Peoria Mayor Rita Ali won the recent spring election by a slim margin – only 43 votes – and is now the first full-time mayor in Peoria’s history. What is her vision for Peoria’s future and how does she plan to accomplish her goals for the city?
“I’m happy to be Peoria’s first woman of color to lead Peoria,” she said in a recent interview at Peoria City Hall. “I feel very strongly that Peoria needs a full-time mayor,” she said referring to her early retirement as the Vice President of Workforce and Diversity at Illinois Central College on June 30. She keeps regular business hours at City Hall plus after hours, she attends ribbon cuttings, city council meetings, and other various events making the position much more than 40 hours per week.
Peoria Mayor Rita Ali spent nearly two years on the city council as an at-large member. She lost an election prior to that for the city’s 5th district by only 1 vote to current council member Denis Cyr.
When asked why she thinks voters chose her to lead Peoria she said, “People were open to change and new leadership and diversity. They want growth, opportunities. They want to solve some problems.”
One of the things she would like to change in Peoria is to focus on jobs and business development which she hopes will in turn help grow the population. “There’s a lot we need to do to educate our community,” she said. “We need to invest in parts of our community that have been ignored”.
She cited specifically the 61605 zip code which is one of the most distressed in the country. Only half of the adults in that area are employed and only 17% of children come to kindergarten ready to learn. She says there’s also a health disparity there. Illinois Central College, the City of Peoria, and the Peoria Public Schools recently partnered on the “Peoria Cradle to Career” initiative to transform that zip code with development for the families in that area. Find more details about this initiative on WCBU.org
“20% of our city lives in poverty,” Ali said. She said that there needs to be a collective and systematic approach to make progress to eliminate that. The shortage of affordable housing is another concern of hers. She believes in a multifaceted approach to getting to root causes of local violence and plans on meeting with the various stakeholders including the new police chief, Eric Echevarria, who is a proponent of community policing.
Other plans she hopes to bring to fruition include making Peoria a “Smart City” by using technology to improve the city. This will include growing jobs and the population, reducing fossil fuels and our carbon footprint. 5G is another innovation she’d like to see in Peoria along with high-speed rail service that could happen with funding that is being debated by congress for infrastructure upgrades and repairs.
“We need to engage the Peoria community in helping to build this vision,” she said. “It has to be our collective vision to buy into it and ultimately to support it.” She knows that the vision has to be one that’s easily communicated to create the best livable community in the nation.
For more information about Mayor Ali’s background and platform, visit https://ritaali.com
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