Local lore surrounds Bloods Point Road
Rockford Register Star
October 19, 2014
You can’t discount the hundreds of strange encounters reported along Bloods Point Road, said Michael Kleen, a local folk historian. The road is one of Boone County’s most notorious midnight drives.
“Maybe there is something to the stories after all. … That’s what makes it exciting.”
With multiple books on local legends — including the ghostly go-to book “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State,” Kleen is well-acquainted with the lore surrounding the 5-mile country thoroughfare, from phantom police cars and supernatural dogs to mystery lights and vanishing barns.
He feels the road’s sinister monicker, taken from the Blood family who settled there in the mid-1800s, has helped keep the lore alive for more than a century. Believe them or not, these spooky tales have become an integral part of the community’s social and historical fabric. Even traffic signs dare not use the road’s full name, opting instead for the abbreviated “Bl. Point Rd.” [More...]
Myths persist about Freeport home’s ties to assassinate Charles Guiteau
Rockford Register Star
October 19, 2014
What is known about the home is this: It was the home of Charles Guiteau’s uncle and aunt, A.B. and Emily Rehfield Guiteau. Charles was the son of Luther W. Guiteau, who served as a cashier at Second National Bank, was a merchant at the time, and served Stephenson County as recorder and clerk of the circuit court. Charles shot President Garfield in a railroad depot in July 1881. It would be weeks before Garfield would die. Charles never lived in the home of his uncle and aunt. He actually grew up in a house on Broadway Street in Freeport.
Michael Kleen, folk historian and author of several books, including “Haunting Illinois: A Tourists Guide to the Weird & Wild Places of the Prairie State,” has often passed the home while visiting family in Freeport. The home fascinated him, so he began his own research.
After Charles Guiteau was hanged for killing Garfield, rumors began swirling that his bones were buried in the home.
“This rumor about Guiteau’s bones is not true,” said Kleen. “According to widespread belief, after his execution, his body was boiled and his skeleton was bleached and put on display around the country. Other reports said his head had been preserved in a jar and kept by a physician in New York. Similar rumors were repeated for nearly a century, creating a lot of confusion. Guiteau’s bones are actually kept at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland.”
Kleen said Guiteau was a tragic figure and a political gadfly. For a short time, he joined a utopian religious sect known as the Oneida Community in New York, but its founder thought him to be insane and threw him out. He constantly sought appointments to political offices and felt slighted by President Garfield when he refused to appoint him as ambassador to France. He even failed at the assassination of Garfield, said Kleen. It was really Garfield’s doctors, who infected the bullet wound during sloppy surgery, who are ultimately blamed for killing the president. But, at Guiteau’s trial, Dr. Edward Spitzka called him a moral monstrosity. [More...]
Rockford’s Greenwood Cemetery filled with spirits
Rockford Register Star
October 19, 2014
The year was 1856 when Winnebago County Sheriff John Taylor was shot by Alfred Countryman, a suspected cattle thief who was attempting to elude capture. “Before they could get to the jail, Alfred ran and Taylor took off in pursuit,” said Michael Kleen, folk historian and author of the book “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State.”
“Sometimes people still hear him speak his final words, ‘I’m shot; catch him.’” A mob of hundreds of townspeople pursued Countryman, demanding he be lynched where they captured him, across from Tinker Swiss Cottage.
“People have said they have heard crowd noises and running and screaming in that area,” said Kathi Kresol, a local librarian, researcher, and founder of the Haunted Rockford group. “Rockford was like the wild west at that time. The police couldn’t keep up with it; they were just doing the best they could.” [More...]
Home rumored to be haunted for sale in Belvidere
Rockford Register Star
October 19, 2014
Stories vary as to why Nellie, in her late 60s, would have left her home, wandered to the river and drowned, but Michael Kleen, a folk historian and author of the book, “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird & Wild Places of the Prairie State,” believes it had to do with heartbreak.
“According to legend, as the Civil War was raging, she fell in love with a man who promised to marry her after he returned from the war. He never returned, and she was so heartbroken that she never fell in love again. One day, in her old age, she donned her wedding gown and walked slowly into the river. Her neighbors found her body tangled in weeds and snakes.”
At the time, Dunton was said to have been suffering from dementia. Decades after her death, there have been reports of strange encounters in and around the home. [More...]
Speakers look at Lincoln, issues of the days of riot
March 30, 2014
Also speaking Saturday was author and historian Michael Kleen, who talked about the political climate of Illinois and how it contributed to the riot. There are several ideas of why there were Copperheads in this part of the state and why they were angered enough to fight with the soldiers, Kleen said.
