This was another year of interesting and important local news stories that ranged from the election of Independent candidate Larry Morrissey as mayor of Rockford to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina victims to the area. With that in mind, The Rock River Times presents the top 10 local news stories of 2005.
1. Morrissey elected as Rockford mayor: After a long and contentious Rockford mayoral campaign, Independent candidate Larry Morrissey snapped more than 30 years of Democratic control of the citys executive office. Morrissey had many enthusiastic supporters for his campaign.
However, Democratic incumbent Doug Scott did not face a serious challenge from Republican candidate Gloria Cardenas Cudia, which helped elect Morrissey to office. He garnered 54 percent of the vote to Scotts 41 percent and Cudias 4 percent.
The Rock River Times heartily endorsed Morrissey for Mayor.
2. Home rule debate re-emerges after 22-year absence: A politically-connected and well-financed political action committee called Empower Rockford wants the City of Rockford to return to home rule authority after voters rejected the power in 1983.
Empower Rockford held a rally Oct. 12 to announce their intentions, which has been met with stiff opposition led by resident John Gile.
At the Oct. 12 rally, supporters also asked for signatures on petitions and petition circulators to get home rule on the ballot as Gile had done in 1983. Those who oppose home rule cried Unfair! when supporters dropped the petition movement and asked to short-circuit the process by having City Council put the measure on the ballot. That request has yet to make it out of the Codes and Regulations Committee. Rockford would be the first city in state history to place home rule on the ballot in that manner.
Supporters of home rule argue the authority could give city officials the tools they need to better address issues such as drug-related crime, economic development and school truancy.
Critics counter home rule will offer little or nothing to address those issues. They added home rule will give too much power to aldermen who have not earned voters and residents trust to use the power judiciously of the benefit for all people, rather than a privileged class, as Gile asserted.
3. Mafia-related articles also re-emerge after 21-year hiatus. Even before U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced in late April the indictment of alleged Mob hitman from Rockford, Frank G. Saladino, The Rock River Times published articles concerning past Mob activity in the area.
According to the Kane County coroner, Saladino was found dead of natural causes in a rural Kane County hotel room April 25the same day he was indicted on federal charges of murder and other undisclosed criminal allegations that were performed by Saladino on behalf of the Chicago Mafia, which is known as The Outfit.
After the indictment, several articles described Saladinos links to former business partner Salvatore Sam Galluzzo and the Rockford Housing Authority. Galluzzo was identified as an alleged Mob member in a March 4, 1984, article published by the Rockford Register Star.
Paul S. Nicolosi, City of Loves Park attorney and owner of the law firm Nicolosi and Associates, P.C., was also business partners with Galluzzo in the development firm Buckley Partners LLCa frequent contributor to local political campaign coffers.
During former Illinois Governor George Ryans term, owners of Buckley PartnersNicolosi, Galluzzo and Galluzzos brother Natale Gallluzzowere recipients of at least two state contracts. One of those contracts was between the Illinois Attorney Generals office and Buckley Partners, which leased office space for the attorney generals regional headquarters at 7230 Argus Drive in Rockford.
Nicolosi also announced he would develop a $5 million mixed-use office building at South Church and Chestnut streets, across from the new federal courthouse.
Nicolosi or attorneys in his firm represent the municipalities of Rockton, Roscoe, Loves Park and Caledonia.
Also in the news was reputed Mob associate and millionaire Nick S. Boscarino of South Barrington. He purchased a local restaurant and other area properties since 2004. Boscarino is currently serving time in federal prison on fraud charges for bilking the Village of Rosemont of money related to undisclosed insurance fees.
And Rockford Police Chief Dominic Iasparro revealed he and other police officers destroyed files in the mid-1980s, which concerned alleged Rockford Mob members. Iasparro said the file purging was connected to a nationwide effort to destroy such files.
Rockfordian Joseph W. Saladino Jr., 59, a cousin of Frank G. Saladino, reported to federal prison Jan. 25 in Sandstone, Minn.
Joe Saladinos trip up the river to the Gopher State comes nearly eight years after being caught with a machine gun, butcher knife, bolt cutter, hand saw and other weapons in the trunk of his car.
The Rock River Times revealed Edolo J. Zeke Giorgi, former Rockford alderman and state representative, once worked for a Mob-owned distributing company. The now-defunct Northern Illinois Music, Inc./Midwest Distributing Company in Rockford was partially owned by Chicago Mafia members William Daddano Jr., and Anthony A. Cardamone.
