Election Endorsements: Vote for ourselves and the Rockford Park District

Editor’s note: Because of time and space limitations, endorsements on the entire ballot will not be made. We have chosen the more contested ballot items for endorsements. To all political candidates, thank you for running and participating in our public process as good citizens.

The most important vote to cast in this election is one in favor of the Rockford Park District referendum.

The Rock River Times recommended that our readers not vote for the school and jail referendum in the last election, yet many readers supported those causes.

In regard to the jail referendum, many readers bought the unbalanced media blitz, the appeals for public safety and the “just one penny” pitch.

Accordingly, if those are important tenets, vote for them again—this time they’re true, and no real alternatives exist.

The park district must meet the challenges of public safety in our parks. Children, families, singles, the elderly and visitors to our city find refuge and the finest attributes of Rockford in our parks. As society becomes more volatile, the protection and promotion of our assets and image becomes more crucial.

Rather than abandoning our assets and image with a selfish, “we’ve already got ours” attitude,” the cheerleaders of the school and jail referendums should once again bring their clout to bear for all the positive things our park district represents.

Have empathy for the Rockford Park District. The parks were placed in line behind the juggernaut of the other referendums, and naturally, taxpayers may be feeling tapped out. In that regard, if we have paid that much for what represents failure of social efforts in our community, a little more for the success of our park district is certainly warranted.

The park district shines as the jewel of our community. Under the leadership of Webbs Norman and his fine staff, the series of 48 public fact-finding meetings on this referendum stands as the most open input opportunity any branch of local government has ever given.

That’s the open style of our park district. Anyone and any group who had something to say was welcome. May all those people be very avid in their support of this referendum, so the park district may continue to deliver for our citizens—no other branch of government delivers with such quality and grace.

Rockford is known for our park system nationwide. Shall we tell the Money magazine types that they were right? Rockford must support its best asset that gives so much to so many.

Look at the road and pavilions in Sinnissippi Park and lagoon complex—potholes need to be fixed; whole sections of road must be repaved; pavilions have peeling paint and leaking roofs; wood rot is common at the base of many gazebos and garage doors. Much of this can be seen from the bike path that so many of us laud, use and show our out-of-town guests.

Another great point of recent pride has been the acquisition of our dinosaur, Jane. Once again, the park district has brought us national laurels. Shall we let these laurels wither and fossilize like Jane, or shall we preserve our present and bring our past forward to shine in the future? What would the nation think if we neglected Jane? Perhaps she would go the way of our Time Museum—out of town, leaving us poorer.

Community pride has a cost. Quality has a cost. A shabby, second-rate approach denigrates all the programs of our park district and our very selves. We deserve our parks. Let’s support them with pride and at a very low cost considering that our park district has not asked for money in 13 years; other sections of the budget have not seen our support in more than 20 years. How many other government bodies can say that? Look what the park district has done in spite of the lack of that wherewithal! The district has brought us success and a great jewel on a shoestring, but that shoestring is about to break. Norman and his staff are open and efficient stewards of our monies. Show them and yourselves that we appreciate what we have and their responsible efforts. Rockford, vote “yes” for ourselves and our parks.

Rock Valley College Trustees

The Rock River Times endorses Owen G. Carter, Katherine M. Kelley and Mark C. Philpot for trustees for the Rock Valley College (RVC) taxing district.

These candidates were the only ones to respond to our call for candidate statements. In their candidate statements, they lay out well-reasoned arguments for their election.

The Times strongly recommends that voters DO NOT elect Randall J. Schaefer, Donald B. Johannes and Ann Dempsey. Schaefer, Johannes and Dempsey currently serve on the RVC Board of Trustees. In tandem with current RVC President Roland Chapdelaine, the existing board is responsible for RVC’s continuing downward spiral.

We need new people and a new direction for the board and RVC. The college needs to refocus on the community’s, students’ and faculty’s needs. The current RVC board and Chapdelaine do not understand this community or its needs.

