God bless the League of Women Voters of McLean County, but I needed a little more than 90 seconds to make an opening statement at Thursday night’s candidate forum.
Being incoherent and under the weather didn’t help my cause either.
That’s why I’ve got this blog.
I’ll spare you the personal introduction and the obligatory thank yous.
The economy and Town financial management
We are faced with the worst economic conditions in my lifetime. Compared to other places, we are fortunate to live in a university town. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that college towns are doing quite well compared to the rest of the economy. With our diverse employment base, Normal clearly fits into the that catagory.
Still, citizens of this community have lost a lot of money in their 401k’s. I know our retirement accounts took a huge hit, as have our kids’ college funds. I’m not alone wondering how much longer I’m going to have to work to make up for the collapse of the stock market.
At the same time, I wonder whether my kids’ college decisions will be impacted by this recession.
I hope I’m wrong, but I sense the economy recovery won’t be quick or particularly dramatic.
That’s why I think those of us in Town government have to remain extremely sensitive when it comes to asking the citizens and property owners of this community for more.
Recognizing the economic conditions will influence sales and income tax revenue, we must continue our policy of fiscal responsibility. I will be satisfied if we are able to continue funding our core services and programs at a sustainable level while mixing in a reduced program of prioritized capital improvements.
While I remain very optimistic about the future, my near term decision making will be greatly influenced by current economic conditions.
I am confident that our administration will continue to watch the budget situation carefully, continuing Normal’s conservative philosophy of underestimating revenues and overestimating expenses.
I recognize that the purchase of a home or business represents a major investment in our community. My decisions will continue to be influenced by my desire to protect and enhance your investment.
It’s exciting to think that in a few short months the Marriott Hotel and Normal Conference Center will be open for business, generating economic activity and adding a new dimension to Uptown. This year will see the beginning of a brand new, attractive streetscape and hopefully the overdue burying of utility lines. The JSM development will rise out of the rubble of the former University Christian Church.
The Marriott and Normal Conference Center will open this summer marking a major milestone for the Uptown plan. In 2009, the Town Council should begin to review where we've been for the past ten years and refine where we're going in Uptown.
At the same time, there are many important decisions facing the council. The developers of Uptown One insist they are getting closer to nailing down financing to get their long awaited mixed use project out of the ground.
We have been patient as they have tried to adjust to a very chilly lending climate. Uptown One remains a very worthy project. The residential component is very difficult because it is tough to make sales when prospective home buyers don’t know when the project will start.
That said, it’s difficult for me to even contemplate Uptown Two or Three until they start to raise steel on Uptown One. And that’s going to have to happen fairly soon.
We are still working to attract federal stimulus funding for the transportation center. It is a worthy project and will require our attention.
The library’s planning process calls for more space and more parking either on the current site or somewhere else in the community. The Normal Public Library is where it belongs, as a major Uptown asset. In the next four years, we will certainly be addressing the library’s needs.
In general, the council and community must review where we’ve been and refine where we’re going with the Uptown plan. It’s been ten years since it was conceived. Obviously, over the years it has evolved. Ten years into it seems to be a good time to chart its course for the next 10 years.
Just About Normal has improved my ability to connect with the community. I am committed to stay with this for as long as I have the honor of serving you. I feel an obligation to share useful information and opinion and give you a place for civil dialogue.
Thank you for your contributions to this space, and I look forward to interacting with you here and in person in the years ahead.