City of Rockford

No Foolin’: on April 1, 2007, the Illinois General Assembly passed Senate Resolution 255, designating every April 1st in Illinois as "Cheap Trick Day."

2020 Suspensions Of Video Gaming Shrink Local Budgets

Mar 16, 2021
Done in collaboration with Spring 2021 Data Visualization Course, School of Art and Design, Northern Illinois University, Nestor Alvarez

Governments across Illinois are seeing large holes in their budgets due to COVID-19 restrictions. One area that’s seen a sharp drop is revenue from video gaming. 

Video gaming terminals are a regular sight at bars, restaurants and roadside shops around the state. They’ve brought a pretty penny not only to their operators, but also to local governments. This is because municipalities get 5% of the net terminal income.

The Winnebago County Health Department says vaccination efforts against COVID-19 continue. Meanwhile, the area’s positivity rate for the coronavirus has shrunk.

The Department reported 69 new cases of COVID-19, but no new deaths. Furthermore, the area’s positivity rate is only 4.7%. At a press conference carried by WREX-TV, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara praised this milestone.

Winnebago County saw two deaths and 160 new cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday. But with the first shipments of vaccines in local hospitals, officials are cautiously optimistic.

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said there’s been a decrease in positivity rates, hospitalizations and no spike related to Thanksgiving cases. She said this could help in scaling back mitigation measures. But she cautioned that the public needed to remain vigilant.

Rockford City Council Approves $168 Million Budget

Dec 9, 2020
Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

The Rockford City Council approved a $168 million budget for 2021 amid an economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carrie Hagerty is the finance director with the City of Rockford. She said that the goal for the new budget is to weather the ongoing financial pressure of the pandemic.

“We don't anticipate any changes in staffing levels in this budget. So we're really just maintaining the levels of service that we are providing today, through the 2021 budget,” said Hagerty.

Rockford Mayor Announces Reelection Bid

Nov 19, 2020
City of Rockford

The mayor of Rockford is seeking reelection in 2021.

Mayor Tom McNamara made the announcement this week, touting successes such as growth downtown, in the health care industry, and at Chicago Rockford International Airport. A central campaign message is his desire to make further improvements in those areas.

“We have had great progress these last four years and we want to build on that progress," he said. "We know there is so much more work to be done.”

The Winnebago County Health Department Thursday announced seven new deaths in the county from COVID-19. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said there has also been a significant increase in cases throughout the region.

“We’re reporting new cases of 234, our total case count throughout the pandemic is 15,719.”

Martell and Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said there is going to be a significant step-up in enforcement against businesses that violate mitigation rules. Some measures include daily ticketing, closures and ineligibility for business relief grants.

470 New COVID Cases, Two Deaths In Winnebago County

Nov 2, 2020

The Winnebago County Health Department Monday announced 470 new cases of COVID-19 and two new deaths from the virus. This puts the total number of cases at 11,472. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said it was imperative for residents not to ignore mitigation restrictions.

"With a positivity rate of almost 15%, you’re putting your community at risk. You’re putting all of our businesses at risk. And we’ve talked about this before. You’re putting our children and the schools at risk."

Connie Kuntz

Rockford could have a new multi-use path connecting the city's west and east sides by the fall of 2022. City of Rockford Traffic Engineer Jeremy Carter says the new path would take up 2.7 miles, much of it along Highcrest Road. 

"It would start over by Jacoby Place on Spring Creek Road, continue east along Spring Creek and connect with an existing project that we're in design for which is bringing a sidewalk down Parkview," he said. "The multi-use path would continue east to head up Highcrest Road on the south side of the road all the way over to Alpine Road."

$15,000 Grant Split Between Miss Carly's And Carpenter's Place

Oct 22, 2020
Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Money is on the way to two Rockford homeless assistance shelters.


The Rock Valley Credit Union split a $15,000 dollar grant between Miss Carly’s and Carpenter’s Place. Carly Rice, the founder of Miss Carly’s, said the funds will go a long way. 