The thought that the Copperheads were influenced by their southern heritage “sort of assumes a lot,” as Lincoln and his family were originally from Kentucky and “obviously it didn’t have any hold over him,” Kleen said.
Instead, he said, it was more likley the “political environment of Illinois.” People had strong loyalties to political parties and the Copperheads perceived “little insults” such as being forced into loyalty oaths. “All this led to kind of a tinderbox waiting to erupt,” Kleen said. “They couldn’t express their views by peaceful means.” [More...]
Tacos and Tales
Lake Land College Navigator News
Vol. 13 Issue 5 – February 2014
The wonder of things we do not understand, the things that none of our senses can comprehend or decode: all of this is connected to the idea of what could be; the things we do not know, but that we still believe to be possible. All this and more is what Michael Kleen dedicates his life work to. Kleen will be presenting at the Lake Land College’s event, Tacos and Tales. He will be telling stories about the most obscure and interesting things that have happened in the Coles County area.
Michael Kleen is an author, publisher, local historian and freelance columnist. Some of the many books he has written include “Tales of Coles County, Illinois”, “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State” and “Paranormal Illinois.” On top of all this, he owns a publishing company called Black Oak Media, Inc. that, according to him was incorporated in 2011 and has “published about 25 titles [from various authors] since then.” He is also the editor of the website MysteriousHeartland.com.
In an interview with Kleen, he stated that he has been writing since he was in elementary school, and has been interested in history and folklore for “at least that long.” He “actually started out writing fiction, and the first couple of books I wrote were all novellas.” Kleen started publishing because of his intense enjoyment of writing and he decided he wanted to make a living doing just that. In 2008, he received a M.A. in history from Eastern Illinois University. The research skill that was learned there has helped him approach the folklore subject from different perspectives. [Print only...]
“Secret Rockford” book released
February 3, 2014
ROCKFORD (WREX) – People of Rockford share their stories and reveal the hidden side of life in the Forest City. A new book called, “Secret Rockford” explores the facts, people, places and events that make the city unique. Teachers, writers, journalists and even average citizens from the Rockford community came together to bring a collection of 18 short stories.
“Some are fiction, some are nonfiction. The nonfiction articles range from a history of Mattison Machine Works to a couple of unsolved murders in Rockford,” said Michael Kleen, “Secret Rockford” Editor & Publisher. The book is now available to buy either online or at local retailers.
New Book Highlights City’s Untold Tales, Oddities
Winnebago County News Bulletin
January 31, 2014
A few of Rockford’s secrets are about to be revealed. “Secret Rockford,” an anthology of 18 articles and short stories written by and for Rockfordians, will hit stores and online retailers on Feb. 1.
The idea of the book came from Michael Kleen, a publisher at Black Oak Media. After unsuccessfully running for mayor of Rockford in the spring and becoming more invested in local media, he felt mainstream news outlets were neglecting investigative reporting. He wanted to come up with a way to tell local stories that are often overlooked or forgotten.
“I hadn’t been in politics for very long around here, and it really opened my eyes to a lot of things,” Kleen said. “I wanted to bring issues to light that weren’t being discussed.”
So Kleen created a Facebook page and asked members of the community to submit stories about Rockford — fiction and nonfiction, recent or stretching back into the city’s history. Contributors come from all walks of life; from teachers to journalists to ordinary people being published for the first time, a wide variety of perspectives are represented in “Secret Rockford.”
One of the contributors, Ernie Fuhr, is a social studies teacher at Roosevelt Alternative High School. Fuhr has two stories appearing in “Secret Rockford.”
One attempts to unravel the mystery behind a 1930s mural that may or may not have had Communist undertones. The other is a creative retelling of a Santa skydiving incident that happened at North Towne Mall in 1965. More…
Ghostly Roberta Hall lands Northwest campus in Top 10
Maryville Daily Forum
January 24, 2014
The spooky story of Roberta Hall has been told many times by students and faculty at Northwest Missouri State University. In fact, the ghostly tale has been featured both in books and on television and incorporated into the school’s official history.
And now the legend of the haunted sorority residence has landed Northwest on a “10 most haunted” list featured by Mysterious Heartland, a website maintained by Illinois folklorist Michael Kleen that focuses on hauntings and other paranormal doings across the Midwest.
The university is included in Kleen’s “Top 10 Most Haunted Colleges.”
