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Rep. Eric Sorensen tours Bloomington, Normal with mayors

Democratic IL-17 Congressman Eric Sorensen with Mayor Chris Koos of Normal and Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe of Bloomington on Friday, May 5. Sorensen visited the Twin Cities for a walking tour of each.
Lyndsay Jones
Democratic U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen, with Mayor Chris Koos of Normal, left, and Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe of Bloomington, visited the Twin Cities on Friday, May 5, for a walking tour of both communities.

Requests forfederal funding for Bloomington-Normal projects already have been made by the two U.S. House members who represent the Twin Cities, but Democrat Eric Sorensen said he planned a walking tour with both municipalities' mayors anyway to learn "where the money is being spent."

Sorensen and Republican congressman Darin LaHood have requested more than $15 million in Community Project Funding for infrastructure needs in Bloomington and Normal, including $2 million for stormwater drainage in Normal and $2 million for the Locust-Colton sewer separation project in Bloomington.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos told reporters Friday that when Normal's sewer and stormwater systems were developed in the early 2000s, they were "more than adequate."

Now, "we're getting 100-150-year rains every year," he said. "We were having a problem with flooding in the hotels, Watterson Towers where 2,200 students live. So, it's an issue we need to deal with — and it's a climate change issue."

In Bloomington, Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe said city officials included the Market Street garage on their tour with Sorensen sinceBloomington city council members last month approved turning the aging structure into a hub for Connect Transit.

"Hopefully by 2026, we'll have something brand new there, looking really nice. Depending on how much we can accomplish financially, we might have some interesting features there — some green features, commercial space, that kind of thing," he said.

Sorensen, who represents the 17th Congressional District, said he's heard from Bloomington-Normal area constituents that people are eager to see "revitalization" efforts that were successful in Uptown Normal accomplish similar goals in downtown Bloomington.

"People have seen that in Normal for many years and want that implemented," he said. "It means talking with business owners who have a stake in downtown Bloomington, developing the old State Farm headquarters that is going to be rehabbed into a different space where people can live and thrive downtown."

"It also means people spending their tax dollars downtown. That's what this is all about: It's about bringing our communities back together to this livable, central core, which actually is the way that these towns and most of our cities were developed in the first place."

Sorensen also provided updates to the media on his stances regarding several federal issues.

On the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling being reached and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's warning the U.S. could default as early as June 1

"We need to make sure the our federal government is paying our bills. Much like any of us struggling to try to make ends meet, when that credit card statement comes, we try to make as big of a payment as we can. We need to understand that it is too dangerous for us to even threaten to default. I'm optimistic now that the speaker (House Speaker Kevin McCarthy) wants to talk with the president about how we're going to solve the problem. We can't play political gamesmanship on the lives of people. We need to make sure we pay our bills and that we use the budgetary process to rein in spending where we need to."

On handling the budget deficit without making cuts to social service programs like Medicare and Social Security

"The big deficit is because of the value of our economy, because of the value of our nation. Of course, that is going to be going up. We're coming out on the other side of the pandemic — of course we need to spend in places where we can because we're talking about people's lives. They need help. That is the job of the federal government. The federal government and Congress has the purse of the people. We need to make sure that the money that's taken in from taxes is spent well — that means not having tax cuts for the wealthy. We need to make sure that people pay their fair share and that the government works for the people."

On Rep. LaHood inviting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to the Peoria-Tazewell Lincoln Day dinner on May 12

"Whatever these national politicians are going to do in the future is up to them. I don't share any connection to the governor of Florida. I don't think he shares the values of what we have here as members of our community in central and northwestern Illinois. But if we wants to come in and campaign in central Illinois, maybe it's an opportunity for us to be able to say, 'You know what? We're a welcoming place. We're a great place.' And maybe some our Illinois values will rub off on him."

Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.