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Hopeful Mayor says Rockford is on its own for 2012

NOTE: The audio file of the complete 2012 State of the City address runs a little more than one hour and includes soundtracks from several videos that were shown as part of the presentation.

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey introduced his 2012 State of the City address with an appeal to citizens to step up to the challenges of the times, posing two questions:

 “First, to what length are we willing to work together in our community?” he asked, “and second, what new courage and what new strength might we find and what bold ideas might we pursue?”

Deriding the negative rankings of Rockford by Forbes and Money magazines, the mayor saluted “determined souls within our community who wake up every morning raedy to make a positive difference for themselves, their families, and our city.”

Morrissey presented several videos, including Ald. Vernita Hervey discussing the Morgan Street Bridge project; Heartland Community Church outlining its Sharefest project; a Rockford Housing Authority video of residents who have succeeded; and a handful of videos from Pablo Korona in his “Our City, Our Story” series promoting Rockford.

The mayor cited the major deficits of Illinois and federal budgets as reinforcement for his position that Rockford is on its own … and then cited state and federal support for major capital projects, including the South Main Street redevelopment, airport improvements, and the Morgan Street bridge.

He praised the expansion and growth of several local businesses and noted honors for local institutions and citizens.

The mayor chastised the system that resolves fire and police salaries and urged citizens to contact legislators to change laws regarding fire department staffing and arbitrator decisions.

 “Please contact our local legislators and state leaders,” he asked, “to let them know you support giving your elected City Council the ability to manage resources.”

Morrissey’s “bold ideas” included creating a Healthy Rockford Network using the hospitals and college of medicine to offer advanced education and certifications in healthcare and wellness.

 “To succeed, we must first build a state and national reputation for healthcare excellence,” the mayor said. “Over the next few months, I’ll be asking government partners, business leaders, and health and wellness providers to help us chart successful strategies so that health care becomes a defining industry for our future.”

The mayor thanked area law enforcement agencies for helping an undermanned Rockford Police Department and said the current focus is on “career criminals.”

 “We want adult and juvenile ex-offenders to improve their lives,” Morrissey said. “We also want them to know that we will not tolerate repeat offenses.”

In keeping with other efforts to enhance Rockford schools programs, Morrissey proposed a Downtown Academy for Performing, Visual and Digital Arts. He asked local artists and arts institutions to brainstorm the idea.

 “We have so many great arts professionals, so many great resources in Rockford,” he enthused. “We have many more members of our community who actually utilize the skills they learned in the arts to help them do great things in their creative careers.”

The mayor insisted that the city must address the concentrated areas of poverty due to failed public housing and public health systems.

 “Frankly, we need a community ‘intervention,’” he said. “The enablers need to stop enabling and the codependent need to become independent.”

He also said that the city’s Head Start program should partner with the school district to ensure that all children within the Community-Schools zone can take part in early education.

For another look at the address, see the Rockford Register Star report at http://www.rrstar.com/news/x872943373/Larry-Morrissey-in-State-of-City-Positive-change-on-the-way