“Top 10 lists have always been a popular feature on my website,” Kleen said. “But after writing more than two dozen lists about the strange and unusual in Illinois, I decided it was time to branch out and include other Midwestern states. I’m particularly interested in the folklore and ghost stories of colleges and universities. I chose the rankings by the number and notoriety of the stories.”
The tragic story of Roberta Steele is recounted in Northwest journalism instructor Jason Offutt’s book “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to the Show-Me State’s Most Spirited Spots.” More…
Coles County Full of Hauntings
Daily Eastern News
October 25, 2013
The legend of the ghost of Pemberton Hall is the most well known in the area, but Michael Kleen, author of “The Tales of Coles County,” has many more to share. And he did, to an audience of about 50 students and community members at an event hosted by the Eastern’s Creative Writing Club Thursday.
Most people in the audience raised their hands when asked if they believe in ghosts, and Kleen said he was surprised that the few who did not would come to such an event. “Maybe we’ll make believers out of you,” he said.
He grew up reading ghost stories, went to Eastern, and realized not much had been written about the legends percolating around the area. So he did it himself. “I wanted to know a lot more about these places,” Kleen said.
He said a legend is a non-historical story passed down through generations. And that is what most of these stories are: each has numerous versions, and none are really nailed down as truth. [More...]
Haunted Charleston to be Examined
Daily Eastern News
October 24, 2013
The legend of the Pemberton Hall ghost, as well as hauntings across Coles County, will be explored at a presentation Thursday. Michael Kleen, author of “Tales of Coles County, Illinois,” will examine the historical and cultural contexts of haunting folklore in the Charleston area through his presentation, called “The Legend of Pemberton Hall.”
Kleen said the original talk of the Pemberton Hall ghost has multiple origins, including that a student was murdered in the residence hall during the 1920s and that the spirit of the hall’s first dorm mother still looks after the girls in-house.
He said there have been many reports over the years of odd or paranormal occurrences, including rearranged furniture and doors strangely opening and closing. Kleen said while there are no records of murder in the hall, he nonetheless feels compelled to examine the history of such urban folklore, regardless of its truth.
“I like to look at folklore and history and try to find anything there that might have led to the stories,” he said. “There’s a lot of history there, and whether I think the stories are valid themselves doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if they’re true or not—people find them entertaining.” [More...]
‘The Legend of Pemberton Hall’ Event Set at Eastern
October 21, 2013
CHARLESTON — Michael Kleen, author of Tales of Coles County, Illinois, will tell “The Legend of Pemberton Hall” and other local ghost stories at a special presentation on Thursday. The multimedia presentation will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Paris Room of the MLK, Jr. Student Union at Eastern Illinois University. This event is sponsored by the EIU Creative Writing Club.
The event is designed to provide haunting stories and strange tales. Participants can speak with the author as well. In addition to telling tales, Kleen will show pictures and video from some of the most interesting places in Coles County. Some of these places will include EIU’s Pemberton Hall, Airtight Bridge, Ashmore Estates, “Ragdoll” Cemetery, and haunted houses. [More...]
3rd Annual Paracon and Psychic Fair in Mattoon
WICD Channel 15 News
September 7, 2013
MATTOON– Psychics, tarot card, crystal, and aura readers, and even ghost hunters. All were on hand in Mattoon Saturday to speak with the public about paranormal activity. Organizers say it’s all part of an effort to better educate a thrill-seeking community.
Dozens of exhibitors and guest speakers were in Mattoon Saturday for the Central Illinois Paracon and Psychic Fair. Paranormal investigation teams from across the area were on hand to demonstrate ghost hunting equipment and techniques…
Several guest speakers have been featured on ghost hunting TV shows, but one speaker says the local interest is often traced to local history. Michael Kleen says, “People like to see something interesting about their hometown, they want to know there’s something going on that’s a little bit out of the ordinary that sort of makes living in the town that they live an exciting experience.”
That popularity has not been lost on the Illinois Metaphysical and Paranormal Society, which hosts the convention. Co-founder Becky Guymon says, “The community’s been great, we’ve had a lot of community support. A lot of people come out, I think everyone’s really interested in it. This is our third year doing this and it gets bigger every year.”
And though not every hunt turns up a ghost, sometimes the learning process is just as important. Kleen says, “The legend is important, you know? I don’t think just because a legend is untrue doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful. So I think it does detract a little bit in a sense. But the ghost stories are always going to be there no matter what.” [More...]
Author to Sign Book on Local Folklore
Daily Eastern News
August 23, 2013
Ghosts in a residence hall, hauntings in a house and torsos on a bridge are all focuses of a former Eastern student’s book he will be signing Friday and Saturday. Michael Kleen, an alumnus of Eastern, first published “Tales of Coles County, Illinois” in 2004.
