Editors note: Following is the text of a speech given by Rockford Ald. Doug Mark (R-3) Sept. 7 from the deck of the Rockford Marina.
Good morning and welcome to the Rockford Marina, here in the heart of downtown Rockford. Four years ago, I announced about my first political campaign here in this building. It was an empty building that the Koch family had purchased and put their private investment to work toward their vision. A lot has happened in those four years as you can tell by looking around you. There is energy here to continue that vision, and I certainly want to see this great development take that next step because I believe in the Kochs dream as well.
Like this building, I, too, started out four years ago as well to begin my first term as the 3rd Ward Alderman for the City of Rockford. In the early stages of development, with a sense of direction and determination, we both started out. It is wonderful to see now four years later, both this building and I have come a long way. I am very happy with the many things that I have been able to accomplish in these four seemingly short years. On the many issues that have been handled and all the various neighborhood groups that I work with including Churchill Grove, Signal Hill, Coronado Haskell, Indian Terrace, Haight Village, Browns Hills, Knightsville, and, of course, downtown with the River District, much has changed for the good. I have enjoyed these four years not only for just me but also my family.
My wife Sally and our six children, Andy, Tom, Alison, Charlie, John and Matthew, have also been involved with me and certainly provided the support I have needed spending time with my aldermanic job. A big thank you to all the wonderful friends and to the many new friends we have met working together in the 3rd Ward and throughout the city on positive projects for our downtown and in the 3rd Ward.
It is hard to believe that four years have passed, and we now face another city election in the spring of 2005. Over the past several months, there has been much speculation over the possibility of my candidacy to run as a Republican for the office of Mayor of Rockford, Illinois. Many people as well as the media continue to ask if I and my family have made a decision. The long awaited is–we have made a decision. First, let me say that just having others consider you as a mayoral candidate is the highest compliment that I could ever receive. It is very humbling and flattering and makes you feel that the job you have undertaken these last fours years has not done unnoticed or unappreciated. For all of that I can only say thank you.
Therefore, I can tell you today, the 7th of September, 2004, that I am NOT a candidate for office of Mayor for the city of Rockford, Illinois.
With the commitment that I have for my family as top priority and my job, it would not be possible to put all of those parts together. Sometimes the timing is not right, and this is just one of those times. There is a tremendous amount of work before us in Rockford; now is the time for leadership and moving the city forward. Jobs, downtown, target development areas, our gateways, rail, additional transportation needs are all things that need to be addressed by our next administration, and we cannot put them off for another four years. I believe that downtown is truly our heart and soul of the city of Rockford, and with that being said, it is time to get some of those projects out of Community Development and before the City Council so we can begin the debate. It will be a great and exciting time for all of us and our city in the next four years.
Therefore, today I am announcing my bid for re-election for the office of 3rd Ward Alderman in the City of Rockford, Illinois.
I have had a good four years and have been pleased with many of the efforts that have taken place in the downtown area and the 3rd Ward. We have accomplished much, but there is more to do, and a lot is already in the planning stages.
I have worked with business in the downtown such as Carlyle Brewing on State Street. I can remember when Don was standing in an empty building with basically a dream and a vision for his business. I worked with Don over several months and was thrilled when he finally opened.
I also worked with Kris when he first started this crazy idea for Kryptonite as a night club for downtown. Kris and I have worked on several projects for his business over the past couple of years including our liquor laws for outdoor cafes on the mall. This helped several businesses located on the mall.
I have worked with Trinity Lutheran on the new TLC project downtown, and I can remember this dream of taking an empty parking lot and transforming it into a center of hope for several organizations to call this home. It has been wonderful to see this new building among the old fit in and prosper.
It has been exciting to see Norstar Heating come to the downtown area. Recently, converting an old empty building into an exciting project has used our facade program and was the reason that has been changed to allow more money for our investors downtown. I have enjoyed working with Dan OBoyle and this group as we bring businesses to downtown.
There have been expansions to existing businesses and renovations to others also. Two new businesses have also moved into downtown, and they are The Omega Nut Company and Venus Chocolate Company. I can tell you that there is much going on downtown..
One of the great things that I got accomplished during the first year of my term was to work with legal and building departments and get the Lincoln Hotel shut down. This has been an eyesore for a long time and created problems in the neighborhood. It has changed the area for the positive since it has been gone.
