Rockford Election was a Mandate to Change Course
By Michael Kleen
April 13, 2013
Rockford Register Star
I would like to congratulate Larry Morrissey on winning a third term in office. It was a pleasure getting to know Jim Hughes and Mr. Morrissey over the past several months. This was a tough race, and a lot of important issues were raised. I look forward to working with both men to move Rockford forward over the next four years.
What the election results demonstrate is that 56 percent of Rockford voters wanted change, whether they voted for Jim Hughes or me. The 44 percent Mr. Morrissey received was not a mandate to continue on the same path. Our mayor now has an obligation to address the concerns of the majority of voters who want his administration to change course.
Public safety must become the No. 1 priority of the Morrissey administration. We need to get our Police Department up to full strength (and keep it there), and continue to pursue the best methods to reduce crime on our streets. If 22 officers are hired in the coming weeks, I would like to see them deployed on foot downtown and in other commercial districts. Having a visible police presence in those areas would discourage crime, as well as panhandling, and make store owners and their customers feel safe.
My expectation is for Mayor Morrissey to replace our deeply unpopular chief of police, Chet Epperson. Chief Epperson has been a major point of contention for law enforcement personnel, and many who voted for Jim Hughes or me were really voting to replace Epperson. This olive branch would go a long way toward healing the rift between the Morrissey administration and rank-and-file police officers.
Before the election, Mayor Morrissey promised to release the complete cost of moving to a geographic policing model based out of three buildings. These figures were never released, and I urge Mayor Morrissey to release them within the next few weeks. Rockfordians deserve to know what the actual and complete cost of geopolicing will be.
I also urge Mayor Morrissey to conduct a forensic audit of the city’s 32 tax increment finance districts and make the results known to the public. In the interest of transparency and good government, the mayor should be ready to hold accountable anyone who abused, mismanaged or misappropriated TIF funds over the past eight years.
I will continue to lobby our local government to adopt free-market reforms and to abandon its top-down approach to economic development. Fewer restrictions on local businesses and lower costs for business licenses would be two simple steps in that direction. I would like to see a simple, flat fee for all business licenses. This would encourage new business growth and remove one of the financial hurdles to starting a business.
Finally, a heartfelt thank-you to everyone who supported me, who voted for me, who made phone calls, sent emails, walked door to door, donated and put out yard signs. You are the folks who help make a difference, and none of this would have been possible without you. If there were any victory in this election from achieving the highest percentage for a Republican candidate for mayor in Rockford in more than eight years, it was yours.