He will be jump starting excitement for his 10th anniversary edition of “Tales of Coles County, Illinois” by signing his book at Bidwell’s Chocolate Café at 1610 Broadway Ave in Mattoon and Jackson Avenue Coffee at 708 Jackson Ave in Charleston.
Kleen will be at Bidwell’s Chocolate Café from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Friday, and he will then be at Jackson Avenue Coffee from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Tales of Coles County, Illinois” details different supernatural occurrences throughout the county – all of which Kleen has researched, and what he calls the “unusual history” of Coles County. [More...]
Author Sets Book Signing
August 21, 2013
Michael Kleen, author of “Tales of Coles County, Illinois,” will sell and sign copies of his book from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Bidwell’s Cafe in Mattoon and from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Jackson Ave. Coffee in Charleston.
The events will include a reading, as well as a question-and-answer session. The 10th anniversary edition of the book was released earlier this month.
Part 1 of “Tales of Coles County” features four historical fiction tales, among them stories about a battle between Kickapoo Indians and Illinois Rangers, and the Charleston Riot of 1864. [More...]
‘Tales of Coles County’ Book Signings Scheduled
August 19, 2013
CHARLESTON — Michael Kleen, author of “Tales of Coles County, Illinois,” will be selling and signing copies of his book from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Bidwell’s Café in Mattoon and from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Jackson Avenue Coffee in Charleston.
Friday’s and Saturday’s book signings will include a reading from “Tales of Coles County,” as well as a question-and-answer session.
The 10th anniversary edition of “Tales of Coles County, Illinois” was released earlier this August. Long before TV stations like SyFy and the Travel Channel took an interest in the area, Kleen was researching and writing about unusual episodes from the county’s past. With a blend of fact and fiction, “Tales of Coles County” is a unique look at the history and places that make Coles County such an interesting place to visit. [More...]
10th Anniversary Edition of ‘Tales of Coles County’ is Out
August 12, 2013
CHARLESTON — The 10th anniversary edition of Tales of Coles County, Illinois has been released. Long before TV stations like SyFy and the Travel Channel took an interest in the area, Michael Kleen was researching and writing about remarkable episodes from the county’s past.
With a blend of fact and fiction, Tales of Coles County is a unique look at the history and places that make Coles County such an interesting place to visit…
With everything from haunted houses, to the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, ghost towns, and buried treasure, this book will leave no stone unturned. The new edition will include four new places not appearing in any previous edition, as well as nearly a dozen photos. [More...]
Former Republican Mayoral Candidate to Propose Changes
to Panhandling Ordinance at Council Meeting
Rock River Times
July 8, 2013
Michael Kleen, former Republican candidate for mayor of Rockford, will speak at the Rockford City Council meeting at 6 p.m., Monday, July 8, to argue in favor of new amendments to Rockford’s aggressive panhandling ordinance. Kleen developed the ordnance changes to encourage a more safe and welcoming environment downtown and in business districts.
“Our current ordinance is not adequate to deal with the panhandling problem,” Kleen said. “Under our current ordinance, a person could walk around in front of a business and ask passersby for money all day long. When a business district develops a negative reputation for activities like this, it makes attracting customers more difficult.”
The proposed changes include increasing the number of feet around certain areas where panhandling is prohibited (from 20 to 40 feet) and prohibiting panhandling in a public park, fairground or sporting facility, on private property without the owner’s permission, and within 50 feet of a place of business. [More...]
LETTER: Writer has touch to hold interest
July 07, 2013
Thankfully roughly eight or so years ago I stumbled across this amazing set of stories and articles related to our own history here in Coles County. The author amazed me something fierce, his stories were very well written and kept my interest even after many years of shoving my face into numerous books.
One of my favorites, Tales of Coles County, is coming out as a tenth anniversary edition this upcoming August. Michael Kleen is an amazing writer of sorts, he studied at our own E.I.U. and became something of a local historian for our good county.
He also ran a small magazine that published a number of writers, photographers and other entertainment based in Illinois, including myself. Normally, I don’t go out of my way to give such wonderful praises but for those who are as proud of their area as I am something like this shouldn’t just be unnoticed. [More...]
Rockford’s Own: Michael Kleen (Author & Political Activist)
The Rockford Blog
July 2, 2013
What prompted your desire to be a writer?