Two road projects are being planned–one is to make North Main into a two-way street from John Street all the way through downtown and tie into South Main Street. The other is to take the major traffic off North 2nd Street by the YMCA and St James/Prairie Hill Neighborhood and make Second Street a residential street. We would tie 3rd Street and Kishwaukee Street as the 2-way traffic all the way through town. This will help all of us as we work to make downtown more accessible.
Of course, there are several building projects such as the Federal Building and the new Justice Center in the process as well as the expansion of the newspaper facility, which are all good things for downtown as they bring jobs and people to downtown.
I have sat on the Morgan Street Bridge Committee for a new bridge construction project in 2005-2006.
I have participated in the Library Strategic Planning Process and helped initiate long-range goals for our library system throughout our city.
Yes, I have not always agreed, as recently shown over the new contract of the Metro Center. I did not approve the original contract and had several proposals that I thought were important as did some of the other aldermen. I was the first to talk about separating the Coronado Theatre and Davis Park away from the Metro Center. This idea was incorporated in the contract as well as a review of financing over a three-year period with an extension instead of a straight year deal. The financing set up will be reviewed after three years to see where the Metro Center. is As we break the Coronado Theatre and Davis Park away on their own, we will have to set up financing for these two entities that the city owns. We want to insure the funding is available and can be used for these other venues if necessary. This also includes oversight from Planning and Development Committee on a continuous basis. There was input for aldermen and others to try and put the best deal for all of us together. I also commend the mayor for his many hours of discussion that we had and putting a strong agreement together.
I have worked with and am a member of the Downtown River District. There have been many projects that we have worked on together, and I can tell you there are more coming. Boat docks, Rockford Marina, Richardson Building (Subway), several other buildings are on the board, and we ha
vent even left downtown yet.
One project that will always remain a proud moment is when I brought in the ordinance to prohibit exotic dancing clubs in specific areas. This was critical to the balance of four special neighborhoods around the Main and Auburn area. This was a lengthy process, but to make a long story short, we now have one of the finest restaurants in Rockford, namely, Table 13 now in the same location.
The three aldermen of this area are working on plans with the businesses and neighborhood groups to move this area ahead. We have already seen great improvements in our businesses. North End Coffee Bar is an example where I worked to secure financing from the city on original and secondary funding. I got the burned building torn down by our Building Department. I worked with Public Works to insure that power was moved from Main to the back of the business area. This was not part of the original plan, but we all agreed that this was important.
Auburn Street project will be a reality next year. From the bridge to Main Street, we will see a new road, new lighting, planters, paver walkways to make a real positive change as you enter the North End.
We have recently worked with the Prairie Hill neighborhood to tear down the old Hall School. This dilapidated building was an eyesore and was falling down around us. We not only got the school down but provided green space and planted trees to improve the area.
I have worked with all of our neighborhood groups on projects and concerns. With the help of neighbors and police, we were able to shut down and secure properties on Woodlawn last year. This past year, I was able to secure additional funding to replace all curbs and gutters on Winnebago from Cherry to Whitman/School. I will continue to work in all of our neighborhoods, for I feel this is the circle around our downtown, and it must remain vibrant to support our downtown and be the gateway to our city.
I was selected by Mayor Scott to chair the International Trade Park initiative that we recently completed. This is the area that surrounds the airport from 11th Street to South Main/Route 2 and the bypass. This is of vital importance as we target a specific area where new manufacturing and distribution can be located on our southeast side and take full advantage of our strategic location to all forms of transportation. Jobs are our number one priority and we must aggressively pursue for all of Rockford to succeed.
I have worked to communicate with all of the people through neighborhood groups, business groups, organizations that I meet with monthly or on a regular basis. It is hard to make all the meetings, but we follow up to insure the concerns and issues are addressed, for I have also been responsive and have been able to work with all constituents or businesses that have concerns. It has been a busy but very eventful four years.
Sally and I also enjoy being part of the community by serving on several boards and committees in Rockford. We feel it is important to be active but also be a part in working to make this a better place.
I am confident that I can continue to work hard for the people of the 3rd Ward and serve them and work hard during the next four years. I believe it is important to have strong leadership, and I believe I have demonstrated that during my time on the City Council.
I am reminded of a quote by Margaret Mead that I carry in my wallet… Never forget that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, for indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Those are words I believe in, and I carry them with me in all that I do. Thank you very much.