Teamwork lands riverfront funds

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114728718230891.jpg’, ”, ‘Chuck Jefferson’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114728719830891.jpg’, ”, ‘Larry Morrissey’);

Jefferson-sponsored amendment puts city in River Edge Redevelopment pilot program

Rockford’s back in the ball game.

The Illinois Senate passed Senate Bill 1892 by a vote of 57-1 May 4. The approved legislation allows the city to take part in the River Edge Redevelopment pilot program.

State Rep. Chuck Jefferson (D-67) proposed the legislation after an amended Senate Bill 17 eliminated the city’s chance to participate. Jefferson stressed the Rock River’s importance to Rockford’s economy and why the program is needed.

“This program is an important step in the right direction,” Jefferson said. “I am glad I could include Rockford in this important initiative.”

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey worked with staff for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) Executive Director Doug Scott and Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Director Jack Lavin pushing for Rockford’s share of the funds. Morrissey then joined Jefferson in Springfield May 4 to lobby state officials.

Scott, former mayor of Rockford, had previously said local officials were not aggressive enough in pursuing the funds. Morrissey disagreed, citing the full application for the funds and numerous letters to the appropriate state officials, and said he was “blindsided” by the rules being changed at the last minute.

Morrissey’s teamwork with Jefferson brought about an amendment to Senate Bill 1892. Jefferson’s move was a response to an amended Senate Bill 17. The original version of Senate Bill 17 would have included five unnamed cities in the riverfront redevelopment program. That bill was amended to only include Aurora and East St. Louis.

The amended Senate Bill 17 would have created the River Edge Redevelopment Zone Act, which bears some resemblance to the Enterprise Zone Act. Each zone—slated to reside in East St. Louis and Aurora—could exist up to 30 years.

Morrissey said the original Senate Bill 17 called for distributing $20 million to eligible chosen communities. Aurora and East St. Louis would have shared only $2 million, thanks to the amended bill.

Morrissey and Jefferson met April 21 to discuss what to do next. The discussion, in part, prompted Jefferson to help create a new opportunity for the city. According to Jefferson, his idea was getting support from the top.

He said Blagojevich’s office supported his actions and pledged to help draft the legislation. Blagojevich explained why the redevelopment program is important to Rockford.

“We are targeting areas of the state that have the greatest need for redevelopment and potential for growth,” Blagojevich said. “River communities like Rockford were the original economic engines of Illinois.”

Morrissey commended Jefferson and other lawmakers for their roles in achieving that goal.

“I want to thank Rep. Jefferson, Speaker Madigan and Senate President (Emil) Jones for their great efforts to make Rockford a priority in the midst of final actions on the state budget,” Morrissey said.

Morrissey also thanked the DCEO leadership.

Scott said, “I am pleased that the city of Rockford is able to benefit from the River Edge Redevelopment funds.”

The money is available because the General Assembly also approved a $45.8 billion operating budget, according to the governor’s office Web site.

From the May 10-16, 2006, issue

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