The Rock River Times endorses Larry Morrissey for Mayor

The Rock River Times endorses Larry Morrissey for Mayor

By Frank Schier

By Frank Schier

Editor and Publisher

If you saw me marching in the Morrissey contingent in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade Saturday, you’re ahead of the readers that didn’t, and you know that I endorse Larry Morrissey for mayor of Rockford. My marching along was a setup for this endorsement. Actually, all the other mayoral candidates have been marching along with Larry, too—Larry’s ideas, that is.

Larry Morrissey has set and defined all the major issues in this mayoral race. The other candidates merely react to his initiative and tag along on his creativity, as he has bested them in almost every single public forum and debate.

Do the following issues seem familiar?

l Leadership, vision and trust.

l User-friendly service for taxpayers from city departments.

l Downtown River District development

l Passenger service at the Greater Rockford Airport.

l Regional high speed-rail or regular rail transportation.

l Regional and long term planning.

l Empowering neighborhood organizations and west side redevelopment.

l Better communication with every citizen.

These issues all sound familiar now that all the other mayoral candidates have committed to them, since they saw the response Morrissey was getting from their old constituents. Politely, one could say they have been “borrowing” his ideas.

Since 1997, Larry Morrissey has educated himself and shown strong leadership on issues that can really make smiles and a complete revival in Rockford, not just slogans or self-serving platitudes.

He has served as the president of a reborn River District Association. With past-president Clark Galloway, he took the River East business association and included the west side of the river, making the Rock River a unifying symbol instead of a dividing line. He tripled the revenue of the association. He hired the first, full-time executive director for the organization, Kim Wheeler. His choice of Wheeler’s expertise brought with her many years of far-east-side experience and contacts at the Clock Tower Dinner Theatre to the city’s center.

He began the district’s web site, putting our attractiveness and assets on the web, and he has committed to do the same for the city. He wants to communicate in this modern age and knows how to do exactly that. He has overseen image marketing of the River District in print and radio and set the groundwork for television ads, boat docks, water taxis, horse and carriage rides, and a roof-top gardens conference. He organized several, brand-new, special events to bring people downtown. He oversaw the Trash Can Art Program with the high school students of Arts Place through the Rockford Area Arts Council. He supported the Coronado. He invited the Rockford Park District, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Chamber of Commerce and Winnebago County to the district’s board as ex-officio members. He started a master plan for the long-term operation of the district.

He brought Peoria’s Riverfront Development director and Milwaukee’s mayor to Rockford to pass on their knowledge and inspiration. In all, he increased the professionalism of the association and brought it to a new level of credibility in the community and area. He did all that in two years, with a full-time job and other community service positions. He is savvy, a listener, and a doer, who can work with anyone.

Yes, Morrissey is mayoral material.

He served on the boards of the Rockford Area Chamber of Commerce, Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, SWIFTT, as well as attending many neighborhood organizations’ meetings and school board meetings.

He resigned from all of these organizations’ boards, to avoid any conflict of interest, not to avoid the hot issues as some have asserted. He’s a good listener and facilitator who can bring all people to the table so that no one feels left out.

He has taken the lead on the hottest issue in town—schools. He is the only candidate who has taken the time to meet each and every school board member as well as Superintendent Alan Brown and Desegregation Master Eugene Eubanks. Appointing a school board would take away your right to elect your representatives. He does not favor an appointed school board because he has a passion for the democratic process. If the question is to be considered, Morrissey wants you to be able to vote on it in a referendum. He supports the proposed “Vote ‘Yes’ for Kids” referendum.

In addition to his achievements and openness, the most impressive thing about him is his passion, real passion, for the well-being of the people of Rockford and our place in

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the region and the future.

Morrissey has consistently shown a fine grasp of the issues and great imagination in trying to draw the community together. He wants Republicans, Democrats, Independents, all ethnicities, senior citizens, professional workers, blue-collar workers and young people to be fairly involved in the political process. He says, “the people of Rockford are the boss.” He really has the political parties shaken up.

Unlike Scott and Johnson, he has the courage to buck the established special interests and criticize the “go along to get along” syndrome. He has had the courage to point out the alienating effect of Quick-Take and Eminent Domain abuse on the Ditzlers, Perryville, the South Main/Torres Market and the Charles Street/Swede’s expansion. It’s about time someone represented the voice of the real people who built this city and really pay its taxes.

Yet, he will not dismiss developers, either. He considers them part of the process, an open, public process. He says that process takes place in the city’s front room, not the back room. If everyone knew what was coming, maybe those that had back-room notice would not have lost so much money on Perryville because they could have seen the opposition was intense. Openness has its advantages for everyone.

