Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Service at the Gateway Building

There was a sizable crowd gathered this morning at the Gateway Building on the riverfront to take part in the annual Memorial Day Program. Dr. Vroman and the Peoria Municipal Band gave us an excellent selection of music to set the mood, and Lee Wenger honored us with a few selections as well. The crowd was made up of all ages and services, from honored World War II and Korea and Vietnam Veterans to those of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other peacekeeping actions. Men and women, husbands and wives and families, all gathered on a beautiful spring day to honor the memory of those who have given their lives in defense of this nation.

No one was forgotten in the ceremony. From the memorial for those who died in the Civil War, to the veterans of World Wars I & II, to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all the others, including the War on Terrorism, the speakers made plain the fact that, while they were veterans, that they were here not to receive the accolades they so richly deserve for their service, but to honor the memory of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of freedom.

Bugler Ronald Allgaier opened the official ceremonies with Assembly, a song heard many times in our lives by those who served. Rev. Curtis Rowden of the EP Community Church of God gave us our invocation. Robert Derrick, the President of the Peoria Memorial Association, welcomed the crowd, and then turned the ceremony over to Dr. Vroman and the Band to help honor the men and women in the audience who served. The patriotic arrangement included all five service songs (hope you didn't forget the Coast Guard) and members of the audience were asked to stand when their branch song was played. Needless to say, there were a lot of people standing, saluting, and applauding the veterans who stood.

A particularly sober moment came when Maria Kieser, a student from Brimfield High School, presented her essay, "Our American Heritage and Our Responsibility to Preserve It." This essay, sponsored by the Peoria chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, was uplifting and should put to rest the sometimes expressed sentiment that the next generation has no idea what the principles of this nation are. Her words drew a grand round of applause from the audience, and their effect was plain on the faces of the crowd.

The Gold Star Mothers, Daughters, and Sisters were introduced next, followed by other veterans on the dais, including Mayor Jim Ardis, Councilman Dan Irving and Councilman Eric Turner, and of course, the guest speaker, Lt. Col. Jon Bateman, US Army Reserve. Col. Bateman's speech was filled with references to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and again brought a somber and prideful feeling to the audience.

Next came the presentations of the wreaths, one wreath for each conflict or war where Americans have lost their lives.

As you can see on the right side of the photo, a total of eight wreaths were laid. Incidentally, the young men and women of the Pimetoui chapter of the US Navy Sea Cadets performed their duties with precision and honor. Their demeanor and obvious pride in serving was an inspiration to all Peorians.

Next the Peoria Band and Lee Wenger invited the audience to join in a rousing version of "God Bless America", and the American Legion Post #2 Rifle Squad, led by Sgt. Richard D. Hazen, fired the traditional 21 gun salute. The ceremony was concluded by the somber tones of Taps presented by Mr. Allgaier.

I guess there are times when opinions are expected in a blog, but this isn't one of them. I will simply say that today I am reminded once again of why I am proud to have served, proud of the men and women I have served with, and proud to be an American.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Guest Editorial - Matthew A. Woodmancy on Civil Unions

