Peoria Councilperson Denise Jackson to host tours of the Southside to draw attention to economic blight, poverty

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — First District City Councilperson Denise Jackson is inviting the public to tour her district to see the highlights and lowlights of Peoria’s Southside.

“If you don’t live in the First District, if you don’t work in the First District, you probably don’t come to the First District,” she said at a Tuesday press conference.

The First District Neighborhood Tours kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7 at the Trewyn School. Tours will continue for eight weeks every Saturday through Sept. 25. The hour-long tours will give visitors a first-hand glimpse of life in the district.

“We want to show people who don’t live in this district, [and] the challenging conditions that residents have to deal with on a daily basis,” she said.

Jackson said the goal is for visitors to develop empathy, concern and compassion for the residents of one of the poorest zip codes in the country.

“There is still an enormous amount of economic decline that has persisted due to a continuous pattern of disinvestment… It’s important for us to show the level of poverty and deterioration that exists within our community,” she said.

She said “infrastructure deficiencies” like abandoned and dilapidated homes, deteriorating sidewalks and vacant lots overrun by trash can be found “on just about every block.”

“We will show you some the hotspots where people have come down and dumped garbage in our communities,” she said.

Jackson said the First District’s needs go beyond economic blight.

“We want to deal with the social, emotional and mental ills that are prevalent within our communities, which often times can lead to upticks in violence, so we want to deal with all of that,” she said.

Peoria Park Board Trustee Alex Sierra called on city officials to prioritize the infrastructure needs of the First District.

“By bringing the First District’s opportunities of growth and development as the most underdeveloped and disenfranchised district to the forefront of our city’s priority list in terms of development,” he said.

Sierra hopes the tours will kickstart that prioritization.

“These tours are the perfect opportunity for us to put our money where our mouths are, by bringing awareness to the ills present in this neighborhood,” he said.

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