StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-111220442614413.jpg’, ‘Photo by Jon Bystrom’, ‘ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Independent mayoral candidate Larry Morrissey meets the Rodney Curry family March 19 while canvassing on Rockford's southwest side. Most voters say they want change.’);

The Rock River Times endorses independent candidate Larry Morrissey for mayor

Area polls are open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 5

Larry Morrissey has the potential to become the greatest mayor in the history of Rockford; and if he is elected mayor, an economic boom will sweep the city’s economy in relief at the end of stagnation and losses of the past.

Past mayors have presided over the following losses for Rockford: I-90 bypassing the city; the destruction of our antebellum courthouse and the poorly planned replacement; the defacing of our Carnegie-endowed library; Rockford College’s move from downtown; CherryVale goes to Cherry Valley; the Chrysler plant goes to Belvidere; the installation of the downtown mall; the school desegregation lawsuit and accompanying tax flight; the failure to bring NIU downtown; the underbuilding and mismanagement of the MetroCentre; the entry of the city into the restaurant business with the failure of LeBistro, the Main Event, and the Rockford Brewery, which affected the closing of other restaurants because of the unfair, tax-backed competition; the loss of prime real estate on the river with land giveaways to the Zeke Giorgi Building, Hinshaw & Culbertson and RAMP; the draining of the downtown TIF district for the benefit of William Charles’ development of the Brown Building and the accompanying deal on the parking deck/lot; the misuse of eminent domain against Dr. Gautam Gupta to take the old D.J. Stewart parking deck (as well as the shocking disparity of price paid for the Brown deck versus Gupta’s deck); the continued poor condition of the sidewalks and streets of South Main and West State; the continual problems of boarded-up homes; the lack of sidewalks out East State Street and the far east cross-over streets that require mandatory use of motor vehicles that aggravate poor health, poor bicycle access, and high gas consumption and prices. All this drove urban sprawl, all this drove people out of Rockford, and all this continues to drive our tax base away. Building after building has been torn down by the city, and building after building is acquired by the city, taking those properties out of the tax rolls.

Unlike the usual role players, Larry Morrissey thinks and acts for the benefit of the entire community. Unlike role players, he is a stakeholder in our community. Morrissey is well aware of the losses of the past. His father and mother, Joe and Josephine, have taught him those lessons. The Morrissey family and Larry have made their own financial and talented commitment to saving and finely developing the old Morning Star/Pioneer Life building on the river. It now contains the family’s law firm, four state-of-the-art loft apartments and a new bank for the city—The Rockford Bank and Trust. Morrissey and his family have spearheaded other development projects—7th Street and Garrison School apartments and condos. But not so oddly, the two projects suffer from delays at City Hall, which affected their financing.

Morrissey knows public service. He has served on many community boards and committees, but his greatest service was as one of the driving forces behind the creation of the River District Association. First, as a board member of the River East association, he helped to draw the east and the west sides of Rockford’s core together in the creation of the River District. Second, as the president of the River District for four years, he helped accelerate the success of the business district and instilled much of the spirit that today makes business there thrive and communicate.

Larry Morrissey had the vision, commitment and, most importantly, the managerial skills to accomplish all this while working as a full-time lawyer, and running for mayor in 2001. The young man is amazing. He embodies drive, imagination and hope for so many.

Speaking of hope, Morrissey and Attorney Peter Alexander successfully defended this paper from a libel action. With Alexander’s co-counsel, Morrissey undertook the huge task of educating himself in libel law and boldly won the day for The Rock River Times. This paper might not still be in print if it were not for Larry Morrissey.

As a graduate of Notre Dame, he studied law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A little girl who was tragically burned by hot oil from a stove without an anti-tipping bracket in the Rockford Housing Authority-managed Concord Commons now has a chance at a better quality of life because of the settlement he won her in court.

Morrissey has worked on many cases pro-bono, or for little pay. Gracefully, he has a big, can-do heart, as does his family, who with rolling eyes and matching hearts, back him up, not to mention us thankful people he assists.

