Peoria council candidates weigh in on fire fees & uptick in homicides

(Interview Pt. 1, Pt 2 below)

Candidates for Peoria City Council At-Large don’t appear to be losing steam as primary elections draw near.

Forums in the double digits continue to keep the men and women running, on their toes, reminding each that Peoria residents have concerns, questions and expectations requiring their thorough attention before handing over votes.

Two of those concerns include a joint plan, put forth from the Peoria Fire Dept and City Manager, to charge mitigation fees for select services. Another major concern – that seems to permeate all elections: violence.

Incumbent, At-Large Councilman Zach Oyler and 2nd time candidate John Kelly both dove into each, with varying opinions and solutions.

Peoria has been plagued with consistent, weekly homicides since January 12th, averaging one a week. If this rate persists, or even if it’s cut in half, 2019 will be marked as the city’s deadliest year to date.

John Kelly attributed the issue to population decline and ‘status quo’, stating a tax policies that he says, force people to flee the city. Kelly adds that he plans to advocate for ways to excite people to live in Peoria, in hopes of seeing a direct link to violence decline.

Meanwhile Councilman Oyler cited economic development, job training for youth, homelessness and a lack of employment opportunities as contributing factors. In short he explained the issue is a layered one, but also pointed out his big concern; contract negotiations allowing police officers to live outside city limits.

Oyler explained that creates a divide between the department and the community, offering to bolster the Resident Officer Program if re-elected, and pointing out his personal experiences with residents sharing a heightened level of comfort and trust, when patrol officers live in their neighborhoods.

Another hot button issue; a plan to raise nearly $200,000 for the Peoria Fire Department by billing a person’s insurance if found at fault for an accident.

Kelly said he “modestly” supports the plan and thinks while it will generate a small amount of money to preserve public safety, there are bigger fish to fry.

“I think it is a budget diversion essentially from our major problems.” Kelly stated. He said he is much more interested in cutting back on “choking regulations”, “systems of high penalty taxation”, and adding “opportunities to have private money rebuild our inner city.”

Oyler’s stance on the issue, included concerns about the burden it could potentially have on Peoria residents. He acknowledged the proposal has kinks he felt needed to be ironed out.

Under the proposal for select fees, which involve various motor vehicle accidents and a few others, if you’re found responsible and you live in Peoria, you won’t get a ‘direct’ bill, but your insurance will. Whatever your insurance doesn’t cover, will be forgiven.

But if you live outside Peoria and work there, or travel into the city for any reason and an unfortunate mishap occurs – what your insurance doesn’t cover – will be billed.

“I understand it’s billing insurance, but our property taxes are supposed to be paying for these services.” Oyler went on to say, “…We have to be open to at least looking at solutions that don’t continue to just charge the people who live here, but bringing in revenue from outside the city.”

Peoria Fire Chief Ed Olehy has openly expressed empathy towards frustrations regarding this proposal, while explaining that it has grown to be a necessary measure to preserve public safety. The Peoria Fire Union has also addressed this subject in a statement that reads in part:

“... unfortunately, when FD staffing has been cut to a thirty year low and our responses to emergency calls have nearly tripled in that same thirty year time period, proposals such as these are passed through the budget process…”

The Peoria Fire Department does not currently charge for medical calls which make up a large portion of their responses.

Both candidates agree money needs to come into Peoria and budget issues are plenty, and see the solution as an economic development challenge.

If you have further questions for John Kelly, about his plans for Peoria if elected, you can reach him via email at kelly4council@gmail.com or visit his website Illinois Sunshine https://illinoissunshine.org/committees/kelly-for-council-32034/

 

A first reading of this proposal is planned for 6pm, Feb. 12th at the next City Council meeting. There you can hear Councilman Oyler’s thoughts in person. For more details on his plans if re-elected to Council, he can be reached via email at zoyler@gmail.com or on his Facebook Page: Zach Oyler, Peoria City Council At-Large.

Lauren Melendez

Lauren Melendez

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