Morrissey’s independence will be a driving key to development at the Greater Rockford Airport. Larry has championed passenger service for years, long before the fly-boys-come-lately. Political pandering to downstate and Chicago agendas will be replaced with a pragmatic Rockford-first agenda under Morrissey.

Finally, after this paper has pointed it out time and time again, the Republicans are admitting that Ryan is opposed to Rockford as Chicago’s third airport (Oops, Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport has copyrighted “Chicago’s Third Airport”—we’re that far behind). Finally, they admit that he sees us as competition in the long run. That’s why Syverson, Wait, Winters and honorary Republican Doug Scott haven’t done anything up to this point. For the short run, because of the mayoral race, Morrissey’s pressure has built up. For Mr. Manzullo’s trip to Washington to see Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, Republicans have procured a letter from the governor to back them up.

Morrissey didn’t need backup from anyone when he attended the regional conference on high-speed rail, and saw the word “Rockford” wasn’t even on their map. Winters and Scott were plugged into the loop on this, but they left us hanging. Morrissey will take up their slack.

Two years ago when Morrissey went to Scott with the issue, he received absolutely no cooperation. Now, Scott touts a METRA connection and a real airport, when U.S. Senator Durbin says to Rockford, “Get your act together.” Interesting word, “act.”

Morrissey knows that action surpasses empty rhetoric, and he knows action must be planned to be successful. At first, none of the other candidates responded to his call for a regional planning board to include all the municipalities and counties in the area. Now, at least Johnson is marching to this tune.

People who are constantly tuned out in this community are the economically disadvantaged and minorities. As an attorney whose family has been an advocate for the downtrodden for decades, Morrissey will support diversity and the rights necessary for justice to be served to all—equally.

Have the “experienced” leaders of this area served all equally? Yes, Morrissey is young, 31, and that means he doesn’t carry all the biases and baggage of the “old.” Hubert Humphrey was 28 when he was elected mayor of Minneapolis. Kennedy was 43 when he was elected president. These young and inclusive men were great leaders of the Democratic Party. The traditional old men in Rockford wanted Larry to “start at the bottom” as a precinct committeeman or county board member. Morrissey is not part of, nor does he endorse the failed policy or lack of policy these “experienced” party liners represent. Morrissey, being young and ambitious, didn’t want the old baggage and debts piled on the vision he has for Rockford.

Many, many talented, young people like Morrissey have left this town to seek their visions elsewhere. That’s called a brain-drain. Morrissey wants to keep our best and brightest here in Rockford. How many parents of such talented go-getters wish their children were closer to home? Vote for Morrissey, and they might stay or even come back. Morrissey is the perfect new mayor for a new century.

To all you young-at-heart or young-in-age people out there, vote! Don’t just complain that there’s nothing to do in Rockford; do something. Vote! For the first time in Rockford’s history, you have your own candidate. You are really voting for yourself if you vote for Morrissey. Can you really relate to Guy Spinello, Doug Scott, or Dennis Johnson? Do they have your interests at heart? Vote for one of your own who can change and handle the old way of doing things. Does that old way make you feel apathetic, like nothing’s going on for the better? Get this town moving again! You can put yourself and Morrissey over the top.

The rest of the media in this town are made up of mainly young-at-heart or young-in-age people, who really want to march with Morrissey into the future, too. They know he is the best candidate. But they are quaking in their inky or electronic leaden boots because the powers that be who own their organizations say, “Traditionally, we have backed a Democratic or Republican candidate.” Convince your editors and station managers that Morrissey, the Independent candidate, is what Rockford needs. The party line in journalism needs some new hosts. Traditionalism never breaks new ground or encourages new growth. Lead from within your media.

The best parade you’ll ever march in is the parade of truth you’re not supposed to be in because the oligarchy says, “Spin for the money.” Were you to admit your bias and cease hiding behind supposed “objectivity,” which really doesn’t exist anyway because of the-powers-that-be editing the truth by exclusion, we’d all be better off. If you want to advocate, advocate, and be straightforward in your vocation, like Larry Morrissey.

Accordingly, The Rock River Times endorses Larry Morrissey for mayor of the city of Rockford. Yes, The Rock River Times openly practices advocacy journalism and will make no apologies for being advocates for the people rather than the corrupt and failed establishment. I advocate Larry Morrissey because he is by far the best mayoral candidate and hope for Rockford I have ever seen. I will march in a parade with him anytime. Elect Larry Morrissey. Vote for Larry Morrissey!

