June 18 City Council briefs

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118235750223417.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Ald. John Beck (R-12), left, believes the anti-Morrissey bumper sticker crosses the line of free speech.‘);

Morrissey on early collection: ‘There’s still hope.’

At the June 11 Rockford City Council meeting, Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) told aldermen June 15 would be the “drop-dead date” for Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) to sign the bill that would allow for the early collection of a 1-percentage point sales tax increase approved by voters in April.

The tentative deadline was set in recognition of time needed by the Illinois Department of Revenue to notify local merchants before the end of the month.

If signed into law by the governor, Rockford could begin collecting the sales tax increase July 1 and start putting the revenues to work in October. If the governor does nothing, his pocket veto would keep much-needed tax revenues out of Rockford’s hands until April 2008.

Since June 11, the mayor has been asking citizens to contact the Governor’s Office to urge his signing of the bill. Although the June 15 deadline has passed, Morrissey says we shouldn’t give up yet.

“There’s still hope,” Morrissey stated. “There’s some discussion between the Department of Revenue and Governor’s Office. We believe that the deadline may have been extended. …It’s our understanding we may have a few more days.”

Morrissey issued thanks to citizens who’ve called and written the Governor’s Office urging Blagojevich to sign the bill.

It’s rumored the governor won’t sign the early collection into law because he doesn’t want to be associated with raising the sales tax in any part of the state. Morrissey and aldermen, however, argue the tax increase is simply the will of Rockford voters.

If Blagojevich doesn’t act, the increase will not be collected until Jan. 1, 2008.

Committee considers benefits consulting package from mayor's friends

The Finance and Personnel Committee decided to lay over a decision as to whether a $115,000 benefits consulting deal should be struck with Rockford Consulting & Brokerage—a company operated by Casey and Ryan Brauns, who are long-time friends of the Morrissey family.

In 2005, Ryan Brauns was named to then Mayor-elect Morrissey’s transition team. In addition to being senior vice president of Rockford Consulting & Brokerage, Brauns is secretary of the Rockford Board of Election Commissioners and serves on the City’s RockStat Advisory Committee. Brauns is also vice chairman of the Government Affairs Council of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, for which he’s also on the board of directors.

The Finance and Personnel Committee last discussed the issue in February, but the issue soon disappeared from the agenda without coming to a vote. The benefits consulting package, however, managed to find itself on the table the first week of the committee’s new lineup.

June 18, Finance and Personnel Committee members John Beck (R-12), Pat Curran (R-2), Bill Timm (R-9) and Carl Wasco (D-4) agreed to hold off on voting after former committee member Jeff Holt (D-11) raised concerns. Curran and Wasco are newcomers to the committee.

Holt indicated he’d sent an e-mail to Assistant City Administrator Julia Valdez March 1, requesting copies of Requests for Proposal (RFP), submitted proposals and staff recommendations related to the bidding process. Holt is still waiting.

“Three months and 18 days later, no one has communicated with me until an alderman mentioned to me earlier that this item was back on the agenda again,” Holt told his former committee. “[I] would hope that the committee would not move this forward until the information that I requested three months and 18 days ago is provided to me.”

Brauns said he wasn’t given a reason as to why the item drifted off the committee’s agenda earlier this year, but said he believes the delay was the result of administrative revisions to the bidding process.

“We’ve done best we can to serve the city,” Brauns said, “and [we’re] pleased to have been awarded the city administration’s recommendation.”

Aldermen on the committee agreed to lay over the vote until provided with more information by staff.

Beck: Bumper sticker not free speech

Ald. John Beck (R-12) addressed the issue of a controversial bumper sticker making news in recent weeks.

For months on the city government beat, this reporter has seen a sticker reading “Rescue Rockford—Lynch Larry” on the bumper of a vehicle frequently parked at City Hall. The local daily picked up on the story after learning Roscoe Village trustee Dave DeCarlo had the slogan on the tailgate of his pickup truck.

DeCarlo told the daily publication he’d seen the stickers on personal vehicles of Rockford firefighters, who have been without a contract since the end of 2005. The city is still in labor negotiations with the firefighters’ union.

Beck doesn’t view the sticker metaphorically, and considers it inappropriate because he says it threatens violence.

“It’s not acceptable, and I don’t see it as a freedom of speech issue,” Beck told fellow aldermen. “I would hope that there are some significant repercussions to employees who do behave in that manner.”

DeCarlo, who is also a city employee, has since apologized to the mayor and removed the vinyl lettering from his truck.

Aldermen to vote on The MILL

After learning of a sexual misconduct allegation at the MILL (Motivating Individuals for Learning and Living) earlier this month, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) began removing young residents it had placed there.

Before the transfers started, DCFS was paying The MILL to care for 22 at-risk juveniles. Without that revenue, the residential treatment center and school faces closure.