“I’ve always loved writing and the idea of being a writer. When I was younger, I had a very romantic idea of what it would be like to have a published book. I thought that was an end in itself. Now that I’m older and I’ve published several books, I have to ask “what’s next?” A lot of authors are shocked when they see their first royalty check, and they are forced to redefine their notion of success. Around 200,000 new books are published each year in the U.S., and less than 1 percent achieve best seller status. Selling over 10,000 copies (nationally) can land you on The New York Times Best Seller list. In two years, my most successful book, Haunting Illinois, has sold around 1,300 copies. Of course, the subject matter has a very limited audience, but that is still a decent sales figure in the grand scheme of things. No one becomes a writer to get rich.” [More...]
Coles County ‘Tales’ getting new edition
June 18, 2013
CHARLESTON — Since announcing the upcoming release of a new edition on Friday, the Facebook page for the book “Tales of Coles County, Illinois” has gone viral, garnering more than 900 new likes in five days. That is an average of 180 new likes per day. The first in a series of antique postcards promoting the book, uploaded on Monday, has been shared 175 times and viewed by nearly 9,000 people.
First released in 2004, “Tales of Coles County, Illinois” by Michael Kleen follows the journey of four students from Eastern Illinois University who are stranded in an old cabin during a storm. The elderly couple who live there tell the students four stories, each related to Coles County history: a battle with Indians near Blakeman’s Mill; the Charleston Riot; the Coles County Poor Farm; and the body found at Airtight Bridge. After one night, these students will never look at Coles County the same way.
The 10th anniversary edition of “Tales of Coles County” will also feature a section on the legends and lore of Coles County. With everything from haunted houses, to the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, ghost towns, and buried treasure, this book will leave no stone unturned. The new edition will include four new places not appearing in any previous edition, as well as nearly a dozen photos. [More...]
Michael Kleen right choice for Rockford mayor
April 8, 2013
Kleen has been running a campaign on a shoestring–about $3,000. At 31, he’s never held a political office and isn’t vested in the “Who’s Who” in Rockford money.
As a public speaker and presenter, Kleen more than passes muster. During Q&A forums, Kleen challenged Morrissey for answers about the Midtown TIF money, prompting a release from the city. That left Hughes to fumble with push-pull arguments about hiring more police and how to allocate gambling revenue.
Keep in mind, Morrissey was 35 when Rockford elected him. It was his second bid for mayor and he, too, had never held public office. After his first term, it was clear he could use another four years to get the ball rolling. Sadly, he failed…
Rockford needs a mayor who is not entrenched in political power plays. Vote for Michael Kleen. It’s the right thing to do. [More...]
Mayoral Candidate Calls for Report on TIF Appropriations
April 8, 2013
A Rockford mayoral candidate is calling for a review declaring whether tax increment financing revenues have been managed appropriately.
According to a press release, Michael Kleen, the Republican candidate in the race, says an audit is necessary after a recent controversy concerning the failed Midtown Lofts project. The Midtown Lofts used funds from the 7th Street TIF to create another TIF for that project. Over $1 million in tax money was taken in but the project was never finished.
“It seems clear, from what the local media has uncovered in regards to the Midtown Lofts, that there is little to no transparency or accountability when it comes to TIF projects,” said Kleen in a press release. “The public deserves to know whether Rockford’s TIF districts are delivering their promised results.” [More...]
The Very Different Views of the Candidates for Rockford Mayor When It Comes to Economic Development
April 5, 2013
Republican Michael Kleen feels both of his opponents support using tax dollars improperly and ineffectively when it comes to economic development. “I mean what has the result been of this top down approach to economics?” Kleen asks. “It’s been a worsening economic situation in Rockford. So I feel like maybe we should take a different track that the city shouldn’t try to micro-manage the economy but maybe it should try to focus on what it does best and fix the streets, get public safety under control, and leave the rest up to the private market.”
Kleen points to special tax increment financing districts he says are costing taxpayers millions. “I saw a report from 2010 that basically showed that the TIF districts are bleeding out about 1.9 million dollars a year, which is slated to increase to about 4 million dollars by I believe about 2020 before they even start to recoup the investment. So this has not been a successful way to redevelop Rockford.” [More...]
Rockford Mayoral Candidates Talk About Declining Property Values and School District 205
April 4, 2013
A recent Eyewitness News investigation ‘Road to Riches’ found Rockford’s property values falling substantially and tax revenue dropping with them. More than $500,000,000 in lost property values over the past five years. The result has been a sky-high property tax rate to fund city services.
