Citizens continue asking for city involvement in curbing violence

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118659060115140.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘“Rockford is in chaos with the crime being so high,” said Mary Lou Castro (pictured), president of the Rockford Chapter of League of United Latin American Citizens. “We need our aldermen to take action. We don’t want any more promises.”‘);

News and notes from Aug. 6 Rockford City Council meeting

Mary Lou Castro, president of the Rockford Chapter of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), addressed aldermen regarding ongoing violence on the city’s southwest side.

“Rockford is in chaos with the crime being so high,” Castro said. “We need our aldermen to take action. We don’t want any more promises.”

Castro suggested revamping the southwest side to give its citizens a sense of home and security. Castro said to do so would require the time and effort of Rockford residents, but not much money.

Castro added no city needs to have a “bad side of town” and that Rockford’s diversity holds the promise of a solution to the problem.

Picking up where Castro left off, Dave Holland stressed the importance of a multicultural approach to problem-solving throughout the city.

“The more the races get to know each other, the less race matters,” argued Holland, who is a volunteer director of a culturally-diverse church youth group. “On the inside, we’re all the same color—blood red—and we’re tired of seeing that blood spilled on our streets because too many young people can’t see that.”

Holland acknowledged racial conflicts may play a role in some youth violence, but that a general disrespect for one another is the bigger issue.

“Life isn’t just about you,” Holland teaches his youth group. “It’s not just about me. It’s about us.”

Holland believes teens’ lack of the “us” attitude is the root of escalating youth violence, and he urged support and development of new guidance programs to show youths they matter to the community.

“Rockford can help produce peaceful young people now for only a fraction of what it will cost to deal with a whole new crop of violent young people in the future,” Holland concluded.

John Weaver, a mainstay in the grassroots movement to take Rockford’s streets back from criminals, has also become a recent fixture during public participation segments of City Council meetings. Aug. 6 was no exception for Weaver, as he declared Rockford a war zone.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of dodging bullets in my neighborhood,” Weaver told aldermen.

Weaver has long argued a lack of action on the part of city government in addressing crime, challenging the mayor and council to become “part of the solution.”

City leaders are quick to point out the police can’t do everything and that the community needs to work together at reducing crime.

Weaver said city, community and business leaders need to come up with a concrete plan for a safer Rockford.

“The white race has got to stop acting like a minority player in the way this city addresses the majority of its liability issues,” Weaver suggested. “City problems affect every person in this city.”

‘Too many people, too little space’

Donning a T-shirt that read “Jane Addams Housing—Too many people, too little space,” Orchid neighborhood resident Barbara Jackson spoke in favor of demolishing the Rockford Housing Authority’s (RHA) Jane Addams housing complex.

“When we were told this project was going to be removed, we were all relieved,” Jackson explained. “The good name of Jane Addams has been [dragged] through the mud long enough.”

Jackson acknowledged a need for public housing, but reported the dense population resulting from the presence of the Addams complex reduced the quality of life for everyone in the neighborhood.

“I do not understand why this is now a legal issue,” said Jackson, referring to a lawsuit filed July 27. Jackson is angered litigation now stands in the way of redevelopment in her neighborhood.

Since getting the nod last fall from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to demolish Addams, residents have been relocated to other public housing. Two tenants of Jane Addams, however, want to stay put and have filed a lawsuit that has left the city’s demolition plans for mid-August on hold.

The same order placing an injunction on the demolition specifies plaintiffs Irene Brown and Dorothy Jones must be relocated in the meantime. An Aug. 10 status hearing will make sure parties are in compliance with District Judge Frederick Kapala’s order. No ruling on the matter is expected until at least Aug. 20.

A number of Rockford’s capital improvement projects are contingent on the demolition of Jane Addams, including replacement of the Morgan Street bridge. Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) has stated the city may exercise its independent policing powers to have the structures ruled condemnable, thus allowing demolition to move forward.

Committee reports approved

Kelley-Williamson Mobil was awarded a fuel contract estimated at $900,000 annually for city vehicles. Fill-ups will come out of departmental budgets.

Rockford Blacktop, of Loves Park, was awarded a $30,450 contract for Chestnut Street curb and gutter work to be funded by sales tax revenue.

An agreement with Dixon-based Willett, Hoffman & Associates was approved for design and construction engineering, including project management, related to the second phase of the Logistics Parkway project. The cost, not to exceed $205,600, is to be paid out of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district funds and water utility revenue bonds.

Wesley Willows retirement community’s request for up to $22 million in industrial revenue bond financing for new construction got the nod from the council. Wesley Willows plans the addition of a 37,000-square-foot town center and about 36 new apartments. Wesley Willows will pay back the bonds. Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) cast the only opposing vote.

Ordinances passed

Aldermen approved a Planning and Development Committee report recommending Zion Development Corporation be given $58,392.45 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for the relocation of utility poles and lines on Fourth Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets. The predominantly city-owned poles are around 50 years old and are now leaning. ComEd will perform the work. Ald. Victory Bell (D-5) later asked for a suspension of the rules, and the council approved an ordinance for the funding. Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) voted “no.”

Cheap Trick making history

Frank Schier, editor and publisher of The Rock River Times, accepted a proclamation on behalf of hometown rockers Cheap Trick Aug. 6 recognizing Aug. 10-11 as “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band—Cheap Trick Days” in Rockford. Schier is traveling to Los Angeles, where the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and Cheap Trick will perform the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in its entirety Aug. 10 and 11 to celebrate the record’s 40th anniversary.

Schier explained he’d only called City Hall that morning to tip off leaders who may want to recognize the band during the City Council meeting that night. Because the band is already out of town, Schier was asked to accept the proclamation on their behalf and get it to them in Los Angeles.

Schier anticipates the event will be widely covered by the media, indicating, “It’s an historic event of international proportions.”

Sir George Martin and Geoff Emerick, the Beatles’ producer and engineer, respectively, are also involved with the event. Martin and Emerick worked with Cheap Trick on their All Shook Up album in 1980. The same year, guitarist Rick Nielsen and drummer Bun E. Carlos were featured on John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy album.

It is rumored surviving members of the Beatles may attend the celebration. Special guests performing numbers with Cheap Trick include Aimee Mann, Joan Osborne, and Al Jourgensen and Sin Quirin of Ministry.

The hometown boys have never made a secret of their love for the Fab Four, whose influence can clearly be heard in Cheap Trick’s music.

Fans feel Cheap Trick has long been overlooked and should be inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The historic Aug. 10 and 11 performances are bound to get them some notice. In their honor, those two days have been proclaimed “Sgt. Pepper’

s Lonely Hearts Club Band—Cheap Trick Days” in Rockford.

Cheap Trick’s 2006 release is called Rockford, which is commemorated on the city’s last-ever vehicle stickers this year.

Other proclamations

The 24th annual National Night Out Against Crime was recognized locally for the Aug. 7 festivities at Nelson Park in Rockford. Members of the Orchid Neighborhood Association received a proclamation to honor the event.

The week of Aug. 6 was proclaimed Paint-A-Thon Week in Rockford. The Salvation Army will see to it 33 homes of needy or disabled seniors will get a fresh coat of paint. Valspar has donated paint to the program for 19 years.


Mayor Morrissey is spending his honeymoon with bride Stacy and her daughter Seanna in an undisclosed destination. City Administrator Jim Ryan has been authorized acting mayor in Morrissey’s absence until his expected return Aug. 17.

Aldermen Joe Sosnowski (R-1), Carl Wasco (D-4) and Frank Beach (R-10) were also not present at the Aug. 6 City Council meeting.

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