Consider the fact that since the second half of 1999, RVC has endured three consecutive years of unprecedented deficit spending despite large increases in the college’s revenues from about $22 million in fiscal year 1998 to more than $28 million last year. The current board approved this spending.

This stands in stark contrast to the nearly 30 years of positive cash flows and balanced budgets under retired RVC President Karl Jacobs and the board that served with him. Specifically, Chapdelaine deficits were $409,769 in fiscal year 2000, $1,014,776 in 2001 and $323,264 in 2002.

Chapdelaine and the board have recently earned a dubious distinction: For the first time in the state’s history, a locally operated and funded community college has had its recognition status downgraded by the state for habitually filing late financial information and inaccurate financial data. The current board has not been a watchdog for the students or taxpayers.

The state’s downgrade of RVC comes after years of efforts to get the college in compliance with state rules and regulations. During this time, Chapdelaine doubled the number of upper-level administrators who were supposed to be dealing with issues such as finances and community priorities. Yet the board let the chief financial officer slot go unfilled!

Chapdelaine dismissed the state’s severe reprimand by saying the downgrade was a “slap on the wrist.” Now, the board has taken the state’s report more seriously, but it is too late. This board needs people who will investigate matters more deeply than it ever has in the past.

With current construction projects underway, expect more deficit spending, primarily due to increases in maintenance and staffing for new facilities. However, little of the non-voter approved and borrowed $61 million has been spent on construction of classroom space.

Instead, the lion’s share of the massive debt has been spent on items such as moving dirt for athletic fields rather than building on-campus classrooms or a downtown location.

Chapdelaine’s management style and the board’s enthusiastic rewarding and endorsement of his actions intimidated RVC faculty to the point that they overwhelmingly voted to affiliate with an outside labor union. Yet, Chapdelaine is still with us.

Voters should blame the board for not being inquisitive enough to ferret out these and other stories yet to come on their own. Vote for Carter, Kelley and Philpot. The incumbents are not doing their job. A change is needed.

Rockford School District No. 205

The Rock River Times endorses David Strommer, Scott Carter and David Kelley for the board of Rockford School District 205. We believe they will be responsive to the electorate.

Strommer, District B, serves on the Operations and Education committees and has served as chairman of the Curriculum and Facilities committees. He is responsive to those he represents and listens to all views before making decisions.

Carter, District E, is a graduate of the University of Illinois and a former substitute teacher in District 205. As a businessman, he understands fiscal responsibility and he wants to restore discipline in the classroom. He has also had extensive experience in the political arena and should have been appointed to the last board vacancy since he was the second-highest vote getter in his last run. His work with R.E.A.CH. is also commendable.

Kelley, District G, is a former district employee and knows well where the fat is in the budget. Kelley served on the committee that established the need for a balanced budget. He has an extensive knowledge of district facilities and state politics. He has also been a candidate for governor and has extensive contacts locally and throughout the state.

All three candidates are in favor of dismissing Superintendent Dr. Alan Brown. Brown should go because of demonstrating an inability to manage the budget—the deficit is headed toward $50 million—low test scores; and an arrogant attitude toward the board.

R.E.A.CH. also endorses these candidates.

Village of Roscoe President

The Rock River Times endorses H. Ward Sterett for this post. Sterett is a long-time resident of Roscoe and lives in a historic home. He knows the value of history, the landscape and his fellow citizens in Roscoe. He is the antithesis to the autocratic and strong-arm politics benefiting special interests prevalent in the area. Sterett listens to everyone, respectfully.

Very importantly, he is an opponent of the Perryville extension, and he will work hard to oppose this road of the special interests.

He is also a well-known area artist and will bring a great cultural perspective and contribution to Roscoe, with a good head for business.

He and his wife Patty and their children are as close to an all-American family as anyone can get. His humility, concern and honesty can stand as a model for many.

Editor & Publisher Frank Schier, Senior Editor Joe Baker and Staff Writer Jeff Havens contributed to these endorsements.

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