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Peoria still has a ways to go on achieving equity goals for city construction projects

The Peoria City Council hears public comment on the proposed Distillery TIF at its Feb. 27, 2024 meeting.
Mike Smith
The Peoria City Council hears public comment on the proposed Distillery TIF at its Feb. 27, 2024 meeting. Opponents say they have safety and environmental concerns about some of the projects that could benefit from the TIF.

Black and woman-owned contractors in Peoria are still getting the smallest slice of the pie in city construction projects, according to data presented at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

Melodi Green, the city’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, presented data showing minority and women contractors are growing in the workforce, but they are still facing barriers to success.

She also included a 1999 report on minority-owned business owners who mentioned some of the same barriers to success plaguing minority contractors today.

“1999 was 25 years ago, and these barriers remain,” Green said, “but as strong as these barriers are, we are proving that we too as an organization and a community are strong enough to work against them.”

Green offered more than a few recommendations to level the playing field for minority and women business owners in construction, like helping contractors get more bids.

Council member Tim Riggenbach asked Green what policymakers such as himself do to empower her office. She told him to bring back purchasing ordinance amendments that would be beneficial to the Peoria Equity & Accountability Program (PeAP) list.

“I can review good-faith efforts all day long, but if I never get the contracts to begin with to review, then they’ll never be there,” Green said. “If the barriers are never removed, then minority contractors and women-owned businesses and small-owned businesses will never have the sustainability they need to be competitive.”

Proposed Distillery TIF meets community pushback

Tuesday’s city council meeting was also the first time residents were able to voice their concerns about the proposed Distillery Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district. Several Peorians urged city council members to either defer the vote on the TIF district or vote against it entirely, citing environmental safety concerns.

Warith Muhammad and his son Warith Muhammad Jr. spoke against the TIF district.

“I’m here today to speak for all the kids who cannot speak for themselves. Please vote no to any tax dollars going towards any pollution or a dangerous pipeline on the South side of Peoria,” said Muhammed Jr.

Muhammed expressed how tax dollars could otherwise be spent supporting the south side.

“The last thing that the people need on the south side of Peoria is a pipeline that could potentially bust,” Muhammed said before alluding to the 2023 pipeline explosion in Satartia, Mississippi.

Short-term rental regulations revisited

Another topic of conversation in the meeting was short-term rental regulations. Assistant Director of Community Development Leah Allison outlined three changes recommended by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

The ordinance change got a first reading before the council on Tuesday. The first big change was a reduction of the cap on short-term rentals from three percent to one. Another change increased the radius of short-term rental areas from a quarter mile to a half mile. Finally, the city would add a separation requirement of 1,500 feet to short-term rentals under the special use approval process.

Additionally, the city voted unanimously to reduce fees and allow more locations for mobile food vehicles and street and sidewalk vendors.

Mike Smith is an correspondent with WCBU in Peoria. He joined the station in 2023.