Republican Michael Kleen is critical of the city’s current approach to construction and redevelopment. “So I feel like maybe we sould take a different track that the city shouldn’t try to micro-manage the economy but maybe it should try to focus on what it does best and fix the streets, get public safety under control, and leave the rest up to the private market.”
…The mayor’s opponents believe his involvement in education has been counterproductive. “I think there are things that we can do,” Kleen believes, “but you if you’re going to work with the school district, you can’t go in and say well these are my ideas, you implement them. You konw, it’s a two way discussion, and i see the mayor as being more of an ambassador to the school district.” [More...]
Rockford Mayor’s Race — Different Ideas When It Comes to Relationship with Police
April 3, 2013
Morrissey says there’s a difference in the relationship with his office when police are wearing their police hats and enforcing the law and when they’re wearing their union hats and conducting negotiations.
The mayor’s opponents believe otherwise. They are especially critical of Mayor Morrissey’s support for Chief Chet Epperson, who failed a ‘no confidence’ vote from officers in 2007. “The relationship right now between the rank and file and the administration is very poor and strained, and I think it stems from the leadership,” Republican candidate Michael Kleen says. “Chief Epperson as you know failed a vote of confidence, and at that point, if I had been the mayor, I would have asked for his resignation.”
Democratic candidate Jim Hughes agrees. “I’ve never seen a vote of 276-6 I think of no confidence. That says a lot. I also know politically that a house divided will fall. We got to fix it and fix it now.”
Kleen adds that “Rockford has struggled for the past 8 to 10 years with crime, and when somebody in upper management, when we see they’re not successful at their job, we need to get somebody in there who is more able to take on those challenges.” [More...]
Kleen the clear choice for change
Rock River Times
April 3, 2013
Although relations between campaign contributors and elected officials is commonplace in today’s political landscape, taxpayers and voters would be better served never having to wonder whether their elected officials work for them, their campaign contributors, their family members or themselves. This is one very large reason to vote for Michael Kleen in this election.
While one could view Kleen’s lack of campaign contributions as a sign he may be a weak candidate, one could also view it as an attempt by the “Good Ol’ Boys Club” to keep the newcomer with new ideas and no associations from wrecking their precious club. Kleen could not even get the support of many in his own party in this election because they would rather back “Good Ol’ Boys” Morrissey and Hughes. Morrissey and Hughes, meantime, have far too many associations with campaign contributors to be completely trusted.
Kleen, 31, seems to be the people’s candidate. He cares about people, not politics, and is educated, smart, humble and capable… Kleen is mindful and respectful of others, and seems to have the makings of a responsible leader. His idea of government putting needs before wants is truly refreshing after eight years of beautification projects that, although possibly well-intentioned, have failed to revitalize this community. [More...]
Candidates Discuss Crime at Mayoral Forum
April 3, 2013
There’s been talk of switching the city of Rockford over to geo-policing for more than a year. It’s been a hot topic that has now spilled over to the mayor’s race…
Mayor Morrissey introduced the idea, which would add three police stations throughout the city, but Republican Michael Kleen says it’s a waste of money.
“The money that we would spend brining these three buildings up to the standards of the police headquarters would be better spent on hiring more police officers and getting those officers in high crime areas,” said Kleen.
“We can operate geopolicing in Rockford at our current staffing level,” said incumbent mayoral candidate Larry Morrissey. [More...]
Rockford Mayoral Candidates Share Their Views on Violent Crime
April 2, 2013
Geo-policing includes a new command structure, and 12-hour shifts for officers, but the plan is opposed by the police union. The union and the mayor have a contentious relationship Republican candidate Michael Kleen believes needs to be repaired. “The police force is demoralized,” Kleen believes. “You know the administration has been fighting with the police union now for the greater part of four or five years and that type of contentious relationship really I beleve is making us less safe because the police are not able to do their jobs as well as they should.”
And the Mayor’s opponents agree with the union, believing that geo-policing is a waste of resources. They say the city can geo-police without the cost of additional police buildings. “We’re really talking about policing,” says Hughes, “And whether you call it geo-policing, that’s fine, I’ll go with that but I think geo-policing can be run out of one building rather than three. I think it’s better for the city of Rockford and cheaper for the taxpayers to have geo-policingin one building.”
Kleen adds there hasn’t been full disclosure yet on the program’s cost. “We still don’t know what the cost of that is going to be. We don’t know what the cost of rehabilitating three buildings is going to be. Bringing them up to the standards that a police station would need to be. The cost could be astronomically high. So what I would like to see is more police officers on the street first, and then if that lowers crime, then maybe we don’t need to look at geopolicing.” [More...]
