve their objectives, but implementing larger, community-wide visions of growth, security and an enviable quality of urban living.

From my perspective in the Mayor’s office, I view 2015 with unbridled enthusiasm and pride in the people of Peoria and what they’ve achieved in their private endeavors and participation in the larger community’s health and development. Let me offer just two recent examples.

This issue of iBi is devoted to “Women of Influence.” Peoria city government has its welcome share of elected and appointed women of influence, and I will remind readers that this began in 1953, when Myrna Harms became the first woman elected to the Council. She was an integral part of the new council-manager form of government that set Peoria upon its journey of local government transparency, accountability and professionalism. I have been honored to serve with many wonderful and dedicated women on the Council, and look forward to continuing doing so.

The other example was the November 6th announcement of the 21st class of 40 Leaders Under Forty. Started in 1994, this annual celebration of emerging, dynamic leadership ignites pride in community, continuous self-improvement and education, and dedication to the common good through individual achievement and participation in community affairs.

I look forward to 2015 and the opportunities, responsibilities and performance outcomes that it will bring. My tenure in the service of fellow Peorians stands at 16 years. I consider it a deep privilege and honor. With the continued support of my family and friends, confidence in my leadership by the people of Peoria, and blessings from the Almighty, I intend to stay the course. iBi


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