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Prominent blogger defends subjective, secretive plans to squander taxpayer money

It’s not every day that a blogger comes right out and scoffs at objective, public processes for spending taxpayer money. But one prominent blogger has done just that. Billy Dennis says that making decisions via an objective, rational process is ludicrous and will result in poor decisions, like the failed “New Coke” formula.

That’s right. An open process like the one the library board has employed for more than the past year — including over 40 public meetings and an advisory referendum — is worthy of scorn by Mr. Dennis. In contrast, a closed-door summit between the city and school district, “held at the District 150 administrative offices with only a few elected members of each board so that the press and public could be excluded from the meeting,” is worthy of applause! The site near Expo Gardens was already publicly considered against objective criteria and discarded. For personal reasons not fully disclosed, the site is now being resurrected and pursued by the council, but behind closed doors.

I’m sure you’re wondering why Billy would take such a strange stance — against transparency, for special interest interference. For one thing, he thinks it’s good policy. Since council members are elected and answer to the people, he thinks that gives them carte blanche to discard any and all processes, no matter how well-researched or documented, in order to pursue their own personal pet projects. After all, if the people don’t like it, they’ll just vote that person out of office… after the money’s been squandered, unfortunately.

Another reason Billy stands up for arbitrary decision-making: he believes it might save $8-10 million. It has a great ring to it, doesn’t it? “Saving” $8-10 million? Where does that figure come from? Has it been verified? And are we really “saving”?

The figure comes from Mayor Ardis. The Peoria Times-Observer reported: “Ardis said closing the Lakeview Branch could potentially trim $8 to $10 million off the price tag of the library’s expansion and renovation project, projected at $35 million.” See, if they build a new library at Expo Gardens, less than two miles from Lakeview, there would be no need to keep the Lakeview branch open. Closing that branch, and thus not sinking any money into expanding or renovating it, would drop the price of the library’s renewal plans to $25-27 million (at least, by the Mayor’s calculations); hence, the $8-10 million in savings.

To my knowledge, neither the Mayor nor anyone else has released any detail on how they arrived at that figure. Not knowing the sale price of the land by Expo (it’s not for sale), the environmental clean-up costs, or a host of other variables, I don’t know how the figure could be verified.

As far as whether it’s “saving” anything, that’s kind of a backwards way of looking at things. If I say I’m going to spend $25,000 on a car, and then I decide to buy a $15,000 car instead, did I just save $10,000? No. I spent $15,000. Now, suppose the $25,000 car could seat six people, so my family of five could fit comfortably, but the $15,000 car only seats four. Have I made a wise decision to spend $10,000 less when the car I bought doesn’t meet the needs of my family?

This library upgrade works the same way. A new northern branch will cost about $11 million to construct, based on the experts at BCA (the library consulting firm that’s been working on this project who have a pretty good track record estimating library construction). Wherever we put it, it’s going to cost around $11 million. The question we have to ask ourselves is where the wisest place is to build the new branch. If we spend $11 million to build it in the wrong place, was that a wise use of that money? Is that being fiscally responsible?

Billy evidently thinks so. He’s admitted that it doesn’t matter to him where the new branch is built, which is tantamount to saying he doesn’t care whether the city council squanders $11 million or not. He’ll just be happy that the council “saved” $8-10 million, even if $11 million is wasted in the process.

27 comments to Prominent blogger defends subjective, secretive plans to squander taxpayer money

  • How open, objective and fair is any process in which a report is handed to the city council and they are expected to approve it, without debate or discussion any alternatives, apparently?

    If C.J. thinks THAT is goign to happen, he must have amnesia, because that’s what happens at city council meetings — lots of debate and lots of second guessing.

    And tell someone whose neighborhood doesn’t have any sidewalks that $8 million doesn’t matter.

  • And by way of example, if someone goes to the car dealer intending to buy a car that costs $40,000 but in the end decided to get one that costs $25,000 that’s ALMOST as good but meets his families basic needs, then I would say that person saved some cash.

    But then, where’s the “objective, public process?”

  • Who said they are expected to approve it without debate or discussion of any alternatives?

  • YOU! How else are we to interpret your insistence that Library Board already did all the research that was necessary, and that further questioning by the city council was a waste of time? All Hail the Library Board! Sole arbiters of what is and isn’t due diligence!

  • If you’re looking for ways to “interpret” what I’ve said, you might start with taking statements like this one at face value:

    If the council has legitimate questions regarding the criteria the library used, I think it’s reasonable to discuss modifying that criteria — at an open meeting, with public/stakeholder input. Then, once everyone agrees on the criteria, go out and look at potential sites again, including any for which a council member has an affinity, and run them all through the criteria and may the best site win.

