Guest Column: City performance doesn’t match promises

When Larry Morrissey ran for mayor, I was very excited about the direction he would take the city. He promised a new way of doing business. Then, on March 14, 2006, at the Signal Hill Neighborhood Association meeting, Patrick Hayes, City Legal director, came to speak to our Association about the sales tax referendum. At the meeting, someone asked a question, and Mr. Hayes said, “I invite anyone to follow me around City Hall for a day and see how frugal we are.” I told him I would take him up on that offer. He handed me his business card, and told me to call him to arrange it.

March 17, 2006, I e-mailed him and told him that any day would be fine with me, and thus began five months of e-mails avoiding me. He said I could have a tour of City Hall, but I knew that would not show me how frugal the City administration is. He told me I could go for two hours, but that surely would not be enough time to show me how frugal the City administration is. I even e-mailed all our correspondence to Larry Morrissey, since I thought his campaign promise was to be open and transparent. But this correspondence also proved useless. Since that time, I have paid close attention to what this administration is doing, and I can understand why Patrick Hayes did not want me following him around City Hall for a day. The $20,000,000 MetroCentre renovation, $3,150,000 to purchase a hockey team, $700,000 for the NAME of the IceHogs, the $3,500,000 Riverwalk, the 54 city vehicles that are used for personal business, hiring a firm for $50,000 to say we need to sign a pledge sheet to be positive, and the list goes on.

I watched with interest the contract negotiations between the city and the unions, listening to the city cry about how the city workers, fire and police were overpaid, and their benefits were so out of line, but then I watched in disbelief as the city administrator got a $23,000 raise AND an assistant for about $60,000 a year. Frugal? I watched the city budget and noticed that the budget for the Mayor’s Office went from $485,371 in 2004 to a whopping $743,674 for 2007. That is an increase of $258,303 in just four fiscal years! Frugal? The budget for the Legal Department went from $1,395,008 in 2004 to $1,896,411 in 2007. An increase of $501,403. Frugal? Between those two departments, we have an increase of $759,706. How many roads could have been repaired? How many flood victims could have been helped?

I watched in disbelief as contributors and friends of Mayor Morrissey were given contracts for city employees’ health insurance, city-subsidized parking paying half of what taxpaying citizens are being charged, $750,000 tax increment financing for one of his major contributors. Watching the whole MetroCentre/hockey team deal, which will be the biggest mistake in Rockford history.

The sales tax money raised is estimated to be $16 million the first year; yet, if you look closely at the 2007 Capital Improvement Plan, only $2.5 million will go to FIX ROADS, with another $500,000 for the Riverwalk. When Ald. Jeff Holt (D-11) proposed devoting a quarter of a percentage point of the sales tax money to property tax relief, Mayor Morrissey cast a “NO” vote!! It is a matter of TRUST! I just cannot trust the money will best serve Rockford’s taxpayers.

Thank you, Mr. Hayes, for showing me just how frugal this administration really is. Mr. Morrissey, you really had me fooled.

Gwen Lashock is a Rockford resident and concerned citizen.

from the March 21-27, 2007, issue

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