Council responds to bullet-riddled weekend

News and notes from the Oct. 9 Rockford City Council meeting

Reacting to a particularly violent weekend in Rockford, including seven shootings within 24 hours, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) recognized, “It stands again as a reminder that we have a lot of work to do.

“In one respect,” Morrissey said, “we’re fortunate that more people were not killed or tragically injured.”

One of the unlucky ones, 19-year-old Timothy Howard, became Rockford’s 11th homicide victim of 2007 when he was shot to death outside a home on Avon Street Oct. 6. Of the 11 murders so far this year, six victims have been teens. Teen-agers also increasingly account for being the assailants in such tragedies.

The mayor assured police will continue partnering with neighborhood groups to curtail the trend.

Ald. Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7) noted the violent crimes are not just happening on the west side, as long perceived, but throughout Rockford.

“We need to address this as a complete city, not as a part of a city,” Thompson-Kelly urged fellow aldermen.

Ald. Victory Bell (D-5), who stressed education is the key, said, “What you see is symptoms of a bigger problem.

“When we do not properly set a climate where kids can be educated,” Bell added, “those are the things that lead to the problems that we have today in our streets, and nobody is going to be escaping it.”

Ald. Frank Beach (R-10) suggested faith may be the answer.

“Our babies are being shot right in front of our eyes, and there’s tension all over this community,” argued Beach, who recalled parents of old who he believes kept children on the straight and narrow.

“The truth is, today, that there is no moral track that runs anymore,” Beach stated, citing a number of biblical commandments as examples. “They don’t even think about what’s right and wrong, and any sense of absolute truth is vanishing.

“They want to dethrone God and deify man,” Beach alleged, referring to the cultural revolution started in the 1960s. “We’re paying that price right now, because you can’t legislate on the outside the way a man is on the inside.”

Beach urged faith-based groups to become more involved in the lives of children.


Aldermen passed an ordinance for a zoning map amendment and special-use permit to allow for the service, sale and rental of heavy equipment on the 5800 block of Columbia Parkway near the intersection of Harrison Avenue and Mulford Road.

The amendment and special-use permit were requested by William Charles Real Estate Investments. Rockford Blacktop, a division of William Charles, is also seeking a special-use permit to build an asphalt batch plant in its nearby quarry, much to the ire of neighbors, who are hosting a 7 p.m. informational forum Oct. 11 at Rock Church, 6732 Harrison Ave. The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) will make its recommendation on that matter Oct. 16.

Scott Perian, director of land development for William Charles, assured ZBA members the heavy equipment dealership is not associated with quarry operations. Last year, Rockford Blacktop was awarded a $10,439,801.57 state bid for Harrison Avenue reconstruction.

The council also unanimously passed an ordinance allowing $11,351.50 in tax increment financing (TIF) funds to be used for renovation of Auto Clinic of Rockford. The repairs are the result of flood damage sustained in August to the car care facility at 4109 E. State St.

Businesses damaged by flooding were urged by the city to apply for Small Business Administration loans. TIF dollars, however, do not have to be repaid.

Aldermen approved an ordinance finalizing an agreement to reimburse Eagle Land Development Company for the cost of upsizing water mains in accordance with the city’s ongoing $75 million water improvement project. The reimbursement for water mains in the Redington Chase subdivision is not to exceed $195,545.

Public participation

During public comments Oct. 9, Coronado/Haskell Neighborhood Association President Deborah Weaver addressed the council about the subject of where people choose to live.

Weaver, who is also vice president of the Neighborhood Network, recounted a story from the previous week’s city council meeting. Weaver and husband John have been outspoken in their support of Police Chief Chet Epperson’s approach to combating crime in their neighborhood. During the Oct. 1 meeting, however, the Weavers found themselves surrounded by police union supporters who are at odds with the chief.

The same initiative the Weavers praise Epperson for, Weed and Seed, is opposed by some who believe the program puts officers in harm’s way. Weaver relayed a condensed version of a conversation from the Oct. 1 meeting between her neighbor and a union supporter.

The pro-union attendee, Weaver reported, essentially told her neighbor she should move somewhere nicer if she doesn’t like the crime in her neighborhood. The union supporter allegedly suggested the neighbor pursue higher education and get a better job to afford the relocation.

“We choose to live where we live because we love the older parts of the city,” Weaver told the council. “We do not need to live there. We want to live there.”

Ald. Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7) agreed.

“I live where I live because I choose to,” said Thompson-Kelly (D-7), whose neighborhood lies between Auburn and School streets.

Weaver was quick to add Mayor Morrissey also lives in an older part of town, and in a Weed and Seed target area.

Weaver argued if taxpayers live in the middle of crime-ridden neighborhoods, it is certainly the job of police officers to serve and protect those residents, regardless of race or income.

Despite having been the subject of John Weaver’s public critiques during past council meetings, Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) praised and thanked the Weavers for being so active in the community. McNeely urged others to follow in their footsteps by getting involved in their own neighborhoods.

Acquisition appraisals begin

Mayor Morrissey reported city leaders have been discussing financing options for the purchase of homes along flood-prone Keith Creek. The mayor said the appraisal process has begun for the possible acquisition of homes damaged by flooding over the past two summers.


Aldermen approved Dr. William Stephen Minore’s appointment to fill the unexpired term of Gretchen Hudson, who resigned from the MetroCentre Authority Board. His term ends June 2008. Minore is president of Medical Pain Management Services, LTD, and Rockford Anesthesiologists Associated, LLC, and serves as CEO of the Illinois Society of Interventional Pain Physicians. Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) voted “no.”


Mayor Morrissey proclaimed the week of Oct. 8 National Fire Prevention Week in Rockford, urging citizens to share in the responsibility by eliminating fire hazards in their homes.

The week of Oct. 8 was also proclaimed Babes In Toyland week, in honor of the all-city theater production whose cast and crew are made entirely of kindergarten through 12th-graders from Rockford’s public schools. The show, funded through private contributions and ticket sales, will be performed Oct. 10-12 at the 80-year-old Coronado Theatre. The mayor and aldermen were given free tickets.


Ald. Lenny Jacobson (D-6) was not present.

from the Oct. 10, 2007, issue

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