Thirty-four years ago, a man named Harvey Milk was elected to serve the people of San Francisco. Thirty-three years ago, he was assassinated along with the Mayor of San Francisco. He was not assassinated for his politics, nor for his fervor, or even because he was about to pass some outrageous law.He was assassinated for being gay.
His final campaign manager wrote this about him “"What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us." Sadly, when he was cut down by an assassin’s bullet the torch he cared for all of us fell with him. I stand before you today, and I have imagined that same just and righteous world, I have picked up our fallen leaders torch, and I am setting out to make Harvey Milk’s dream a reality for all of us.
On January 31st, Governor Quinn signed a bill into law, which made civil unions possible. This month, while testifying before Congress, representatives of the United States Navy said the Navy will allow same-sex couples to wed in ceremonies on its bases officiated by Navy chaplains after the "Don’t ask don’t tell" policy is officially repealed, in spite of the “Defense of Marriage Act.
These are truly historic decisions, these were brave decisions made by brave men and women who acted in the best interests of all Americans, I am waiting for the United States Congress to act that way, and I am waiting for the President of the United States to act that way.
We cannot accept this bill as a total victory. We cannot accept anything short of equal rights, if we do; we deny ourselves the right to be acknowledged as full equals in the eyes of the law, the community, the military, the nation and indeed the world. The infamous Defense of Marriage Act is still on the books. The language is clear and offensive to all Americans who envision a nation where all citizens are truly free.
We cannot accept a society where one group of people is forced to live outside the boundaries of that society. We cannot accept a society that will not acknowledge the right of people to love who they choose, and to receive all the benefits accorded the same unions between heterosexual couples. We cannot accept this bill, as monumental as it is, as the end of the war for equality for all people, all citizens of the United States of America.
President Obama has stated he will not fund the Defense of Marriage Act, nor will he support any law that openly discriminates against any American. I say that is not enough. I say the Defense of Marriage Act must be repealed, that the government of the United States must stand for freedom of all Americans.
I say we must stand up and be counted, and let our government know it is time to end the prejudice and hate. In order for that to happen, we need a voice that will be heard on the Floor for of the House in the United Sates Congress, a voice that will not falter, a voice that will speak loudly and clearly in demanding the rights of all Americans be upheld."
As your representative in the United States Congress, my goal will be to repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and to create legislation that prevents any state from inhibiting the rights of its citizens to love who we will, to live, as we will fully secure in the knowledge that we are free from harm and bias.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Civil Union Forum at the North Branch of the Peoria Library

You have got to hand it to the City of Peoria. When they do something right, they do it well. The new library is absolutely beautiful inside, and was a perfect place to hold the Civil Union Forum. About 60 people gathered to be informed on the legal and procedural impact of the law that will take effect on June 1st.

The event was hosted by the Peoria branch of the ACLU and President C. Paul Miller acted as emcee. Upon opening the event, he quickly acknowledged Matthew A. Woodmancy as a member of the audience, letting the attendees know that Matt is a candidate for the Democratic Congressional nomination for the 18th District here in Illinois. He then introduced the speakers for the evening, Karen Sheley, a staff counsel from the Chicago ACLU, Jacob Meister, the Founder and President of the Civil Rights Agenda, an advocacy group in the Chicago area for LGBT rights, and Peoria County Clerk Steve Sonnemaker.

Ms. Sheley spoke first, detailing the activities leading up to the historic legislation and speaking of the ACLU's 40 year history of defending the rights of the LGBT community. The gist of her talk was her continued advocacy for the right of LGBT persons to marry. Civil Unions, she pointed out, are a great leap forward in recognizing the rights of Gay and Lesbian partners to enjoy domestic protection under Illinois Law in areas of spousal privilege, tax benefits, and property rights, but can be challenged at the Federal level. The repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, is the ultimate goal of the ACLU, so that Federal statutes will include all forms of marriage under their protection.

Mr. Jacob Meister, who also bears the distinction of being the first openly gay man to run for the United States Senate, spoke next. He addressed some of the legal ramifications of the new law and the protection it now affords Civil Union partners. Under the new law, joint tax returns may be filed for the state, as well as rights of inheritance protections. Also, the new law will provide statutory relief for persons who wish to end their civil union (divorce), and afford both members legal entitlements and protections as well. He briefly covered a wide range of topics, and also added his voice to that of Ms. Sheley's in stating the repeal of D.O.M.A. is the ultimate goal of his organization.

Peoria County Clerk Steve Sonnemaker assured members of the audience that his staff was prepared to handle the influx of persons seeking to obtain a civil union. His mood was cheerful and at times jovial, and he praised his staff for taking the time to be prepared for this new duty. He pointed out that the Civil Union law made no provision for any variance of age (persons can be married with parental permission as early as age 16, whereas civil unions can only be granted to persons 18 and older), and that he would withhold any announcement of civil union application at the request of the applicants. Otherwise, he stated, the application process will be very similar to the application for a marriage certificate.

A question and answer session followed where all three speakers took various questions from the audience. After the formal session was over, participants stayed and made themselves available for individual questions.