"That is that's a lot of people to feed," she said. "Yeah. I mean, we're between 800 and 1000 people a day. So this was a huge help."

Winnebago County Reports 525 New Coronavirus Cases

Oct 19, 2020

The Winnebago County Health Department Monday announced 525 new cases of COVID-19. 

That number represents new cases from Friday and over the weekend. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said this was concerning, especially after reporting more than 200 new cases over a three-day period last week.

“We are reporting no new deaths and our hospital capacity has stabilized over the last week," she said. "But we are in a very critical time frame where we have both seasonal influenza beginning to rear, as well as our COVID-19.”

Provided by Rodrigo Ceballos.

A Black Lives Matter mural on Alpine Dam, in Rockford was recently painted over by the city. It was done as part of renovations to the dam in Aldeen Park. The artist of the mural shared his thoughts on the subject. 

Addressing Unemployment In The Rockford Area

Jul 22, 2020
Pixabay user kalhh

As it has throughout the country, COVID-19 has brought significant unemployment to Rockford and its surroundings. The city and local companies are working to combat it.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security reports the area’s unemployment rate was almost 20% in May.

Lots of art is exhibited in downtown Rockford. But most times, there is a cost associated with this. Donor support is allowing the continuation of a certain public display.

The Rockford Sculpture Walk is normally presented for two years.  

Kristen Paul is the director of destination development for the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

She said the 13 sculptures were due to come down in June but the pandemic spoiled that plan.

Photo provided by City of Rockford

The Community Action Agency of Winnebago and Boone County is offering their Summer Food Service Program five days a week to kids aged 2-18. It's a federally funded program through the USDA and the purpose is to provide children with no-cost nutritional meals.

Delicia Harris is the Community Engagement Coordinator for the City of Rockford Community Action Agency. She said "Summer Foods" has been around for more than 30 years. She's been with the agency for 13 of those.

Connie Kuntz

Before becoming Rockford's mayor in 2017, Tom McNamara thought his biggest mayoral challenges would be crime and budget. Those remain at the top of his to-do list, but now alongside them is COVID-19. Every day, he makes decisions about the triple threat to Rockford's safety and economy.

"Decisions that get to me, all of them are unpopular," he said. "I mean the easy decisions are usually handled by staffs -- not just at the City, but staffs across the community -- so when decisions come to my desk, they are usually...certainly never easy; pre-COVID or during COVID."

City of Rockford

The City of Rockford is making it easier for restaurants to open or increase business as the state eases COVID-related restrictions. 

On Thursday, Governor J.B. Pritzker indicated that restaurants could possibly open upoutdoor dining spots beginning in June. In response, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said the City will provide help to local establishments in setting these areas up.

City of Rockford

Rockford and Winnebago County are working to open several sectors of the local community by the end of the month. Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara made the announcement at a Monday press conference.

“The three areas include restaurants. They include child care facilities and youth programs, and houses of worship."  

McNamara says the openings are being considered as a result of improved COVID-19 metrics.


Illinois Mayors are considering how their cities will eventually reopen as the State relaxes coronavirus restrictions. 

On Thursday, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced a modifed stay at home order for the month of May. Earlier this week, some communities were pressured to re-open small businesses. Mayor Greg Jury of Loves Park said any moves should depend on location.

Rockford Alderman, Activist John Beck Has Died

Apr 12, 2020

Rockford alderman and community activist John Beck has died.

The 57-year-old Republican represented the city’s 12th ward since 2001. He worked for the Rockford Park District as its Arts, Events, and Recreation Project Manager for the past 13 years.

City of Rockford

Rockford’s mayor says city services have remained relatively uninterrupted during the pandemic. 

Mayor Tom McNamara said a key measure early on was making sure staff could take care of themselves and loved ones.

“Where we provided all staff 14 days of paid sick leave to ensure that none of them were coming to work or doing work while they were sick, or while they had a family member who was sick with COVID-19, so that they could focus on what was most important to them, which should be their family.”

