Embracing Rockford's past and supporting changes in the future. Mayor Larry Morrissey believes that was his message Wednesday night.
The Forest City has its problems. Mayor Morrissey outlined some upcoming solutions to those in his State of the City address. Some Rockford residents will tell you that he advocates for change and improvement, but others believe his speech was all about the spring ballot.
"I think it's interesting that the mayor is placing so much emphasis on public safety in an election year. Where has the emphasis been over the past 8 years?" -says Republican mayoral candidate Michael Kleen.
To that, Mayor Morrissey answers back.
"My job, as I've done every year, same month, in March is to talk about what we've done over the last year and how to prepare for the coming year." -he explains.
Rockford's top leader touches on a controversial direction the city is taking, splitting the police department into three districts.
"The city has the financial ability to operate our department under a geographic policing approach, in fact that's why we're working hard now to hire up to 22 new officers to meet our budgeted level of 285 sworn officers." -Morrissey explains to the crowd at the Coronado Performing Arts Center.
Also discussed, crime rate and its correlation with street lights around Rockford. The mayor says criminal activity is actually down in areas with the least lights.
"Taking those street lights down hurt our community and we're going to put them back up." -says Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Hughes.
Morrissey tells residents that changes west of the river are also coming this year. That includes South Main Street construction, improving West State Street and on the other side of State Street, creating a new round-a-bout at Auburn Street and North Main Street.
"We're definitely headed in the right direction, obviously all these things take time." -says Rockford resident Timothy Michalek.
Plus, the city's teaming up with Etsy, a group promoting small business to help educate citizens on entrepreneurship.
"Jobs don't come easy these days and if you can use your talents to make something, sell it and be able to work from home then that's amazing." -says Rockford Art Deli Co-owner Britney Lindgren.
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