State, city officials congratulate themselves on River Edge victory

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114789119223324.jpg’, ”, ‘Dave Syverson’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114789117231039.jpg’, ”, ‘Larry Morrissey’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114789120623324.jpg’, ”, ‘Chuck Jefferson’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114789121923324.jpg’, ”, ‘Doug Scott’);

State and city officials almost did the River Edge Shuffle during a May 12 press conference at Burpee Museum.

State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-34) said those advocating Rockford’s inclusion in the River Edge redevelopment pilot program had something in common with the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl team.

Besides Syverson, those advocates included Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, State Rep. Chuck Jefferson (D-67), Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Jack Lavin and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director and former Rockford Mayor Doug Scott.

Syverson gave Scott and Lavin a special thanks, proclaiming, “They were the ones that carried the ball over the line.”

Scott was pleased his efforts could aid the city: “I think it’s great. To see Rockford added to the list is good.”

Morrissey also cited visionaries like retiring Rockford Park District Executive Director Webbs Norman, Interim Rockford Park District Executive Director Tim Dimke, Burpee Museum Board President Lew Crampton and Discovery Center Executive Director Sarah Wolf who also offered their support.

Touting his contribution to the cause, Syverson said: “It did take two days for (Jefferson) to get it (through) the House. It only took me one day,” eliciting some laughs.

Jefferson couldn’t contain his excitement about the turn of events.

“Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together,” he said.

Once again, Jefferson noted Rockford had been excluded from the original version of Senate Bill 17. He said he sought Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan’s assistance. According to Jefferson, Madigan helped modify Senate Bill 1892. Jefferson introduced an amendment to that legislation, which added Rockford back in.

Senate Bill 1892 passed in the House by a vote of 57-1. It faced no opposition in the Senate. Jefferson said the River Edge Redevelopment Program will have far-reaching effects on Rockford.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this is going to be an economic development engine downtown,” he said, stressing the city will benefit from the fruits of a group effort.

Scott said Rockford being a part of the program will enhance the state’s well-recognized brownfield programs.

“We think this takes it one step further,” he said. “The legislation delegation, in conjunction with (Morrissey), did a wonderful job.”

Since brownfield projects are essentially real estate deals, Scott said River Edge Redevelopment Program’s goal is to level the playing field for developers by using a combination of tax incentives.

Lavin said the state has seen job growth recently, including 1,000 new jobs at the Belvidere Chrysler plant. He said the riverfront program would “keep that momentum going.”

Many local critics praised the mayor, local legislator and state officials’ efforts, alleging Rockford’s exclusion from the first funding announcement was Scott’s payback politics against Morrissey, who defeated him in the Rockford mayoral race in April 2005. Scott adamantly denied this, citing the reduction of funds and purporting the Morrissey administration was not “aggressive” enough in its lobbying. Morrissey cited the formal application for the funds, correspondence and interfacing with state officials.

From the May 17-23, 2006, issue

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