Dollar store debate deepens

Ald. Dan Conness (D-14) gave a passionate speech he called “What’s the fuss?” at the Oct. 10 Rockford City Council meeting.

Conness recently sponsored a rule change to limit officer reports to 5 minutes in an effort to prevent grandstanding. During his speech, which exceeded 8 minutes, Conness denied “partisan politics and ulterior motives” in his support of the proposed dollar store on the city’s northwest side.

Business owners and residents neighboring the proposed Family Dollar store are against it, and adjacent property owners filed a legal objection. Ald. Doug Mark (R-3) stands behind his constituents in their opposition, which leaves many questioning why Conness wants to move ahead with it.

Conness said: “I hear there was a plan. I heard there’s a vision. It’s just not been articulated to me or the rest of the City Council.”

Conness suggested the Oct. 16 vote be suspended until a definite strategy for the area has been established. The 14th Ward Democrat stressed a need for consistency.

“Does this mean that if the same type of proposal comes to the 8th Ward, the 10th Ward, the 14th Ward or any other ward, if the aldermen and the residents don’t want it, we just say ‘What’s the fuss?’” Conness argued. “Are the rules gonna be the same throughout Rockford, or just in some areas?”

It’s an issue that appears to be split down party lines. Because of the protest filed, an unlikely “super majority” of at least 10 council votes is required for the needed zoning change to approve the store.

Conness flatly denied his position is an act of partisan politics, as he was accused of in a recent editorial in the local daily, and accused the paper of trying to be policy and decision-makers.

Ald. Ann Thompson (D-7) agreed with Conness’ statements and blamed any party politics on the other side.

Thompson said: “Regardless of whether it’s the right thing to do, for the dollar store, I will bet you 10-1 every Republican on this issue is gonna vote against it. Not because it’s a bad development, but because they made it a party line issue.”

The full Council is still expected to vote on the dollar store’s fate at its Oct. 16 session.

From the Oct. 11-17, 2006, issue

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