Also present at the event were Elaine Hopkins, author of Peoria Story, and Father Scott West of St. Luke's Church.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Springfield Pride Event

At noon today in Springfield, Matthew A. Woodmancy was among the many political and PRIDE volunteers present when the ribbon was cut on the first Springfield PRIDE event! Coinciding with the infamous assassination of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco Councilman who was assassinated for being GAY, The event marked the first of its kind in Springfield. Many LGBT activists and supporters were present, as well as many folks who wandered down from the Art Festival surrounding the Old Capitol Building. Held on Capital Street between 5th and 6th street, just two blocks south of Aaron Schock's office, the event marked the celebration of the world that Harvey Milk envisioned, and the continued battle to make that world a reality.
While Governor Quinn signed into law a bill permitting Civil Unions in the State of Illinois on January 31st, it is only a pacification that does not reach the full level of equality sought by the LGBT community. Until the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed, until LGBT couples and singles are afforded equal rights with all other people, we are not truly a free nation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guest Editorial - Matthew A. Woodmancy on Social Security

Saving Social Security

Social Security has been called the third rail of American Politics: if you touch it, you die.

That is exactly the kind of thinking that has led to Social Security reform falling not only between the cracks, but has so endangered the program that experts are telling us by as early as 2020, the program will no longer be able to sustain the millions of Americans who will be depending on it to survive.

The streak of not talking about Social Security ends now. We have a real problem in this country and now is the time for real solutions. Taxpayers pay 6.2% in Social Security taxes while their employers pay a matching amount. Self-employed workers pay it all themselves. But it caps at 12.4% and nobody pays any Social Security tax at all on any income over $108,600 a year. That means individuals pay a maximum of $6,733.20 and their employer pays the same amount. Once again the Republicans are protecting their power base of wealthy donors while leaving 98% of Americans out in the cold.

If we were to raise the tax on Social Security 2.2% and split that increase equally between taxpayer and employer, we would ensure that Social Security is there for the next 61 years. In 1998, a general tax increase of 2.2 percent was planned out to aid in social security, but in 2011 it still has yet to happen. The idea of a 2.2% solution is simple, but short-term, at best. With the current funds, Social Security can exist until 2032, and with the 2.2% it could last until 2072. So that isn’t the only step that needs to be taken.

A CEO, a major sports figure, or actually anyone making more than $108,600.00 a year gets a free ride on all income above that level. If that CEO makes $6 million dollars in a year, his Social Security contribution has been paid in the first week. The rest of their income is not taxed for Social Security. The average American will always be paying Social Security tax on 100% of their income while the richest among us will never pay more. Somehow they think their obligation to their employees ends at the failed pension plans and diminishing health plans that now permeate our society and threaten to destroy our economy. They are wrong.

America is a land of opportunity, a land where everyone deserves to receive a living income when they have reached the age where they can no longer work. I am not talking about a free ride for the poor or the rich, but a level playing field where the wealthy can still enjoy the fruits of their labor while allowing the average Americans to live out their lives in comfort, not poverty.

If we level the playing field and make everyone pay the same 6.2%, no matter of how much they make, we can save Social Security. Employer contributions would cap at 6.2% of $200,000.00, and the remaining income above $200,000.00 would be paid fully by the employee. In this way, we shift the burden of Social Security on all Americans, preserve the ability of employers to create jobs and pay decent living wages, and protect our senior citizens from poverty.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Leave it to the General to get involved with the right cause again.

You know, its a little discouraging for us to have a person in this town who always tries to do the right thing and is ignored for all his hard work. Yes, I am talking about General Parker, the man who has recently been an advocate for Father's Rights and is now fighting to let Banks know that constant foreclosures are part of the problem that is ruining our economy.

JP MORGAN PROTEST - Read all about it

General Parker is ignored because, once upon a time when he was a stupid kid (weren't we all) he did something really stupid (didn't we all) and got caught. Now that is the important part to remember, because not all of us got caught. But we all did stupid things.

You know, a lot of us go to church and like to pray about redemption. As a matter of fact, redemption is the major theme of Christianity. Without Christ, we cannot be redeemed, and yet with Christ, everyone is redeemed. But not, it appears, in the eyes of his brothers here on Earth.