Sugar Beets Are One Way To Fight Snow And Ice Hazards

Jan 28, 2020
Chase Cavanaugh

With more winter storms expected across Illinois, local and state authorities are working to clear the roads and respond to traffic accidents. 

Heavy snowfall can lead to labor like shoveling on driveways and sidewalks. For roads, local government steps in.  The City of Rockford has a fleet of more than 20 trucks for snow and ice removal. Staff are unionized, so they bid on routes. Public Works Director Kyle Saunders explained.

Chase Cavanaugh

A recently revived charity luncheon raised $12,000 this year toward feeding the needy in and around Rockford.

The Mayor’s Hunger Luncheon was started by Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara’s father in the 1980s, and served as a fundraiser for hunger prevention into the late 1990s. After a long hiatus, the event was revived last year and raised $10,000. Mayor McNamara credited this year’s boost in funds to the committee that planned it, greater public visibility, and more local sponsors.

City of Rockford

The City of Rockford is looking for public input on ways to revitalize local neighborhoods.

City officials consulted with the National Resource Network, a D.C.-based group that assists with urban strategic planning. They analyzed different Rockford neighborhoods to come up with plans to improve buildings and services.

Matthew Flores is the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization Supervisor. He said one area the group examined was tenant and landlord relations. Flores suggested emulating what has worked in Wisconsin. 

Casino Plans Unveiled In Rockford Public Hearing

Sep 27, 2019
Chase Cavanaugh

Rockford residents had the chance Monday to hear about the three plans for a new casino. 

Crowds packed the Coronado Performing Arts Center for the city's public hearing. Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara was optimistic as he kicked off the night's events.

"All three organizations believe in the City of Rockford," he said. "All three want to invest their dollars in the City of Rockford, and all three see potential in a community that continues its comeback." 

Rockford Receives Three Casino Proposals

Aug 30, 2019

Friday afternoon was the deadline for casino operators for submit their proposals to the City of Rockford. It received three different proposals. 

One proposal is by Hard Rock International. The company wants to build the casino at the site of the former Clock Tower Resort near I-90.  The second is by Gorman and Company, a firm that wants to build next to an Embassy Suites downtown.  The Register Star confirms both companies delivered their proposals Friday afternoon. 

Chase Cavanaugh

U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos took part in a ribbon cutting Wednesday for a newly renovated city bus depot in Rockford.

The Rockford Mass Transit District began renovation in February of last year. The renovation nearly doubles the depot’s size and includes charging stations and improved access for those with disabilities. Bustos says she was able to secure $3.3 million in funding for the project from the Federal Transit Administration. The other $5 million came from IDOT.  Rep. Bustos credits state and federal cooperation for the renovation’s success.

City Of Rockford To Consider Casino Sites

Aug 20, 2019
Susan Stephens

The City of Rockford has a new casino in the works, and officials will soon evaluate possible sites and construction plans.

State government is granting six new casino licenses as part of the gambling expansion bill signed in May.  One of these is for Rockford, and city government is currently accepting proposals. Mayor Tom McNamara says the proposals include details such as where the casino will be built, and how it will run.

City of Rockford Announces 2019 Mayor's Hunger Luncheon

Jul 19, 2019
City of Rockford

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara has announced the 2019 Mayor's Hunger Luncheon.

The event will take place Tuesday, October 1st,  with McNamara providing the keynote speech.  Afterwards, the city will provide a simple lunch of soup, salad and bread.  The luncheon is intended to raise awareness of, and funds for, those suffering from food insecurity.

Last year's event raised about $10,000, and McNamara said he hopes this year's luncheon can provide even more aid.

Chase Cavanaugh

Rockford is moving ahead with its plans to build a casino after Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an expanded gambling bill into law Friday.

Mayor Tom McNamara says the city has 120 days from the bill’s signing to submit applications for the casino’s location and operator to the Illinois Gaming Board.  McNamara says the city is working to get its Request for Proposals out by July 4th.

“If we can get it out by Monday, that would be even more spectacular. But it’s a tight timeframe," he said. "A lot of work needs to go into this, obviously, because you’ve got one shot at this.”