3 men, 1 mission in race for mayor of Rockford
Rockford Register Star
March 31, 2013
Fifth Avenue where the concrete has been swallowed by the earth. Corners of concrete slabs jut out about shin high where the earth has spit out the sidewalk it once devoured. On the street, a line of divots collect a pool of water and the thawing snow. At the center of the road is its largest pothole, several feet wide and a foot deep. The condition of the road is a sign of a particularly wet spring, with several cycles of freezes and thaws spawning countless potholes.
For the Republican candidate for mayor, the road is a sign of a municipal government that has lost sight of the basics. “My main focus is on really shoring up the fundamentals here in Rockford,” Kleen says, standing in Fifth Avenue. “I don’t have a vision for grand public projects or anything like that. We’ve had a lot of that over the last eight years. Now it’s time to get back to the basics.” The basics? Infrastructure and public safety.
Kleen, a 31-year-old book publisher, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and came to Rockford in 2008. He’s seen the city invest money in “big-ticket items” like the Riverwalk that would be better spent addressing problems in neighborhoods. “I have nothing against things like a riverwalk, but that’s Step D. First, we need to do Step A, which is actually get the blight under control and fix the roads. The basics need to come first. The amenities come later, when we can afford it.” [More...]
Kleen Calls Ad Dispute a Distraction
March 19, 2013
One of Rockford’s mayoral candidates is jumping in on the spat over an ad campaign put out by Rockford’s Police Union.
Today, republican candidate Michael Kleen called the dispute between incumbent independent Larry Morrissey and democrat Jim Hughes a distraction. Kleen told reporters he wants to focus on the issues facing Rockford. Mayor Morrissey is accusing Hughes of violating election laws by placing links to the Police Union’s ads on his campaign website and Facebook page. Kleen called the feud petty and says it’s time to move on.
“I think the voters need to hear the candidates talk about the issues that are important to them. Mayor Morrissey’s feud with the Rockford police union is undermining the morale of the department and its making us all less safe,” said Kleen.
Hughes and the Police Union have denied Morrissey’s accusations, The State Board of Elections will decide if any campaign laws were broken.
Rockford’s mayoral debaters mix it up at Signal Hill
Rockford Register Star
March 16, 2013
Last Thursday, I questioned the Rockford mayoral candidates at a debate sponsored by the Signal Hill neighborhood association at St. Peter parish hall. More than 100 residents of the 3rd Ward turned out to hear Democrat Jim Hughes, independent Mayor Larry Morrissey and Republican Michael Kleen.
Here are highlights: Geographic policing. The candidates are divided on this hot topic.
Kleen: “The administration still hasn’t come up with the numbers. They say it’s too expensive to remain in (the Public Safety Building) now they want to go to three buildings. If geopolicing is going to work, we need more police on the streets.” [More...]
Rockford Mayoral Candidates Square Off On Taxes, Public Safety
March 14, 2013
It was a full house at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rockford for the forum between mayoral candidates republican Michael Kleen, Democrat Jim Hughes, and current Independent Mayor Larry Morrissey. The candidates spent much of the time talking about how they’d improve public safety; that was something voters appreciated…
“This city has given millions of dollars in tax breaks to wealthy developers. That may be a great business model for them but it’s wrong for the people of Rockford,” says Kleen. [More...]
Mayoral Candidates Sound Off on WROK
February 26, 2013
Less than two months before Rockford’s mayoral election radio station 1440 WROK invited all three mayoral candidates into their studios to talk about how we bring more economic development to Rockford.
Small business owner and republican candidate Michael Kleen believes Rockford has been too focused on downtown development. “There’s been a lot of money that’s been spent on economic development downtown while the rest of the city areas seem to be ignored,” said Kleen during his interview…
Kleen said development hinges first on crime. “We have to get this crime problem under control and we’ve got to do something about reviving our economic prospects because what we’ve been doing has not been working,” said Kleen. [More...]
Forbes Names Rockford 3rd Most Miserable City
February 22, 2013
With the April election approaching, one mayoral candidate in the Forest City is using our new title as part of his campaign platform. Michael Kleen is the republican candidate running for mayor. He says it’s time for Rockford to get off the most ‘Miserable City’ list. Last year we were number nine. Forbes uses ten factors to determine the ranking, including violent crime, unemployment, political corruption (former governor George Ryan, an example) and high taxes, all things the forest city has seen its fair share of. Kleen says the city has been focusing on economic development projects, but he says we need to look at the basics first.
“What we need to do as a city is get back to our core mission which is to take care of crime, fix the streets and make it easier and less expensive for people to do business in Rockford,” said Kleen.