Get some assistance yourself. Vote for Morrissey. Get the same kind of heartful, educated and creative help for this city. We need him and his drive.

Mayor Doug Scott is also a graceful, personable man. However, his policies suffer from inertia, misdirection and the failure to listen to the constituency he supposedly represents.

Much of Scott’s campaign in 2001 were issues Morrissey brought to the debate, and such is still the case in this campaign.

River District development was brought to the table by Morrissey and acted upon as mentioned. He also bought $1,400 worth of banners to support the new public boat docks behind the Morrissey Building. In contrast to the many other great donors and participants, the city did very little besides let the River District Association use the shoreline.

While seemingly off to a great start with the Ingersoll and Barber-Colman properties, four years later, those Scott administration acquisitions sit idle in the planning stages and off the tax rolls.

The mayor’s Downtown Task Force was a prime example of not listening to the constituency they supposedly represented in their plan, which is still a plan. Revealed rather urgently about a year before this election, the task force’s public presentations were a shock to the presenters themselves as well as the constituency. Given the supposed final plans, the public was angry because they felt they had little input. No hotel was in the plan. Everyone downtown wants a hotel—all they had to do was ask. Most wanted the Main Street Mall open, but the plan called for it to dead end at Cedar Street. Why open it, then?

Then, in the last year again, came the cross-over plan from Wyman Street to Main, still with the dead end at Cedar Street. If the Scott administration had asked, they would have found 24 out of the approximately 35 Main Street businesses in the six blocks between Park Avenue and Green Street are opposed to the cross-over and want Main Street to go all the way through to South Main. In fact, those 24 businesses support the Street Smart Plan that was drawn up by Doc Slafkosky and Jerry Kortman. Morrissey endorses Slafkosky’s common-sense plan because he has the pulse of the River District, and he has already listened to everyone! The Street Smart Plan was a product of Rockford residents and years of local business experience. An expensive, out-of-town consultant wouldn’t have a clue comparatively. As Morrissey says of the Street Smart Plan, “It’s a great start.”

Then came the Amerock/Tapco buildings and Davis Park elements of Mayor Scott’s Task Force plan. Anyone who was around when all of downtown rose up against Scott’s proposal for low-income housing in the Amerock building should have known those buildings were valued. The task force didn’t. They wanted to tear them down and put a huge arena in Davis Park,when we can’t fill the MetroCentre and the Coronado on a regular basis. Duh! Needless to say, the opposition was very vocal, and most wanted to just finish the original for Davis Park, which would be much less expensive and logical.

Logic. A seemingly foreign word to many at City Hall. What is the primary asset we have that the whole city is built around? The Rock River. So, logically, Morrissey proposes to build a river walk that would actually connect the city, north and south, just like Main Street should. That’s deve

loping the major feature of the city. Logic. Smart money. Spending money for a river walk versus the declining arena and convention center business, or the rat’s nest of a gambling boat to draw tourists, has more positive brain wattage. Yet, some dim bulbs want us to shine to I-90 with a risky convention center, leaving the MetroCentre in the shadow of a new arena.

Due to his logical approach to downtown Rockford, some of the crafty opposition came up with the moniker “Downtown Larry.” Yes, that’s where he started, and he has great plans there. Yet, he is just as concerned about southwest and southeast Rockford. He points out the east side is as poorly designed as the west side. He has said many times that east Rockford is carrying the tax burden of the rest of the city. He argues the rest of the city has to come up to relieve the tax burden of those in the newly developed areas of Rockford. Smart money, again. He wants just as much for any part of the city as he does for the supposed least of it. He believes in unity. That’s why he opened a campaign office behind Alpine Bank on East State Street. He wants input from those businesses and residents. He listens.

