PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A candidate for Peoria’s mayoral office is questioning the city’s spending and communication prior to Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Andres Diaz a local entrepreneur and mayoral candidate is questioning the city council’s agenda item to spend $550,000 and purchase the lot of a former Save-A-Lot and Aldi along Western Avenue. Diaz said in his opinion it is unclear where the money is coming from and believes communication with the public could be improved.
“If you don’t read the city council agenda you wouldn’t know we were going spend $550,000 plus $100,000 a year because it wasn’t announced in the press, it wasn’t announced by council, city manager or mayor,” Diaz said. “It was slid into an agenda and if you’re not on the emails or going to the website every day to see that information, then you’re not going to be engaged.”
Diaz said the city should utilize more social media platforms and seek public input on big-budget decisions.
Jim Montelongo the current 4th District councilman and one of Diaz’s challengers for Peoria’s mayor’s office said the government has been upfront about the funds and said public discussion at council meetings exists for a reason.
“First of all, there’ll be public discussion here tonight, nothing has passed and usually there’s a lot of discussion that happens at our city council meetings, so that’s one of the ways we’re transparent with the public,” Montelongo said.
Montelongo said transparency for him is also a key issue for him in the mayoral race and said he has been transparent with the public in his role as councilman and will continue to do so in his role if elected as mayor of Peoria.
“Certainly there’s information that’s in the public for people to know what’s going on, nobody’s trying to hide anything,” Montelongo said. “I think sometimes when people don’t understand government very well, they may be jumping to a conclusion that we’re trying not to be transparent and that’s simply not true.”
Diaz said he wants to be a voice for all people in Peoria and questions why the Southside Community for Change wasn’t involved in the decision.
“How successful of a project can you have when the most engaged in the neighborhood are excluded from the conversation,” Diaz said. “Right now, many of those in the community don’t feel engaged, they don’t feel talked with, they feel talked to and we have to change that, we have an opportunity to get people excited about being in Peoria.”
Another Peoria Mayoral candidate, entrepreneur and community activist Chama St. Louis sent WMBD a statement in regards to Diaz’s press conference.
“It’s good to see other candidates begin to align with my messaging. I’ve been talking about ‘Rebuilding The Table’ through participatory democracy since my announcement in April. Participatory democracy means all stakeholders are directly involved in all important decisions, residents help shape the budget by giving input on priorities and values, city data is made more available and presented in a useful way. Interactive public meetings and town halls should be held to allow community members to get information and to provide input, elected officials should be regularly knocking doors to talk with residents and hear more voices, and we need to strengthen our neighborhood association to act as a liaison between the neighborhoods and the city. The relationship between local government needs to be improved. It shouldn’t be us vs them. It should be how can we work together to solve problems and flourish as a community.”
Chama St. Louis, Peoria mayoral candidate
The other Peoria mayoral candidates Chuck Brown and Rita Ali declined to comment on the matter. Couri Thomas and Sid Ruckriegel did not get back at the time of this writing.
Current city manager Patrick Urich declined to comment on the matter.
December 8, 2020 at 08:55PM