Kleen also says getting rid of unsuccessful TIF districts may help because those tax dollars could then go back to school districts, which could mean lower property taxes. We did reach out to democratic candidate Jim Hughes who did not return my calls. Incumbent mayor Larry Morrissey says he will address the issue during Monday night’s city council meeting. However, not all Rockfordians are taking our new title so seriously. [More...]
Mayoral and Aldermanic candidates discuss hot topics at forum
February 10, 2013
The format of the forum works like this: each candidate spends two minutes talking about hot topics in Rockford.
Michael Kleen will appear on the Republican ticket. “Crime is a suppressant on the economy, and in order to get the economy moving again, we must tackle the crime issue because crime is like a hidden tax that makes doing business more expensive,” says Kleen. [More...]
Rockford Mayoral Candidates Speak in Forum
February 10, 2013
Rockford mayoral candidates said the key issues facing the city are crime and the economy…
Republican mayoral candidate Michael Kleen said he’s running for office because he doesn’t see his needs being met with the current administration.
“I want to get the government out of the way and have entrepreneurs do their jobs,” said Kleen. “I want to put more cops on the streets. Give the police department the resources it needs to get the job done. And that’s really where my philosophy and the philosophy of my opponents differ.” [More...]
Controversial Super Bowl Ad Hits Home
February 4, 2013
The gun control battle hit the small screen during Sunday’s big game. Now a new commercial sponsored by a national coalition called “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” is creating a lot of debate today. Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey is a part of that organization…
Rockford mayor Larry Morrissey and DeKalb’s city leader are both apart of ” Mayors Against Illegal Guns” which is the national organization behind the ad. The 30 second spot narrated by a child’s voice features NRA president Wayne LaPierre, asking for universal background checks at a 1999 congressional hearing. Now LaPierre says gun laws requiring those checks are ineffective at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. We made several attempts to reach Morrissey today, however his opponents in the mayoral race are weighing in on the ad.
“We all know that most gun crimes are committed by gang members who don’t exactly buy their guns at gun shows so I don’t know if targeting gun owners in that matter through background checks will have an effect on the problem,” said Republican mayoral candidate Michael Kleen. [More...]
Michael Kleen makes his case for mayor
Rockford Register Star
January 23, 2013
Heads up! Rockford’s electing a mayor in April. Two-term independent conservative Mayor Larry Morrissey seeks a third term; he’s challenged by Democrat Jim Hughes and by Republican Michael Kleen, a newcomer to the political wars. Kleen asked me to meet him Wednesday at Katie’s Cup. I asked Kleen why he wants to be mayor of a city with high crime, high unemployment and growing poverty.
First, some background: Kleen, 31, has a relatively fresh view of Rockford. He came here in 2008 from Des Plaines, and is an entrepreneur who owns Black Oak Media Inc., a desktop publishing company. He’s written books and has a special interest in Illinois history, writing papers like “Copperheads in Illinois” about Democrats who opposed the Civil War and advocated a peace treaty with the rebels.
Kleen has a master’s degree in history from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in education from Western Illinois University. And while Kleen doesn’t know where all the political bones are buried in Rockford, he did compile a three volume set of 19th-century Mayor Robert Tinker’s papers. [More...]
Criticism aplenty for Larry Morrissey’s gun sign-ups
Rockford Register Star
January 14, 2013
Michael Kleen, the independent mayor’s Republican opponent, expressed opposition Monday, citing what he called the failure of a national gun registration law in Canada:
“Under the Canadian Firearms Act, only 30 percent of firearms in Canada were registered over a 15-year period, leaving 70 percent of firearms in Canada unregistered. The registry cost $2 billion to start up and around $100 million a year to operate in a country of only 35 million people.
“In 2003, former Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino stated, ‘We have an ongoing gun crisis including firearms-related homicides lately in Toronto, and a law registering firearms has neither deterred these crimes nor helped us solve any of them’.” [More...]
Mayoral Candidate Vows To Give Pay Raise To Charity
January 8, 2013
Republican candidate for Rockford mayor, Michael Kleen, says that, if elected to office in April, he’ll donate a 25% pay increase to various local nonprofits. Approved by the Rockford City Council last October, the Mayor’s pay will increase from $95,000 to $118,750 annually.
Kleen believes that a salary of $95,000 a year is sufficient. “With this pay increase, the mayor will be even further removed from the average Rockford resident,” Kleen said. “I think the money would be better spent by local charities and community organizations to help make this city a better place from the ground up.”
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