By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — Transform Rockford on Wednesday announced it supports the return of home rule to Rockford.
Spokesmen say the organization stands behind the March 20 referendum because it will allow the city to regain control of a destiny that is currently being controlled by leaders in Springfield.
“We want to seize control of our own destiny, and we want to seize control of whats already happening,” Executive Director Mike Schablaske told reporters at a new conference. “That’s why we’re supportive of this and that’s why we encourage others to be supportive of home rule.”
Transform joins the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Rockford Chamber of Commerce, Next Rockford and the Rockford Area Economic Development Council in their support.
The RACVB board voted to support the referendum earlier this month. Board Chair David Anderson says home rule gives citizens an opportunity to vote for local leaders with a bigger stake in Rockford than the few who represent the city at the state level.
“At RACVB, we know that what is good for residents will help attract visitors,” Anderson said in an earlier report. “Our residents are concerned about public safety and want to see their neighborhoods thrive.”
Rockford Apartment Association Director of Legislative and Public Affairs Paul Arena said his organization, along with the Rockford Area Realtors, is urging residents to vote “no” because they say home rule gives city officials too much power to increase taxes, raise fees and enact regulations, despite the self-limiting ordinances aldermen approved Feb. 6.
The Rockford Area Hotel Motel Association also announced its opposition to home rule, citing its fear that the city’s hotel tax would increase and that the hike would not be applied to tourism.
Pilgrim Baptist Church Rev. Kenneth Board is a Transform Rockford steering committee member and part of the Our Decisions. Our Solutions. campaign. He said he’s heard from home rule opponents and understands their argument. But he said the time is now to embrace forward progress.
“I hear a lot of negative comments,” Board said. “We should not allow fear and statistics and inability to accept change to keep us from taking control of our own destiny. It’s my prayer that on Tuesday, March 20, we will take responsibility for our own present and future.”
Residents can vote ahead of the March 20 primary at the Rockford Board of Elections, 301 S. 6th St. Early voting began Wednesday, Feb. 21. R.