March 5 Rockford City Council briefs

During public participation, Tim Hughes urged the City Council to consider making the city’s official motto “Birthplace of Women’s Employment Rights.” Hughes noted City Hall is a short distance from where the nation’s first Freedom of Employment Act for women was drafted 134 years ago. “Research has shown that historical accuracy of the claim is beyond dispute, and such a motto would do much to draw attention to Rockford’s rich history,” Hughes argued.

Jim Keeling followed up Hughes with similar sentiments. “Rockford’s own Alta May Hulett, as a teenager, was a champion of equal employment rights for women in the 1870s,” Keeling said. “Alta single-handedly employed her intellect, her courage, her resolve and energy, and authored the first fair employment law in the United States, seeking to assure that women were able to pursue careers and professions.” Keeling believes the city needs to celebrate its past to seize its future by formally honoring Hulett, Rockford’s first female attorney. Noting the State of Illinois and the City of San Diego both have monuments in her honor, Keeling pledged to raise private dollars for Rockford’s own Hulett memorial.

Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 272 President Jack Philbrick closed public comments by stating a need for donations to complete work on a Tri-County Korean War Memorial in Loves Park. “We have raised the money for a memorial,” Philbrick explained. “We need money for just the beautification and the surveillance.” The group estimates landscaping and a surveillance system will cost $10,000.

Mayor Larry Morrissey (I), aldermen and staff went into a brief closed session to discuss the threat of a lawsuit from objectors challenging the city’s authority to continue levying a redevelopment tax for MetroCentre funding. Aldermen Doug Mark (R-3) and Dan Conness (D-14) remained in Council Chambers during the closed session.

John Miller, the city’s financial consultant, said the threat of a lawsuit did not affect the sale of $29,865,000 in bonds earlier that day. Twenty-three million dollars of that is intended for MetroCentre renovations and the purchase of an American Hockey League franchise and $6.3 million of that is in tax-exempt bonds at a net interest rate of 4.14 percent. The $16.7 million balance of the $23 million is in taxable bonds at the rate of 5.35 percent. The remaining $6,865,000 is to refinance debts related to the 1999 Coronado Theatre project. Those bonds have a net interest rate of 3.84 percent. City leaders say the refunding will result in $490,000 of gross savings.

Aldermen approved a $20,000 settlement to Jonathan Allen, who claims to have been beaten by four Rockford police officers after they’d already subdued him with a gunshot to the leg. Allen said he tried to flee when approached by undercover officers, who he claims did not identify themselves as police.

Mayor Morrissey proclaimed the week of March 5 to be Girl Scouts Week in Rockford, and Troop 33 led the council in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The mayor proclaimed the week of March 5 also to be National Sleep Awareness Week in Rockford, in recognition of numerous undiagnosed and untreated sleeping difficulties suffered by millions.

The mayor also proclaimed the week of March 5 to be Rock Valley College SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise) Environmental Leadership Week in Rockford. The mayor urged support of the SIFE program and hopes people will educate themselves about environmentally-friendly leadership.

Mayor Morrissey said efforts to remove graffiti from various locations throughout the city are temporarily hindered by freezing temperatures. “When the temperature’s below 32 degrees,” Morrissey explained, “the materials that we use to take care of the graffiti are not effective.”

The mayor commented briefly about the release of an Amtrak study exploring the possibility of the return of rail service between Rockford and Chicago for the first time in more than 25 years. “This study,” Morrissey indicated, “gives us options to look at as a community as we work with the rest of northwestern Illinois, trying to bring Amtrak service back to Rockford.” According to the study, up to $62 million would be needed for rail infrastructure improvements alone. Travel times are not expected to be less than driving.

Ald. Lenny Jacobson (D-6) spoke briefly about the newly-created Legislative Advisory and Lobbying Committee and its plans to work on securing Amtrak’s return. The new standing committee consists of three members from each caucus. Along with Jacobson, Democrats are represented by Aldermen Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7) and Carl Wasco (D-4). Aldermen Mark, Joe Sosnowski (R-1) and Frank Beach (R-10) make up the Republicans on the committee.

Ald. Beach questioned ComEd’s claim a recent rate increase would result in a 22 to 24 percent higher electric bill. Beach said he’s seen a 46 percent increase, despite considerable energy conservation since the end of a decade-long rate freeze in January. Beach urged others to speak up if the spike to their bill seems higher than ComEd let on.

Aldermen passed a resolution to object to a county zoning map amendment from Agricultural Priority to R4 Residential District. The properties in question, 7725 and 7753 W. State St., are not hooked up to water or sewer, and the amendment is not consistent with the county’s land use plan. Because the site is within a mile and a half of city limits, Rockford may object to such changes.

From the March 7-13, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!