It might be fashionable to harp on Peoria’s problems these days, or perhaps any day (for some). That gets easier with each homicide, with each grocery-store closing, with each pothole that rips apart a tire.
But not all is doom and gloom in our fair city. In fact, it appears more light might be shining upon it than has been true in a while.
The biggest ray, of course, is courtesy of OSF HealthCare and its decision to establish a new headquarters at the old Chase building. What once looked like a gaping hole Downtown, thanks to Caterpillar Inc. abandoning its plans for a new Peoria-based world base, now has plenty of potential.
Other new Downtown-area business developments were planned before OSF’s announcement last week, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t welcome.
Over the weekend, Bearded Owl Brewing opened in the Warehouse District. It’s just down the street and around the corner from the granddaddy of them all when it comes to local beer, Rhodell Brewery. Bearded Owl also is across State Street from another selective-suds haven, Thyme Kitchen and Craft Beer.
The new brewer helps create a critical mass for food, drink and entertainment around State and Water streets. It all highlights Peoria’s history as a brewing and distilling capital. This only can aid local beer tourism, which is becoming a thing.
Along Main Street, across from the beleaguered Marriott Pere Marquette, soon is to open a third outlet of Rumberger’s Wings & More. This Rumberger’s is expected to have a sports-bar motif, with other food items available in addition to those killer wings.
Rumberger’s is a quality establishment that serves good food at a fair price, although we wish the wait for those victuals was a little shorter. Such a place might finally lend some stability to a site, at Main Street and Madison Avenue, that has played host to a rotation of marginal bars that never seemed terribly inviting.
Azteca Mexican Restaurant now fills the formerly vacant site that once housed Haddad’s Downtown, across Main Street from the Peoria County Courthouse. Again, another source of activity and tax revenue.
But some of Peoria’s biggest successes aren’t necessarily in Downtown bricks and mortar, nor in food and drink.
Recently in Milwaukee, your swarthier columnist had a chance to touch base with Shaun Livingston, the Golden State Warriors’ player from Peoria. We had a nice conversation about the recent changes in his life, including marriage and becoming a first-time father.
We remember Livingston when he was leading Peoria High School to back-to-back Class AA boys basketball state titles in 2003 and ’04. We also remember him well before that.
Livingston has been through a lot. He sustained an ultra-serious knee injury that threatened a NBA career that once appeared meteoric. Afterward, he spent years in NBA purgatory before he landed with the Warriors and helped them win two of the last three league titles.
All that, perhaps, has helped Livingston grow into a praiseworthy person. So might the upbringing he received from his father, Reggie, and other adult figures in Peoria’s high schools and at Concordia Lutheran School, to which Livingston donated $1 million recently.
If you don’t believe us, believe one of his teammates, a basketball player considered among the finest on the planet.
“He means everything to us,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said about Livingston. “Everything he’s been through has molded him into a phenomenal man. I’m just honored that I get the chance to grace the court with him.”
The recent pickup in Downtown Peoria business is nice. But Livingston might be one of Peoria’s best advertisements. Prepare for more this week if Jim Thome, the pride of Limestone Township, wins election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. (N.V.)
Bustos and the #MeToo movement
Lost amid most of the shouting about a government shutdown at the end of last week was the news of an apparent bipartisan agreement in the U.S. House of Representatives to address some of the sexual harassment policies the chamber has.
Among other things, the deal would eliminate the policy of government-sponsored payouts to congressional employees in harassment settlements and would make lawmakers liable for reimbursing the treasury for them. A report would come out every six months detailing which offices had reached settlements, a story in Politico reported.
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, who represents parts of Peoria and west-central Illinois, had been pushing legislation on the topic.
But she's also been integrally involved in trying to get broad agreement on legislation that would affect workers far beyond Capitol Hill — and has been doing so for nearly a year, since long before the issue was getting noticed and had become a social media campaign under the #MeToo label.
One bill the Moline Democrat has been working on would end the requirement many companies impose on workers that any harassment complaints be handled through arbitration — with the employer selecting the arbitrator — and the results subject to a gag order.
"That is how you end up having systemic sexual harassment that in some cases has happened for years, even decades, at certain employers," she said in an interview last week.
She has bipartisan support in both chambers for the bill and has even attracted support from Microsoft, Bustos told us.
Although the work began before the #MeToo effort had momentum, let alone a formal name, she said last week that "it made it a lot easier when you had people who had some level of notoriety who were speaking out about this."
Those big names may have platforms of their own to speak out, but her concern is more for the people who can't speak up.
"As congresswomen, we've got a way we can speak out against this. Women in Hollywood, they have a mechanism to speak out about this and get attention," Bustos said. "It is the woman who is a housekeeper at a hotel, or the waitress, or so many women who don't have a way to speak out about it and fear losing their job if they do and would not be able to withstand that economic hit on them if they were to lose their job."
To that end, she's playing smart politics in edging the legislation along.
"I have a very, very long list of Democrats who want to get on this bill," Bustos said. "We're asking them to bring along a Republican before we bring them on as sponsors."
That puts the onus on everyone to ensure it's a bipartisan process, and one that fixes a problem rather than focuses on scoring political points. (C.K.)
Chris Kaergard (C.K.) covers politics and government. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard. Nick Vlahos (N.V.) writes "Nick in the Morning." He can be reached at email@example.com or 686-3285. Follow him on Twitter @VlahosNick.