New ordinance addresses layover concerns of aldermen

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118115549322188.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘John Weaver dealt Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) a tough hand after her comments about expanded gaming revenues a week earlier.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118115555315201.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Following an April 2 disagreement with Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) and Legal Director Patrick Hayes, aldermen were able to amend rules of procedure June 4.‘);

Following a heated debate two months ago, aldermen were successful in amending the Rules of Procedure and Order of Business during the June 4 Rockford City Council meeting.

The amendment stems from an April 2 fracas about whether a committee report regarding a new transfer center for the Rockford Mass Transit District (RMTD) could be laid over once it had been placed up for passage.

Aldermen were originally to vote on the special-use permit for RMTD March 26, but the matter was held out. When the issue came up a week later, Ald. Joe Sosnowski (R-1) made a motion to lay it over for a week, so he could obtain legal clarification about the proposal.

Although Sosnowski’s motion was seconded, Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) and Legal Director Patrick Hayes argued the issue could not be laid over because it had been up for passage two weeks prior and had already been held out once.

Hayes explained, “Week two would be the only week that the current rule would be in effect.”

Ald. Pat Curran (R-2) challenged Hayes’ interpretation of the ordinance, stating any two aldermen should be able to lay over the committee report. Hayes, however, said the ordinance had been written to Curran’s specifications.

Some aldermen, hoping to delay the vote, felt there should be a distinction between holding the matter out and laying it over.

Morrissey responded, “Whether it was held out as a matter of courtesy or there was a movement to lay over, the effect would be the same in that it would be the second chance at holding that matter out.”

For this reason, Morrissey and Hayes said the issue could only be laid over by a majority vote—not by a seconded motion.

Ald. Lenny Jacobson (D-6) disagreed, arguing that was not the way things had always been done.

“If somebody moves to lay something over and it’s seconded, it’s non-debatable,” Jacobson asserted. Another long-time councilman, Victory Bell (D-5), agreed.

Although the layover was achieved by a majority vote April 2, aldermen pushed for the amendment, which would allow a layover through a seconded motion.

The amendment reads: “When a committee report has been initially placed on passage, a motion to lay over from any alderman, being duly seconded shall lay over the committee report until the next meeting of the City Council, except zoning ordinances, which shall follow the statutory zoning procedures. This motion may be made only once on any committee report.”

McNeely singled out for statements on gaming

During public participation, Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) was targeted by John Weaver for comments she’d made at the previous week’s City Council meeting.

“Last Tuesday, this community witnessed gaming at its worst,” Weaver said. “In a discussion over casino-style gambling coming to Rockford, Ald. McNeely tried to tie revenue from said [gambling] to be used in a limited area of the city.”

Weaver alleged: “McNeely didn’t want her piece of the casino pie. She wanted the whole pie.”

During debate May 29 about a resolution to ask the Illinois State Legislature to consider Rockford for an expanded gaming license, McNeely said she’d only support the resolution if it guaranteed 100 percent of the revenues would be funneled to four Rockford ZIP codes designated economically depressed. ZIP code 61102, in McNeely’s ward, is among the four depressed areas listed.

Against McNeely’s wishes, aldermen passed the resolution without her proposed amendment.

Mayor pro tem, Ald. Frank Beach (R-10), was quick to address Weaver’s statements directed at McNeely.

Beach responded: “While it’s a good and prudent thing for public input to come to these chambers each week, we need to remind those that come to the podium that we’re not going to allow attacking any aldermen or person in this council chamber. Say anything you will, but not to be attacking by name.”

Ald. Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7) echoed Beach’s sentiments, and both aldermen were thanked by McNeely for their comments.

Also during public participation, Weaver announced a crime-free multi-housing seminar to be held the first week of August. Weaver said the seminar—the second this year—is a cooperative effort among residents, police, apartment owners and managers to curb illegal activity on rental properties. For more information, call 1-815-987-5041.

2006 book paints unflattering picture of Rockford

During public participation, Tim Hughes addressed the City Council regarding a book he said inaccurately portrayed the City of Rockford in a negative light. The book, China Shakes the World by James Kynge, features a chapter about the author’s week-long stay in the Forest City, called “America Bought and Sold.”

Hughes read a passage from the book, in which Kynge made the downtown area out to be a ghost town. Hughes took exception to this and other statements made in the book.

“I do believe that the author’s generally negative description of Rockford is slanted to fit his thesis,” Hughes alleged. “This book, published by one of the nation’s leading publishing houses [Houghton Mifflin], is likely to be read by business leaders and consultants around the country, some of whom may be considering relocating their companies.”

Hughes said he’s drafting letters to the editors of several national newspapers to set the record straight, but argued such a letter would have a much better chance of being published if it is drafted on behalf of the Rockford City Council.

Kynge’s book explores China’s growing influence in America and around the world. In his book, Kynge describes Rockford as a victim of Chinese competition.

Committee reports approved

Aldermen approved a committee report recommending Lifescape Community Services be awarded a $347,085 bid for the Summer Food Program. The program provides lunches for school-aged children in the Rockford area during summer months. About two-thirds of students in Rockford Public Schools receive free or discounted meals during the school year.

The Council also passed a report recommending an intergovernmental agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Rockford Area Transportation Study (RATS). Per the agreement, the city will put up $634,980, 80 percent of which will be reimbursed by the state.

A report recommending a lease agreement with Main Street Partners of Rockford, LLC, was approved for the former Gas & Electric/CAMCO Building at 303 N. Main St. The lease agreement is for office space to be used by the Workforce Investment Board, which is relocating to the building. The report was up for passage two weeks earlier, but was sent back to committee to change the name of the lease-holder from Joseph James Partners, LLC, to Main Street Partners of Rockford, LLC. Joseph James Partners, owned by Matthew and Peter Provenzano, purchased the building in 2005 and have since partnered with the Buckley Companies to revitalize the structure. The City of Rockford has allocated $750,000 in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds for renovation. Matthew Provenzano is listed as the agent for Main Street Partners of Rockford on the Illinois Secretary of State web site. Ald. Jeff Holt (D-11) abstained.

A committee report to award a $19,250 bid for central garage roof replacement was approved for low-bidder Freeport Industrial Roofing.

Aldermen passed a committee report recommending approval of a collective bargaining agreement among the Rockford Public Library, the City of Rockford and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) for 2007.


June 9 was proclaimed Biker Jam Day in Rockford, in honor of the 17th annual event to be held at Kegel’s Harley-Davison/Buell, 7125 Harrison Ave. The Biker Jam will feature live music, food, a poker run, field events, a bike show and a raffle. Organizers said hometown rockers Cheap Trick have donated memorabilia for a silent auction. Proceeds will benefit the Goldie Floberg Children’s Center. The party is free to attend and open to the public.



or Larry Morrissey (I), who was attending a meeting in Chicago, was not present. Ald. Frank Beach (R-10) served as mayor pro tem.

from the June 6-12, 2007, issue

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