Morrissey inspires people. Look at his almost 500 avid volunteers, all from all over the Rockford area. He didn’t have to bring in paid carpetbaggers from the downstate and Chicago Democratic Party machine. Look at his money; it’s almost all from Rockford, except for a few contributions from schoolmates or associates from his former firm. More than half of Doug Scott’s campaign money comes from out of town. Under this existing system, we all know campaign contributions gain access and influence. Do you want that access and influence on your mayor to benefit out-of-towners, or do you want that access and influence on your mayor to be local? Whose town is this anyway? Yard signs are an indicator of that.

Look at all the Morrissey yard signs! Ride the wave of success rather than the stillness of stagnation. Carry on the enthusiasm, vote for Morrissey.

Don’t fall for a pie-in-the-sky “maybe,” like Kerasotes could come downtown in a few years. Again, another announcement in the last days of the campaign.

Unlike Scott, Morrissey acts. He knows reality—Rockford must claim its role in Winnebago County—right now! Morrissey says county revenues must be rightfully claimed for city safety and transportation projects. City residents pay those county taxes. He will work with County Board members, especially those who represent the city, to work for us for a change.

Morrissey has a good relationship with Republican County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen. They have been working together on a plan to bring rail to Rockford as soon as possible and at a fraction of the cost of extending Metra out here. Yes, Morrissey, not Scott, set rail on the agenda in the last campaign when he asked why we weren’t even “on the map” of regional rail plans.

Morrissey is drawing Republicans from all over the county to cross over with his message. In the city, he has been endorsed by the Republican candidate for alderman in the 14th ward, Frank Giammarese. Other elected officials are likely to follow suit. Influential Republicans, Democrats, plus many young people of no affiliation have contributed money and are volunteers. Many are from the communities adjacent to Rockford. They don’t even live in the city limits. His cross-party appeal in the county and city is historical. It’s never been achieved by anyone before. This equals unity for a change. A strong, new coalition wants Rockford to be great again, and Larry Morrissey has gathered them and inspires them. Let’s have a real leader for a change. The Rockford Park District’s Webbs Norman is the only example of a great leader that comes to mind. Wouldn’t it be great to have a city that matches our wonderful parks and their programs in quality?

Our young people might want to stick around and play and work, rather than joining the emotional brain drain that robs our families and city of our best and brightest as our new talent flees to find better opportunity.

Cheap Trick’s rockin’ Rick Nielsen endorses Larry Morrissey precisely because he loves this city. Nielsen wants his talented children to be happy and stimulated staying in Rockford, rather than leaving for brighter cities.

Vote for a fair and brighter future for Rockford, rather than the dimness of the past. We have a rising star in Larry Morrissey. Your vote will give him and all of us a chance to shine and finally bring our influence to bear.

By the way, Scott’s claims of bringing millions of dollars to Rockford on his own is a bit disingenuous. Did our state representatives or U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo or U.S. senators Dick Durbin and Peter Fitzgerald have anything to do with the money that’s come in for industrial, technological and airport development? Of course they did. Morrissey wants to have a team approach with our legislators, giving credit where credit is due, and holding them accountable for their production as he will be for his. And yes, making the airport really take off, originated in Morrissey’s first campaign.

Kris Cohn and Scott must be given substantial praise for closing the deal with Bob O’Brien to become the director of our airport. He was really found through Tom Furst’s efforts (he is now with the Morrissey campaign) and hired by the airport board. The recent success at the airport is largely due to O’Brien and the support of his board. How about the 4,700 community members who invested their money to enable success at the airport?

O’Brien’s plans to install solar, wind and fuel cells at the airport are further proof of his vision. In fact, he included our columnists Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl on the committee for the renewables project.

Such a vision for the city and retooling it through renewable energy was presented to Doug Scott four years ago in an energy plan drawn up by John Richter for this paper. Four years later, again, no action. Now, as the election nears, Scott has proposed hiring a Green Community Coordinator for the city. Morrissey counters that a green community takes more than one job; a green community takes the support of everyone in public works and the building departments.