General Parker is out there standing up for causes. Perhaps it is time we looked past the stupid part, and started paying attention to the righteous part. Seems to me, judging by his actions lately, we are missing the opportunity to learn a lot about redemption and the direction it can take a man.

Go get 'em, General.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Latest on the Steven Watkins Bill


It seems the Journal Star and local television doesn't want to report all the news.
Follow these links to see what is going on in Springfield with the Steven Watkins bill.

St. Louis Today

WAND TV Springfield


Illinois Fathers Rally Against Child Visitation Interference

Location: Illinois State Capital Building, Springfield, Illinois

Release Date: May 8, 2011

SPRINGFIELD,IL, MAY 10, 2011/, a non-custodial parents rights organization, along with the Alliance for Domestically Abused Men (ADAM International) and several other organizations plan to make their message heard on May 10th, 2011, at the "Third Annual Fatherless Day Rally" at the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield. More than three hundred bikers interested in family law reform are also expected to roar into Springfield for the rally.

The demonstration is designed to call attention to...and garner support for House Bill 1604. HB 1604 seeks to give children greater access to both parents after divorce or separation. HB 1604, known as the Steven Watkins Memorial Bill, in honor of Steven Watkins who was murdered at the home of his ex-wife's grandmother while trying to exercise his court-ordered visitation rights. The bill has strong bi-partisan support in the Illinois House and will be voted on in the Illinois Senate.

Rally Coordinator and spokesperson, General Parker says, "consistently, in our Illinois family law courts, children are unjustly separated from good parents for no good reason."

The rally is scheduled to start at 9:00 AM.

Visit for more information.

Friday, May 6, 2011

East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, Incorporated

In the Peoria City Ordinance No. 11,939 established on April 18, 1989, the Peoria City Council set forth a Special Services Area for the East Bluff of Peoria to add a special tax to the East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, Incorporated for the specific purpose of providing neighborhood services which "are in addition to those governmental services generally provided by the City of Peoria throughout said City." (paragraph f). Paragraph (g) goes on to state "That the Special Service District will provide the East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services a portion of the resources required to continue their efforts to maintain the character and stability of this neighborhood." Paragraph (h) is where we now find a great disparity between what was and what is the East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc.
(h) That the East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. has a proven track record in providing neighborhood services, including:
I) providing low interest loans (1/2% to 9%) through the administration of a $300,000 dollar revolving loan fund [The EBNHS, Inc. has provided no such loans to any East Bluff Residents in the last 3 years]
II) neighborhood paint-up program which provided paint for 215 homes in the East Bluff [no such program exists at this time]
III) Neighborhood landscaping efforts [no such efforts exist at this time]
IV) encouragement of home ownership through one half million dollars in low interest mortgages secured through IHDA [Again, to my knowledge, no such program is in existence, nor does the EBNHS, Inc. intend to conduct such services]
V) extended code enforcement efforts through an advocacy role with existing city code enforcement efforts [again, no such effort exists]
VI) neighborhood planning, through liaison with the city departments and committees [you guessed it, does not exist]

So if the EBNHS,Inc. is not providing any of these services, what exactly are they doing?

They are collecting tax dollars from the citizens of the East Bluff to purchase housing in the East Bluff (they own four units, including the house on Wisconsin used as their office/headquarters) for the stated purpose of "rehab for resale", but since the city has declared the East Bluff a "blighted" area, coupled with the increased crime and vandalism rate, the value of these properties has made it impossible to sell them, so the EBNHS, Inc., a Not For Profit Corporation, is now in the business of renting property.

According to their original articles of incorporation, filed March 5, 1986, the EBNHS,Inc. is to have no paid officers, members, or Directors (paragraph 4.b). Yet the proposed 2011 budget allows for a Salaries of $38,563.20 with a Fringe allowance of 12% for an additional $4,627.79, which comes to a total of $43,191.00. Seeing as there is only one Executive Director, in the person of Peggy Shadid-Joseph, I am assuming she is the recipient of that salary. Now since she also resides in the building owned by the EBNHS,Inc. on Wisconsin Avenue, I'd say the perks are going pretty good for a person who is apparently unable to fulfill her duties. The Website is not up to date, the paperwork is not filed correctly, and in some cases not at all, and her hours of operation apparently are at her discretion.