    And no, I don’t think the library board is the arbiter of what is and isn’t due diligence. I just believe they’ve done due diligence in this case. I’d like you to show me where they haven’t.

  • peoriafan

    Blogger fight, Blogger fight!!

  • Nothing that a huge pit of mud couldn’t handle.

  • Diane: How much do you think we could charge for tickets? Would we have to wear bikinis?

  • BeanCounter

    I find it funny when a matrix and/or ojective, measurable criteria aren’t used to pick vendors, say a storm water run off consultant or janitors council members get their panties in a bunch. But when objective, measurable criteria are used and the end result isn’t what you had in mind you can just claim to be looking at the bigger picture.

    If the bait and switch does happen they need to stop referring to it as a new North Peoria library. They aren’t paying for special censuses to count people over by Expo Gardens.

  • The Mouse

    Billy has obviously taken leave of his senses. Under the table deals by politicians NEVER save tax dollars, because that is not their objective. The tired old line about voting them out of office, FORGET IT! It’s like swatting mosquitos. There’s always another one to take its place, and in the meantime, you keep losing blood and getting infected by the ones you swat.

  • Something smells here; For weeks on both this site and Billy’s site this is what was posted: “Great post Billy!” “CJ has an excellent….” “Billy has posted a wonderful…” “CJ has another first with…”

    Now we have this staged bickering? (disagreement) Is it blog ratings week?

  • >Is it blog ratings week?

    It’s called a difference of opinion.

  • ImaSwede

    Please… no speedos!!! Dear God!!!

  • mahkno

    ** munches popcorn **

  • mahkno

    Maybe Billy is being affected by the Teplitz aura over in Randolph-Roanoke.

  • Query: Does the library consulting firm also have an employment contract with the owner of the land proposed to be purchased and used for the new North Library (so-called green-land)? Surely someone on the Board knows and can answer that question. Or is this just another silly question?

  • >Would we have to wear bikinis?

    Thongs 😉

  • Mahkno: “Maybe Billy is being affected by the Teplitz aura over in Randolph-Roanoke.”

    Nah. I am still under the spell of Barbara Van Auken, tho.

    Randall: “Now we have this staged bickering? (disagreement) Is it blog ratings week?”

    They’re on to us C.J.

    Diane: “Thongs.”

    We have to leave SOMETHING to the imagination.

    Wacko: “Does the library consulting firm also have an employment contract with the owner of the land proposed to be purchased and used for the new North Library (so-called green-land)? Surely someone on the Board knows and can answer that question. Or is this just another silly question?”

    Of course it’s a silly question. Nothing like that could POSSIBLY happen after such an “objective, public processes for spending taxpayer money.” Once this process is completed, any public questioning by elected public figures before the public in a forum that open to the public and viewable by the public on television and radio is just silly.

  • Wacko — That would be a pertinent and legitimate question.

    Billy — When was the library board questioned on television and radio? Last I saw they deferred it and started having closed-door meetings with the school district. Were you watching a different city council?

  • I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

  • C.J.: They will be questioned on TV and radio — when the issue comes up for discussion two weeks from Tuesday. And thanks to the Peoria City Council, the public got to read in print 49 specific questions and 49 specific answers. I’m guessing that the publicity of the this during the past week has created more public awareness of the issues involved.

    There’s public involvement and openness all over the place here.

  • Alex Chilton

    I love it. When they start kicking and scratching, then it’s a real brawl. Reminds me of the fight in Stripes…

  • […] Jump to Comments The two granddaddies, CJ and Bill Dennis, are going at it… Now, I am taking bets on who is going to […]

  • […] here’s what strikes me about this whole mess: The arguments being used to oppose consideration of the Exposition Gardens as a site for a new […]

  • Mazr

    This is like Ali/Frazier of the Heavyweight Debating championship…..

  • It’s too bad that the whole debate should have been over why did the supporters have to spend $100,000 if the needs were so obvious against $0 spent by the opposition and were the statements being made by the supporters including the JSEB, true statements?

    They weren’t all true.

    Also, the City of Peoria has expanded 4 times it’s 1950 square mile size with minimal population growth growth. Were the people who moved “way out north” promised a new library?

    They can use Dunlap Library which is going to be doubled in size. When I visted the “old” Dunlap library (the one to be torn down for more parking) on a Saturday there, were only staff present. No users.

    Read my blogs for facts unchallenged and proved wrong by anyone including the library board and director.

    Also read the JSEB comments on 3/4/4, “New Schools Should Link With City Libraries”.

    And Ken Hinton’s comments,”We don’t know how it can be done but it’s worth trying”.


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