Like many others who have used this paper as a resource, Morrissey has also been reading the Vogls on our renewable energy page, and has had many discussions with them. Morrissey is committed to energy efficiency and renewable energy as the future.

Let’s hire Larry Morrissey and push the Rockford City Council to support him without partisanship. If you think partisanship will hurt Morrissey as an independent, ask yourself this question: “Will Durbin, Obama, and Manzullo ignore and reject 150,000 Rockfordian voters because they have an independent mayor?” No. They will probably try to romance him and win him over. He certainly won’t ignore them.

If you know Larry Morrissey, you know he’s not very easy to ignore when he believes in something. He wants to improve the Rockford schools for our children. An amazing number of women of all ages work for his campaign. They know he cares for everyone and offers the leadership of equal opportunity firsthand. He hears them.

Like Mayor Richard Daley did in Chicago, the Mayor of Rockford can use his pulpit to effect change for the better in the local school system. Wouldn’t that be refreshing? Refreshing to have a “get-it-done-NOW” mayor like Daley, who might actually tell Daley to run his own city and let Rockford decide its own fate through our own priorities. Morrissey’s priorities include all the people, the rich, the middle income and the struggling poor of Rockford.

Where was Scott on the huge new jail, a warehouse for minorities? Morrissey was there serving on a committee for public input. Our new mayor needs to question the overbuilding of this monstrosity in our community, which will obviously house federal prisoners. We don’t need that imported garbage! Our new mayor needs to speak with Western Illinois University Prof. Dr. Michael Hazlett about alternatives to in


Speaking of garbage, why hasn’t Mayor Scott revisited the 10-year, no-bid garbage contract that is obviously so disadvantageous to taxpayers. Are we Scott’s priority, or is William Charles, Ltd., Scott’s priority?

Rockford is Larry Morrissey’s priority, instead of bowing to Speaker of the Illinois House Mike Madigan’s priorities. Scott’s supposed downstate clout did not land his gambling boat, despite all his efforts, another failure. Thank God. Those really concerned about the moral tone of the city should look at the gambling issue. Scott supports gambling, Morrissey opposes gambling. The good ol’ boys of Rockford own the gambling application and have their bet on selling us down the river. All old special interest bets should be off, and fair economic sense can be on the way.

As Phil Pash pointed out in last week’s issue in “Up and Down the Rock” Scott may have endangered his own Barber-Colman project by trying to block the Beloit casino. The Barber-Colman project developer, Ken Hendricks, is mighty upset because he is also a champion of all things Beloit and believes in regionalism, which Scott supposedly supported as well until the Beloit announcement. The fact is Beloit acted, and Scott could not get his cards straight. In the long run, the location in Beloit may benefit Rockford without us having to make the investment bet.

A sure bet does not exist. Charting a new course of action based on a good heart, good faith, good talent, good drive, the good abilities to listen, unify and inspire, that’s leadership. Everybody gets an open and fair chance to bid. That’s Larry Morrissey. He acts. Let’s make some bright history with an economic boom driven by his new ideas. He wants to staff City Hall for success, where Scott left the position of Community and Economic Development director unstaffed for nearly a year. He wants to focus 80 percent of his business policy on growing our own existing businesses and the other 20 percent on additional recruiting. Unable to stem the tide of business departing from Rockford, Scott doesn’t return Kurt Carlson’s phone call and loses a baseball park for downtown.

In the game, Gloria Cardenas Cudia was a last resort for the die-hard Republicans in search of any candidate but Larry Morrissey. She has certainly shown grace and a positive attitude. Unfortunately, those qualities are rare in politics because they don’t survive very long in the arena. Underfunded, she displays the best qualities of the Park District, but lacks the scope of Morrissey.

Bring back Rockford. Bring in Larry Morrissey and all his shining enthusiasts. Vote for hope and fairness for Rockford. Don’t vote for planning the plan to plan the plan. Haven’t you had enough talk?

From the March 30-April 5, 2005 issue

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