Ald. McNeely miffed about permit reconsideration

Changing its collective mind was the first order of business at the Rockford City Council’s June 12 meeting.

With the exception of Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13), the council approved Ald. Joe Sosnowski’s (R-1) motion to reconsider the June 5 denial of a special-use permit.

With two absent, aldermen had approved the denial by a vote of 10-2. With Ald. Patrick Curran (R-2) absent, aldermen overturned the denial by a vote of 8-5. McNeely, Ald. Victory Bell (D-5), Ald. Leonard Jacobson (D-6), Ald. Bill Timm (R-9) and Ald. Jeff Holt (D-11) voted no.

Sosnowski said he made the motion because Deliverance Crusaders Church representatives allayed some of his fears about the development. The development will consist of a resource center with a computer room. It will also offer limited food and clothing services to those using the center. Referral services will be provided as well.

McNeely was more than incensed the issue was coming back to the council floor.

“It’s an issue that never should have gotten to this point,” she said.

McNeely said she appreciated those aldermen who supported her in the denial of the permit. She stressed she supported the denial, due to complaints relating to similar projects that drew people from outside the community to the 13th Ward.

According to McNeely, this development is completely different from the one first proposed. She said DC Development Corporation Board President Robert King contacted her nearly a year ago about setting up a day care center. McNeely said she wondered when the day care center transformed into the resource center.

McNeely questioned the resource center’s necessity, given that Rockford Public Library’s Lewis Lemon Branch offers free computer access. McNeely also wondered why the center was being put in her ward. She said not everyone in the 13th Ward needs free food or clothing, which drew heckling from the crowd. Mayor Larry Morrissey had to intervene.

“I ask that the gallery refrain from speaking,” Morrissey said.

McNeely said she had never been contacted about the group’s new plans until after the committee action and council vote.

“I do have an answering machine,” McNeely said.

McNeely chastised Morrissey for not informing the council about the impending action at the June 12 meeting. She said it “disappoints me that (Morrissey) had staff take up an aldermanic issue.”

“There’s no point in me taking phone calls or going to homes,” McNeely said.

Her opposition to the resource center, McNeely stressed, was shaped by her beliefs.

“This has nothing to do with religion,” McNeely said. “This has everything to do with saving a community.”

McNeely said she’d committed herself to increasing property values in the 13th Ward. She said such developments threaten those values.

The motion’s passage drew applause from the audience. That excitement carried itself into the hallway. Denise and Robert Pittman said they were both happy with the council decision. Denise noted its significance.

“It’s important that we do this,” Denise said. “It’s helping people. It’s helping lives.”

She said she enjoyed the fight to get the permit.

“That makes me feel really special and privileged that we could be here,” Denise said.

King said he was more than pleased with the outcome.

“The decision is awesome,” King added. “I’m very excited about what happened.”

King said, however, that he’s less than thrilled with McNeely’s performance.

“My reaction to her concerns is not good. She lied,” King said.

King stressed their attempts to contact McNeely.

“We called her repeatedly,” he said.

King said the issue could have been avoided, if McNeely had returned their calls. He alleged that she’s out-of-touch with her constituents. King also questioned McNeely’s commitment to increasing property values.

“(How are property values) going to plummet, when they’re already down?” King said, asking what’s she done to increase them.

McNeely said she’s worked to complete sidewalk and curb improvements in her ward. She said she’s also worked to improve the ward block-by-block.

DC Development Corporation Treasurer Sheila Sokolski said McNeely never responded to any e-mails that were sent. Sokolski said McNeely attended a zoning committee meeting, where she was told exactly what the development would do and provide.

“We’re targeting youth,” McNeely said.

According to Sokolski, the group agreed to adhere to certain conditions, including periodic inspections and certain hours of operation, during that committee meeting. She said McNeely didn’t contact them until she knew the permit would be coming before the committee.

“I hope we can prove to her that we’re different,” Sokolski said.

From the June 14-20, 2006, issue

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