No to Dennis Johnson

Like Doug Scott and Guy Spinello, Dennis Johnson is a very nice and hard-working man. He is a successful business man and is well regarded in the evangelical religious community and the city as a whole.

He has said that 60 churches endorse him. His office did acknowledge “Christians” on his campaign were soliciting votes by phone. God bless them for supporting a candidate they believe to be the best. However, various reports from other “Christians” say they were offended when asked if they were going to help put a “good Christian” in the mayor’s office. Are Doug Scott, Larry Morrissey and Guy Spinello “bad Christians”? In this day and age, that seems out of the ordinary, divisive and exclusionary. If churches were to supply their mailing and phone lists, such action seems to be a violation of church and state statutes, which could bring the not-for-profit, tax-exempt statutes of those churches involved into question. When asked if the campaign was calling church memberships, Tanya Miester, Johnson’s daughter, said, “We are not revealing campaign strategy. I am not prepared to tell you that.” As to having specific membership lists, Miester said, “We have lots of volunteers ranging from friends to family, but not church memberships. Have they given it to us and said, ‘Here we go,’ no.”

Campaign Media Liaison Riley O’Neil said Johnson misspoke, “As you know, churches cannot endorse. By no means does that mean that they are not supporting. We have people grabbing yard signs from 60 churches and temples. What that must say is that the church leadership themselves endorsed Dennis, definitely not.”

Many say, you are known by the company you keep. With Sen. Dave Syverson and Winnebago County State’s Attorney Paul Logli as Johnson’s campaign cochairs, the Republican Party’s good ol’ boy network will continue to choke real progress in Rockford and deliver the “good” to traditional special interests. Look at what the Republicans have done with their control of the county government—prison proposals, Ditzler Quick-Take, Perryville bulldozers. If Johnson were to gain City Hall, the balance of power would be completely on the Republican side. We need Morrissey’s independence there.

As to the Greater Rockford Airport, like Scott and Daley on the Democratic side, we’ll have Johnson and Ryan on the Republican side. Ryan wants Peotone to fly as Illinois’ third airport, and Ryan wants to keep Rockford grounded. As a party loyalist, Johnson will have a very hard time not falling into that party line.

Also of concern is the possible conflict of interest with Johnson’s various seats on several prominent organizations’ boards in Rockford. Most notably, his service to Swedish American Hospital. While he has tried to separate himself from the Eminent Domain action that has displaced 70 households to make room for Swede’s expansion, he really cannot. The city Tax Increment Financing will drain most of the revenue away from other deserving businesses in the area. This is taking many small businesses’ money to subsidize a large one. In the debate at the Patriots’ Gateway, Johnson was clearly angry at being questioned on this matter. In the Channel 17 debate when Morrissey questioned the arrogance of making a plan for a neighborhood without the neighborhood’s input, Johnson dismissed him with, “That’s just lawyerese.” We’ve had enough of an “angry mayor,” and one wonders if he has the right temperament for the job.

Johnson also sits on the board of Bank One. Their building at 401 East State is up for sale. Will a potential Johnson administration aid this For-

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tune 500 company to the detriment of taxpayers?

While Johnson has a fine and capable family, he has been the head of HC Johnson Press. As the key person in this business, will he be able to separate himself completely from it to commit himself 100% to the office he seeks? Rockford deserves more than a part-time mayor.

Also, will he separate himself totally from the admirable efforts of Playgrounds Around the World? We must have a mayor who spends his time in Rockford and is committed to our tasks.

Johnson has touted his three meetings with the Desegregation Master Eugene Eubanks. With no real position of authority, were these meetings as productive as inferred, or were these meetings political ploys?

Johnson’s plan for his first 90 days is admirable. Yet, at least nine points of his 16-point plan are essentially Morrissey initiatives which he has expanded upon. To be fair, please see the complete text of his plan on page 11. Particularly interesting are his outreach ideas to national and international business and government.

Because of the reservations noted, Denny Johnson should focus on what he does best—business. Let Morrissey represent us as mayor and create a business ambassador and recruiter position. Denny Johnson would be perfect for that position.

No to Doug Scott

Doug Scott has, with the assistance of other state legislators (particularly Dave Syverson), brought state funds in for the Coronado, the schools and roads.

And while constituents have said that Doug Scott is very good at getting back to people and assisting in providing state services, good manners and the fact that he is a nice guy do not make up for the negatives that surround him.

He is the protege of Charles Box. He represents the status quo here more than any other candidate. His policies will be similar to Box’s, and we will see very few changes in what many see as uncooperative faces at City Hall.