Since the City of Peoria has seen fit to designate our area as "Blighted", thus causing our property values to plummet, and since the City has also chosen to add an additional tax to our area through the designation of a TIF area, I'd say the EBNHS,Inc. is a superfluous entity that no longer needs to be in business, and certainly no longer needs to be funded by the citizens of the East Bluff. The stated purpose of the TIF is to rebuild the East Bluff through grants and low interest loans to the residents to improve their properties, and also to improve the local business and infrastructure through additional funds raised in the TIF. To continue to utilize the Special Service District to duplicate the efforts of the TIF is ludicrous.

Update on the Steven Watkins Bill


This Bill needs to be STOPPED immediately, before it goes any further.
If anyone is willing, I suggest that "WE" organize the group and request a "HEARING" by May 23rd or at the lastest, the 1st week of June (before they go out on recess June 30, 2011) with the main sponsors of this Bill.
I have a very good relationship with serveral of the Bill Sponsors and would NOT have a problem getting them to set up a hearing for us, and/or allow us to testify during the House Judiciary-Civil Law Committee Hearings in Springfield.
Also, I can solicit the help of those who oppose this Bill (SOS Office contact), the ICADV and some other groups for help to expose this attack on Parents that are already under severe assualt by the "Family Courts."
They need to hear from our side at the level that counts.....the people who make up these damaging laws, without the proper information.
I will be free next week after........Monday, May 9, 2011 to work on this, if this is something the group would like to do. Let me know asap!

Steven Watkins' Bill passed by Illinois House Committee

Posted Mar 02, 2011 @ 11:00 PM
Last update Mar 03, 2011 @ 06:00 AM

The “Steven Watkins Bill,” which would toughen the penalties for divorced parents, who violate visitation agreements, passed an Illinois House Committee on Wednesday.
House Bill 1604 would allow judges to jail scofflaw parents, increase fines against them and revoke their professional and drivers’ licenses.
It stems from the murder of Steven Watkins, who was slain when he went to pick up his daughter, Sidney for a court-ordered visit in Ashland.
Shirley Skinner, the grandmother of Jennifer Watkins, was convicted of killing Steven Watkins.
Watkins’ estranged wife, Jennifer, has since resisted efforts, including a court order, to allow Sidney to visit Steven Watkins’ parents.
A warrant was issued Tuesday for Jennifer Watkins’ arrest, although her whereabouts is unknown.
Proponents of the bill, including Steven Watkins’ mother Penny, said the measure is necessary to ensure noncustodial parents are granted their court-ordered visitation rights.
“He (Steven) had several times ran up against opposition from the mother of the child,” Penny Watkins testified before the House Judiciary-Civil Law Committee.
“She (Sidney) was sick, she didn’t feel good, she had wet her pants – several different excuses. Steven would go to the local police. … (They said), ‘We’ll go with you, but if the mother refuses to give you the child, that’s all we can do.’”
Supporters said the measure would bring visitation interference penalties in line with those for child support violations.
A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office opposed enforcing visitation orders by revoking drivers’ licenses.
The bill “would set a precedent to expanding our office to becoming an arm of the court to enforce any type of civil ruling.” said Nathan Maddox, inspector general with the Secretary of State.
Jim Covington, representing the Illinois State Bar Association, agreed.
“Visitation abuse is already a crime under our statutes,” Covington said.
Another group opposes the bill for a different reason.
“What happens more often than not is that battered women in particular get charged with and accused of visitation abuse when they’re really trying to protect their child,” said Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“We fully understand all of the dynamics in the Watkins case …, but we don’t think criminalizing visitation is the answer.”
Andy Brownfield can be reached at (217)-782-3095.