Giorgi died in October 1993.
4. Eminent domain ruling affects local residents: In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld municipalities right to seize private property for economic development under eminent domain laws.
Even before the ruling, Machesney Park officials already subscribed to the broad definition of public use, and expanding authority. That philosophy was again demonstrated concerning development along the Illinois 173 and 251 intersection.
Andrew Harty, 76, has owned his Machesney Park home at 9732 Orlando St. for 55 years. During that time, he and his wife, Janet, raised seven children in their home, and they do not want to move.
However, the family is being forced to vacate the property because Village officials have targeted their home and others in the area for development. Hartys home stands in the way of the Villages plan to turn the intersection into a shopping, dining and retail mecca.
5. Hurricane Katrina victims arrive in area: Several hundred survivors of Hurricane Katrina arrived in the area in September through government-sponsored and private efforts to temporarily and permanently relocate them.
Although some had arrived earlier, the most noticeable arrival occurred in the late hours of Sept. 11 at the Greater Rockford Airport. Fifty-one survivors arrived by plane, which included eight children.
6. Jail construction continues while crime data misinformation is dispensed: Winnebago County continued construction of a new 1,212-bed jail that The Rock River Times estimated would cost $50 million more than what was originally sold to voters in 2002. The new $160 million jail will also house 312 more beds than what public officials told voters during the jail tax campaign in the fall of 2002.
With that as a backdrop, elected officials continued to misinform the public about crime data. Officials such as Winnebago County Board member W. Timothy Simms (R-14) asserted violent crime was increasing when it was actually decreasing.
7. Garbage contract woes continue: Significant problems with Rockford and Loves Parks garbage contracts still exist 10 months after The Rock River Times research suggested the pacts may be costing taxpayers and residents big money.
The primary issue focuses on different and incompatible units that are used to determine payments for garbage collection and disposal services. Specifically, Rockford pays the contractor in dollars per ton of refuse, and Loves Park residents pay the contractor in dollars per residential unit.
Rockford has still not set confirmation procedures for the tonnage it is charged for at Pagel Pit.
8. No Wake zone protested: When the Winnebago County Sheriffs Department b
egan enforcing the No-Wake zone on the Rockford and Loves Park border, it was met with stiff opposition from boaters, who garnered 500 petition signatures to have the No Wake zone removed.
They argued the restriction was excessive, which resulted in damage to businesses tied to river traffic. The Rock River Times showed that boating on the Rock River contributed $8 million or more a year to the local economy.
The restriction requires boaters to dramatically slow their craft that the sheriff argued was necessary for safety at the boat launch, despite the fact that no accidents have ever occurred there.
Media later learned the petitions that prompted the restriction were collected by deputies at Harlem High School and Sheriffs Department headquarters. Some of those signatures were collected from ineligible individuals, which violated Illinois Administrative Code rules.
The boaters also complained that proper river levels are not being maintained by the Fordam Dam in downtown Rockford. In response to this public criticism, dam owner ComEd publicly stated it would donate the dam to a responsible public entity. Negotiations are underway with the City of Rockford.
9. City awards no-bid contract to high-speed communication vendor: The Rock River Times reported a member of former Rockford Mayor Doug Scotts original broadband technology task force was awarded a $600,000 no-bid contract after unidentified members of that task force informed city officials there were no other competing businesses that could provide a similar service.
The city awarded the contract to a middleman business, Metro Fiber Solutions, when they could have leased high-speed communication cables directly from the owner, US Signal. However, the city never communicated directly with the owner of that cable. US Signal later announced service to the Rockford area.
10. Locals appear on Fawell master list: Several influential politicians, lawyers and a judge were among the locals that appeared on Scott Fawells master list that he used to track political favors performed by the Illinois Secretary of States office during the 1990s. Fawell was the star witness in the corruption trial of former Secretary of State and Republican Gov. George Ryan.
Most locals on the list are familiar names connected to the Republican Party. However, former Democratic representatives of the 67th District, Edolo Zeke Giorgi and Doug Scott also appeared on the list.
Other notable news events of 2005 include the death of Winnebago County Board member Polly Berg; Trim Rites abandoned plan to build hog slaughtering plant in Rockford; media celebrities Alan Jones and Stephanie Caltagerone left their former positions; and Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen faced garnishment of his wages.
From the Dec. 28, 2005-Jan. 3, 2006, issue