With Scott, Rockford Blacktop and Sunil Puri will continue to rule the roost in the back room.

In other back-room dealings, Scott, Doug Aurand, Willie Bell and Box all share responsibility for not slating a candidate to run against Kris Cohn. Jim Hughes, a loyal Democrat with good experience and good intentions, was willing to run against her. He was denied. So he gave a hard run as a write-in with no support and lost. All Rockfordians were denied access to democracy because of the Democratic hierarchy’s action, and Doug Scott is a leader in that hierarchy.

As to the Greater Rockford Airport, with Doug Scott as mayor, orders will continue to be under the hierarchy of Illinois’ chief Democrat, Chicago’s Mayor Daley. That’s why Madigan is involved here. Daley does not want to share O’Hare’s revenue. Daley is already sharing it with Gary (that’s enough for him), and that means none for us. If you doubt that O’Hare is Daley’s golden egg, see the March 19 headline in the Chicago Tribune that reads, “Daley insider paves way for big O’Hare contracts.” The money in concessions alone, not to mention the ticket tax, staggers honesty.

Also, Doug Scott is the author of Quick-Take legislation that denies property owners due process under Eminent Domain. The Quick-Take disease has already spread from the Ditzlers, to possibly Perryville, to Chicago’s suburbs. In the Village of Oak Park, a very successful hot dog stand owner of 22 years suffered from Scott’s Quick-Take of his property for condominiums and a parking deck.

Scott also sat on the Electrical Deregulation Committee that cleared legislation that really extended ComEd’s monopoly for 10 years. In May 2002, residential users can leave ComEd, but they have to pay exit fees every single month until 2008. These exit fees give ComEd almost $15 billion for supposed “stranded costs.” Moody’s Investment services, in an independent audit, estimated those costs at $1.5 to $3 billion. Doug Scott believed ComEd rather than one of the most respected audit companies in the U.S.

Speaking of respect, Scott also embraced the Tort Fund spending of Rockford School District 205. The tort spending was illegal, yet Scott endorsed it, pitched it.

He also pitches his backing of the last school referendum, which he sold as a tax savings. Anyway you twist it, that referendum was a tax increase.

As I said in my column last week, I think there is ample evidence that Scott has aspirations to higher office and that the mayor’s office is just a stepping stone. His funding from Democratic Speaker of the House Mike Madigan points to that, as do his own remarks. However, Scott was amply in disagreement last week when I saw him at the Channel 17 debate. “Nice piece of fiction you wrote,” he said. He was not happy. I approached him after the debate and offered the same amount of space that I, Ken Staaf, or Sandy Kohn had in last week’s issue for his reply in this week’s issue. My staff called him to remind him of the invitation. We have not received his reply.

Scott’s opponents say he is doing a great job in Springfield and humorously suggest he should stay there. Many would agree. He is surely building seniority and clout as his relationship with Madigan develops. Those connections can serve Rockford with Morrissey’s Rockford-first agenda. Hopefully, Scott will help out as his downstate power increases with time.

No to Guy Spinello

Guy Spinello’s commitment to a better Rockford cannot be questioned. He has voiced his concerns about basic city services and operations for years.

His concern for the west side of Rockford is laudable, as is his reluctance about the public subsidy of private business.

However, his back-to-the-basics approach is a step back in time that the future of Rockford doesn’t need. Yes, police, street, and snow plowing services must be augmented. Yet, the airport will not land an airline on its own, and regional train service will not locomote without an engineer. A Spinello administration would mean that Rockford would be stuck in the mentality of the 1950s.

Spinello has little chance of winning and barely shows up in most polls. Spinello is known as a long-time Republican. While he denied that he was in the race to split the Italian-American and Independent votes from Larry Morrissey, his continued candidacy does just that.

Will he toss his support to another candidate, or will he stick out the race? That will tell the tale of his true role as an Independent.

His campaign manager Ken Ritz is a known Republican Party power broker. Ritz’s employee of questionable background was a poor loan to Spinello’s campaign that should not have been accepted, but help is help, and the fellow has served his time.

As many of us do, Spinello knows about hard financial times. While Spinello’s recovery from financial hardships shows his fortitude and courage, the management of the city budget can afford no mistakes.

Spinello knows operations of service businesses. Hopefully, Morrissey will include him in his new administration in some role in public works.

In closing, this mayoral race and its public interaction is the best in the history of our city. All the candidates should be proud of their deportment and effort. May we always have such fine competition.

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