Seems that Ms. Smith would have us believe these cases are about protecting children from abusive parents. Now that is interesting, seeing as we are talking about cases that have already been adjudicated. In other words, we are talking about protecting the rights of the non-custodial parent after the divorce case has been heard. After the time for claims of spousal or child abuse to have been made. If the non-custodial parent was an abuser, it would have been brought up at trial and the abusive parent would have more than likely either been denied custody, visitation, or the visitation would have been ordered as supervised. The claim that this bill would protect abusive parents is ludicrous.
This bill would, if passed into law, make it a crime to knowingly interfere with the rights of a non-custodial parent to see his or her children.
The last time I looked, it takes very little for a Driver's License to be suspended. And unless the police are specifically targeting the individual, it is easy to drive on a suspended license. Just obey the law and don't give the officers a reason to stop you, and you can drive a car without a license. (I am not suggesting anyone do that, I am just pointing out that most police officers have much better things to do with their time than stop cars for no reason to check for a suspended license or lapsed insurance.)
We all know that most marriage dissolution's are not amicable. People get married for passion, and are usually divorced in the same manner. There are many cases where the custodial parent (usually, but not always, the mother) is so incensed and vengeful that the non-custodial parent is vilified to their child, and is prevented from seeing the parent. The child is fed a line of bull, told the non-custodial parent does not want or love them, and grows up with feelings of abandonment and resentment and self-loathing that will stunt their emotional and psychological growth. Grandmothers and Grandfathers, Aunts and Uncles, almost everyone runs to the cause, since the child is their blood. Basically, this becomes a "Hatfields and McCoys" syndrome that will often result in violence of some sort being perpetrated against one of the exes or the child.
The Steven Watkins bill does not seek to protect abusive parents or spouses. What it is about is protecting the rights of a non-custodial parent to continue to parent their child.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guest Editorial - Matthew A. Woodmancy

We live in a dream, an ideal, and a promise that declares that we are all the same, that even the poorest among us can become respected and rich. That no matter our background, our belief systems or family values or the God we pray to, we are united as one. The United States is the Promised Land for all of the Human Race. Should we allow our political differences to divide this great nation once again? Should we turn our backs on the sacrifice of those who died to ensure that our light of Liberty will brighten this small planet and banish the darkness of inequality and fear?
This nation is an experiment that has shone as the brightest beacon of hope for all mankind for two hundred and thirty four years. It is our duty to protect every American in every corner of this county to ensure that they have the ability to achieve the American dream that we all strive for. We are a diverse collection of back grounds, of languages, of Religions and states but we are one country, we stand together to face those that wish us harm.
It is our duty to bring the light into the darkness, to make the wrongs we see into rights. We can never falter in the most sacred trust, of being the guardians of the memories of those that came before us who died giving what President Lincoln called the last full measure of devotion. We, as Americans, are living examples of what a true greatness is.
The journey begun by Washington, Jefferson and Franklin, that was saved by Lincoln, that was made better and safer by Roosevelt and Kennedy, is the same journey we continue on today. We must ensure that when we pass the torch to the next generation, it is burning brighter than when it was passed to us. Giving equal rights to everyone, leveling the playing field for our children, changing how the criminal justice system handles drugs, making it easier for those that wish to enter this county legally to do so and ensuring that those who attempt to defraud our systems of trust are only the first of many steps that must be taken.
The tasks that lie before us are not impossible; they can be overcome by strength of will, by setting aside political and ideological differences. 18 years ago a new President proclaimed “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” Those words are still true today. We have made great strides since then; we must continue to change this great nation into the realization of the dream handed down to us by our founders, to keep it worthy of those lives that have been lost defending it.