Ald. Lenny Jacobson (D-6) introduced a resolution asking DCFS to reconsider transferring the youths.

Jacobson’s resolution urges DCFS to conduct a thorough investigation of the allegation, while also noting the valuable service The MILL provides.

Ald. Bill Timm (R-9), however, would prefer to wait until the allegation is proved true or false before acting.

“I think, at this time, we’d better know the whole story,” Timm argued. “I realize this place creates jobs. I realize it does a lot of good for some people.”

Timm was quick to cite statistics stating 227 incidents and 372 police reports were generated from the facility between May 14, 2006, and May 14, 2007.

Timm said he doesn’t disagree with Jacobson’s resolution, but asserted changes need to be made at The MILL.

“Every time an officer is pulled out to go up to The MILL,” Timm supposed, “they are pulled out of ‘area one.’”

The resolution was laid over until the June 25 meeting.

City says 'No way' to one-ways

The City Council unanimously passed a resolution whereby the city will request the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to rule out turning Mulberry Street and part of West State Street into one-way streets.

The resolution states the one-way orientation would cause problems, including an increase of traffic on residential streets.

Committee reports passed

Aldermen approved a committee report recommending Rockford-based Burns Janitorial be awarded an estimated $96,390 contract for janitorial services at fire facilities, the Public Works Department and Human Services Department.

Springfield-based Hanson Professional Services, Inc., got the nod from aldermen who approved two committee reports allowing for additional design engineering related to Horace and Harrison Avenue bridges. The additional $30,966 brings Hanson’s not-to-exceed cost to $760,626 for both projects.

Public participation

During public participation at the June 18 Rockford City Council meeting, the Rev. Jim Roberts of Emmanuel Lutheran Church spoke about the Cool Cities Campaign. The campaign was started by the Sierra Club as a way to address global warming with local solutions.

Roberts urged Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) and aldermen to sign the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, thereby committing the City to take an active role in
combating global warming through local efforts.

As part of the agreement, Rockford would commit to reforestation, fighting sprawl and to urge legislators to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“To be a Cool City would be a cool thing to do,” said Roberts, who is also president of the Green Community Coalition. “It would be a great asset in our resume, as businesses would like to come to Rockford.”

Jamie Johansen, a member of the Environmental Working Group for the County’s 2030 Land Use Plan, also addressed environmental issues.

“Our greatest need in this region is a cooperative approach to these issues,” Johansen said, “to balance the great growth that we all need and desire with the protection of our natural land and water for the benefit of everyone.”

Johansen said area rivers, parks, woodlands, prairies and farmland are in danger of disappearing in Winnebago County.

Johansen added, “It’s a simple principle that clean environment and healthy economy go together, and the converse is true.”

Johansen favored the idea of a Regional Center for Design and Planning—a concept embraced by Mayor Morrissey after seeing similar centers while visiting the Orient.

John Weaver, of the Coronado/Haskell Neighborhood Association, addressed the mayor and aldermen again during public participation, two weeks after he singled out Linda McNeely (D-13) for her comments regarding expanded gaming in Rockford. Following Weaver’s verbal barrage on McNeely June 4, aldermen responded by making it clear Weaver should not have referenced McNeely by name.

June 18, Weaver began by issuing an apology.

“I guess I could have assigned each of you a letter, like X, Y and Z,” Weaver suggested. “Now you have just found out that I’m not much of an apologist, and for that I do apologize.”

McNeely was not present to hear Weaver’s apology.

Although he’d invited them weeks before, Weaver noted not a single alderman attended a June 16 CeaseFire march. Weaver then invited aldermen and the public to participate in a June 26 march. For information, call 1-815-968-2205.

Ald. Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7) responded by reminding Weaver of the time each alderman puts in to carrying out the business of their wards and the city. Thompson-Kelly then offered her own number to Weaver should he want to discuss the matter.

Weaver praised the dedication of Police Chief Chet Epperson.

“We know you get it,” Weaver told Epperson. “I only wish the light bulbs would light above some of the talking-heads in this room who need to get it.”

Weaver also invited aldermen and the public to a June 28 Neighborhood Network kickoff party from 6-8 p.m. at Beattie Park. Mayor Morrissey is scheduled to be the keynote speaker.


Mayor Morrissey proclaimed June 21 National Ask (Asking Saves Kids) Day in Rockford. The Ask Campaign urges parents to ask if there are firearms in the homes their children go to play. The group advocates keeping guns locked in safes, with ammunition stored separately. The campaign is organized by PAX, a non-profit organization aimed at ending gun violence against children and families.


Architect James R. Lev and Structural Engineer William J. Waldorf were re-appointed to five-year terms on the Building Board of Appeals.

from the June 20-26, 2007, issue

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