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Rep. Sorensen sounds off on Netanyahu visit, touts Peoria housing project

From left to right: Habitat for Humanity Greater Peoria Executive Director Lea Anne Schmidgall, Councilman Tim Riggenbach, Councilwoman Denise Jackson, Mayor Rita Ali and U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen.
Camryn Cutinello
/
WCBU
From left to right, Habitat for Humanity Greater Peoria Executive Director Lea Anne Schmidgall, Peoria council member Tim Riggenbach, council member Denise Jackson, Mayor Rita Ali and U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen at a news conference Friday in Peoria..

U.S. Rep. Eric Sorenson says he has not decided yet if he will attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled July 24 address to Congress.

Netanyahu was invited to address a joint session of congress by the four top congressional leaders. Several Congressional Democrats have indicated they plan to boycott the address amidst controversy over Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks.

Sorensen, a Democrat who represents parts of Peoria and Bloomington-Normal, said Friday he hopes the prime minister will listen to diplomatic pressure for a ceasefire in Gaza.

“We need to make sure that there is a change in what's going on,” Sorensen said during a visit Friday to Peoria. “Because clearly we're not moving in the right direction today.”

He said he’d like to see more discussion about what happens next.

“We have to make sure that we take out Hamas,” Sorensen said. “But we can't just leave the people of Gaza and the people of the West Bank just out to dry, because their homes are gone, their businesses are gone.”

Immigration

On President Joe Biden’s executive order denying asylum claims to most migrants crossing the border unlawfully, Sorensen said his stance on the immigration remains the same.

“We need to make sure that the southern border is secure, but we also need to make sure that there is a pathway for those who want to immigrate to our country and follow our law,” he said.

After Speaker of the House Mike Johnson visited Peoria this past weekend, Sorensen criticized his Republican opponent in the 17th Congressional District race, Joe McGraw, for what he said are extremist views.

“I'm a believer that we need more action in the center of the aisle because if you're not standing within a certain distance of the aisle, you're never going to be able to have a handshake across the aisle, and so my opponent, he's not going to be one of those people ... standing on the aisle,” Sorensen said.

Johnson referred to Sorensen as a “radical leftist” while talking to the media last weekend. Sorensen swatted away the claim, saying he aims for bipartisanship.

Federal funding

Sorensen was in Peoria to announce $1 million in federal funding for projects in Peoria’s 61603 and 61605 ZIP codes.

The City of Peoria and Habitat for Humanity Greater Peoria will use $500,000 to build eight new homes on the site of the now demolished McKinley school.

Peoria Mayor Rita Ali said the project is one step in a plan to increase home ownership on Peoria’s South Side.

“The addition of new single-family homes at the site of the former McKinley School will build momentum towards a vision of a revitalized and vibrant neighborhood right in the heart of the south side of Peoria,” she said.

An additional $500,000 will be used to add sidewalks in the near North Side and East Bluff neighborhoods.

Third District council member Tim Riggenbach said the sidewalks will make the neighborhoods safer for residents.

“Helping kids find that safe path to school, the people that walk to work, you know, connecting our neighborhoods with our commercial corridors, those are all things that add vibrancy to the neighborhood,” he said. “It helps people feel safe in their neighborhoods, and that's something that we've seen in other areas where we made this investment.”

Sorensen said the money comes as a federal tax refund to Peoria, adding the project stemmed from a conversation he had with 1st District council member Denise Jackson when he was first elected.

“You said, ‘We can't just identify that this is an issue and that this is a need’” he said. “We have to do something about it. Words aren't enough. We actually have to do something.”

Construction is expected to begin on the homes this fall.

Locations for the sidewalks have not yet been chosen. The Peoria city engineer will be conducting audits in the two neighborhoods to see where the greatest need is.

Camryn Cutinello is a reporter and digital content director at WCBU. You can reach Camryn at cncutin@illinoisstate.edu.