Matthew A. Woodmancy

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Peoria Inauguration

Well, not quite as auspicious as all that, perhaps, but for the 200 or so people who crowded into the council chambers to bid adieu to outbound members Montelongo and Jacobs, to congratulate the returning incumbents, Turner, Spain, and Sandberg, and to welcome the newest members, Weaver and Akeson, it must have felt like the podium was smack dab in the middle of D.C. From the moment I walked in, you could tell the air was charged with anticipation. Several occasional visitors to the council chambers we present for the ceremony, and while I will invariably forget to mention someone, I will mention "Mitch" Mitchell, president of the East Bluff United Neighborhood Association, Don Cummings, a resident of the East Bluff and prominent member of American Legion Post #2, as well as many friends and family of the newly elected council members. I sat with several of the East Bluff ladies, and noticed our old friend Savino Sierra was there as well.
The council convened and the business was handled in quick order. City Counsel Ray verified that all incoming council members were eligible to be seated, and this was verified by the City Treasurer. The consent agenda was quickly passed, and Savino was given the opportunity to speak, and did so eloquently and briefly, congratulating the winners, and making a special comment about how happy he was to see Councilman Jacobs recovering.
There was no executive session, and Mayor Ardis quickly moved on to the presentation of thanks and praises to the outgoing members, Montelongo and Jacobs. Montelongo received his parting gift from the council without remarks, and since Jacobs was unable to get to the podium, his son George Jr. accepted his gift for him. Upon the conclusion of Mayor Ardis' remarks concerning Councilman Jacobs' service, he received a standing ovation, the first of several to come.
Next, after a proclamation by Mayor Ardis for both Montelongo and Jacobs, Montelongo gave a speech, a humble and gracious speech, extolling the honor of service and his pleasure to serve the community. Standing ovation again.
Next the 6th grade son of Jacobs, Jake, read a speech prepared by his father, and you could see the pride and humility in Jacobs' eyes as the young boy eloquently and passionately delivered his father's words. Standing ovation.
Next the members of the council, in turn, beginning with W. Eric Turner and working clockwise around the horseshoe, gave their words of thanks to both Montelongo and Jacobs, with the exception of Barbara Van Auken, who declined to speak for fear of becoming too emotional. After all had spoken, Mayor Ardis tendered his comments with passion for the service of these fine individuals. Having closed his comments, the meeting was adjourned.
While the room was reorganized, several people exited the chamber to tender their personal thanks to both Montelongo and Jacobs. I stepped out for a moment and greeted Chuck Weaver and several others, asked John Sharp how his shorthand was going (he also was armed with pad and pen for the event...there are a few of us old timers around), and headed back in to get my seat for the ceremonies.
Mary Haynes, the longest incumbent City Clerk in Peoria, presided over the swearing in. Her words were kind, soft, and enthralling. She spoke with sober tones to the At Large Council Members who were about to be sworn in, telling them that while they had been elected, the seats did not belong to them. They belong to the citizens of Peoria, and they are there to serve those people, and not themselves. The new Council Members were sworn in individually, in alphabetical order, and then seated around the horseshoe. Mayor Ardis convened the council, and asked that all stand while Pastor Cal from the Northwoods Church delivered an invocation. A special session convened and each member of the council was given the opportunity to welcome the returning members and the new officials to the horseshoe. At the close of those remarks, both Beth Akeson and Chuck Weaver gave short prepared speeches thanking the many people who helped them win their seats. Pastor Cal closed with a benediction and the meeting was adjourned.
In the hallway, treats and punch were served, people milled about and congratulated the council members. Smiles and handshakes all around. And people went off to their respective parties or homes.
Just another night in Peoria. But maybe a new beginning. I hope so, I know we could use one.

What will you choose?

I'm not much for blind faith. It took me a more than a year of reading scripture and contemplation to finally take the plunge (no pun intended) and be baptized as a Christian. I tend to look into things and not take them at face value. But when I find the value, I tend to support things adamantly, and persistently.

This does not mean I am always right. I have been wrong in the past, and will make mistakes in the future. But I have come to accept that as part of the Human Condition, a failing of our shared mortality. We, as a species, want to be right. And when we are wrong, we can do one of two things. We can admit the wrong and try to make it right, or we can go forward from that moment in the hopes we will eventually be right.

Tonight, we will install the elected At-Large Members of the City Council. We have elected them as our leaders, and we are now committed to hearing their voices and watching their actions, at least for another 4 years. We have elected two new members, in hopes their voices will be the voices of the people they represent, the voices of the people of Peoria.

Let us pray they are guided with wisdom, patience, and fortitude.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Moment of Hope. For all of us...

I could have picked "We are the World" or "The Times They Are A Changing", but my foolish, romantic heart wouldn't let me. I am still waiting for the day that has been promised every day since the the founders of this great nation set down the words "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The future begins today, if you allow it to. The inimitable Tom Peters once said, "Change can occur in a heartbeat, you need only make the decision to change. Maintaining that change takes a lifetime of commitment."
And where does the change occur? Within me.

God bless you, and God Bless America.