As a current candidate for City Council, what do you consider to be the three biggest issues facing the City of Peoria that you will address upon re-election?

As an internationally renowned cancer researcher and assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria, I also head the Velpula Neuro-Oncology Lab and have published 55-plus scientific papers on cancer research. I founded a biotech startup company focused on reducing the cost of clinical trials to make new treatments more accessible. In addition to my research and entrepreneurial pursuits, I currently serve as an at-large member of the Peoria City Council and am running for re-election.

The three most urgent issues facing Peoria are:

1. economic decline
2. lack of jobs and growth
3. increase in crime rates

Peoria’s economic decline has led to a decrease in business and job opportunities, which in turn contributes to the loss of talent in the area. This loss of talent has undermined economic growth and development in the community, making it difficult for the city to attract new businesses and job opportunities. Additionally, less economic growth means an increase in crime rates, as individuals struggle to make ends meet. Working with other council members and capitalizing on my entrepreneurial and research ventures, I plan to identify solutions to these problems and promote the city’s potential for growth and development.

I’ve pinpointed several ways to address the issues of economic decline, lack of jobs and growth, and increased crime rates in Peoria.

In terms of job creation, we must focus on leveraging Peoria’s healthcare industry to create additional opportunities for good-paying jobs in healthcare, manufacturing, trades, and other sectors for all Peorians. Some of the approaches that could bring in more jobs to the area include:

  • Partnering with local healthcare providers and other organizations in the healthcare industry to create training and job opportunities.
  • Encouraging the development of new healthcare-related businesses in the area, such as medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare technology startups.
  • Promoting Peoria as a destination for healthcare professionals and researchers by highlighting the city’s existing healthcare resources and infrastructure.
  • Coordinating with educational institutions in the area to ensure that students are being trained in the skills needed for the healthcare and manufacturing jobs of the future.
  • Identifying and addressing any regulatory or policy barriers that may be preventing the growth of healthcare and other industries.
  • Incentivizing the development of business and manufacturing in the downtown area specifically to revitalize that area and make it more attractive to residents and visitors.

To retain talent, I’ve been working on a Greater Peoria Health Education Collaborative with four academic institutions in Peoria. This collaborative aims to empower our youth to find employment in the healthcare industry and create a talent pool to drive job growth and talent attraction and retention. To make Peoria the workforce capital of the Midwest, I suggest we:

  • Develop partnerships between the academic institutions and local healthcare providers to offer hands-on training and internship opportunities for students.
  • Present mentorship and guidance to students interested in healthcare and technology careers to help them navigate the job search process and connect them with potential employers.
  • Create educational programs and initiatives specifically designed to prepare students for healthcare and technology jobs in Peoria and the surrounding area.
  • Collaborate with industry leaders and employers in healthcare, technology, and manufacturing sectors to understand the current and future workforce needs and align the educational programs accordingly.
  • Develop a marketing campaign to attract talent and professionals to Peoria by highlighting the opportunities in these sectors.
  • Create a one-stop-shop for students and job seekers to find information on job opportunities and resources to support their career development.

To promote public safety, I plan to ensure that the city’s police and fire services have the resources to curb the crime and violence. This is critical in uplifting the economic status of our city and could be the foundation for a strong community and thriving neighborhoods. Here are some of my strategies to ensure public safety.

  • Community policing programs that promote positive relationships between residents and law enforcement and address specific public safety concerns in certain neighborhoods.
  • More police officers on the streets to enhance public safety and visibility.
  • Robust resources for the police department and other city officials to analyze crime data, identify problem areas and develop strategies to reduce crime.
  • Increased use of technology like surveillance cameras, license plate readers, and gunshot detection systems.
  • Strong focus on infrastructure improvements that can deter crime, such as better lighting, sidewalks, and parks in high-crime areas.
  • Collaboration among community leaders and organizations to address the root causes of crime, such as poverty, poor education and lack of job opportunities.

Ultimately, the issues of economic decline, lack of jobs and growth, and the increase in crime rates in Peoria require a multifaceted approach. Through utilizing the healthcare industry and promoting Peoria as a destination for healthcare professionals and researchers, I anticipate driving job growth and developing talent. Furthermore, I can ensure that Peoria’s future workforce is well-prepared to meet the demands of these sectors through partnerships between academic institutions and healthcare providers and discerning current and future workforce needs. I will advocate for a safer and more secure community for all Peorians through innovative programs and robust resources. Together, we can create a thriving, welcoming, and stable community for all our residents.

For more information, please visit my website.

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