PEORIA, IL -- The Peoria Journal Star's editorial today, Jan. 31, offers musings on the latest downtown development commission, and the history of same.
You likely must wade through all the awful pop-up ads to read it (the PJS has the worst website I've ever encountered), but then you get to the interesting part:
"...to the extent this organization exists to act on behalf of and for Peorians, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to actually ask Peorians what they’d like their Downtown to be and look like — to involve them up front — instead of just assuming to know what they want and then having to deal with the fallout after the fact."
There are no comments on the editorial as of now, and likely few or none will be posted because of the PJS's awful comment policy, requiring Facebook, etc. to log in. Those of us who don't use Facebook for various reasons -- too busy, object to it's exploitive policies using people to sell ads, etc.) are locked out, even if we are paid subscribers to the print edition of the PJS, as I am.
So -- here are my comments.
Ask the people? Why not hold public hearings? Here's what I would say:
Peoria needs affordable housing. As of now the Peoria Housing Authority sets the floor on rent, and it's a high floor. A landlord who doesn't set rent at those levels risks losing money in the long term if a Section 8 client applies to live in the unit.
So, people working for the minimum wage or low income -- waitstaff, fast food workers, retail clerks -- all those low wage jobs that even recent college grads are now being forced to take -- have a very hard time surviving.
The business community wants cheap labor, but then fights against the policies that allow low wage workers to live.
So here's what the downtown group should do -- Caterpillar, Inc., the hospitals and other organizations that want to hire bright people for a pittance should buy or build apartments and condos downtown for their employees, and offer those at low rent as a perk of the job. After a while they could then let the person buy the unit, contract for deed, and reinvest the money in new units.
That would help screen out the deadbeats and nut cases, and offer new blood downtown.
Rehabing historic buildings for this purpose would be a big plus, as well, and preserve the ambience that distinguishes Peoria from other communities.
Another idea: a free bus service downtown, so people could live and work there without having to support a car. Combine this with a cheap car rental service as found in Chicago, so people who occasionally need a car can get one at a reasonable price for errands, etc.
More bike lanes and support for bicycles would be another plus, and promote fitness as well.
Will the powers-that-be go for any of this? Not likely, but stay tuned.
-- Elaine Hopkins