Rockford residents mixed about mayoral candidate debate - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Rockford residents mixed about mayoral candidate debate

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We're just a week away from the general election in Rockford. Three candidates for mayor, one who already has the job, make their pitches to residents in a debate.

Republican candidate Michael Kleen, Democrat Jim Hughes and Independent incumbent Mayor Larry Morrissey answered questions from the voters themselves, on hot topics like crime.

"Just last week we held our first ever prisoner re-entry meeting, we're moving forward and that's going to help us ensure that we have a safer community to raise a family." -says Mayor Morrissey.

Hughes counters, "Streetlights are important, streetlights are like having a police officer on every corner. I'm going to light it back up again."

"I believe that the police department needs to be overseen by a police chief who has the complete confidence of his or her fellow officers." -explains Kleen.

Candidates also voice their opinions on education, their visions for Rockford five years from now and geographic policing which would split the department into three districts, each district getting a headquarter building. Hughes believes three buildings means three times the cost. It concerns him that Rockford aldermen don't have enough information on the initiative like the locations of the buildings. Kleen says more officers on the streets is key. If elected, he plans to get the police department working at full capacity. Mayor Morrissey has been an outright supporter of geo-policing. He believes the department needs to move out of the Public Safety building and in his State of the City speech, Morrissey revealed the city's plans to hire 22 more officers by this year. Other questions addressed the candidates' thoughts on state wide issues allowing concealed carry and legalizing medical marijuana. All three say they're supporters of both as long as regulations and background checks are put in place for concealed carry and that medical marijuana is prescribed only for people who need it. Residents say they're still undecided with seven days left until the election. They're mixed about the quality of Tuesday night's answers and getting to know the candidates and what they stand for.

"It was very clear where they each stood on the issues, it was a good debate." says Rockford resident Anne Grindle.

Her husband Jim Grindle agrees, "I think they all answered the questions."

Rockford resident and Rockford College student Jordan Reifsteck feels differently.

"I felt like a lot of the candidates were dancing around questions and in some cases some of the candidates didn't even answer the questions." -he says.

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