Attendance Hurts Business at Rockford City Council

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- When it comes to the city council in Rockford, there have been five meetings all year where all 14 aldermen have been present. Some on the council say this attendance record is preventing some city business from moving forward.

Seats in the city council chamber in Rockford haven't been full in nearly two months, making it hard for business to get done. Some alderman say they can't get important issues moved to the floor considering some members aren't showing up to committee meetings. This has become a problem in the Planning and Development Committee where there are only 4 members. That committee’s chairman, Alderman Tim Durkee (R-1), made a plea on Monday for the council to take special action on an item that had been stuck at the committee level for 2 weeks. It will allow businesses along the Miracle Mile in Rockford to use money from that area’s tax increment financing district for new signs, landscaping, and other beautification projects.

“It’s not unusual, it’s just something we don’t do very often. We certainly don't want to string our businesses along when they are ready to go.” says Durkee. He has missed six meetings in 2014. He says that was for volunteer trips, delivering a baby, and a family vacation. He adds, his alderman's salary gets donated to Rockford Christian Schools.

Alderman Joe Chiarelli (R-14) chairs the Codes and Regulations Committee. There are five aldermen on that committee but Chiarelli says sometimes only 3 show up. He says his committee hasn’t had all 5 members present in at least two weeks.

"When we do have a quorum with three members if there's an objection to a motion, that motion fails automatically, so there is a definite issue of members not attending,” says Chiarelli. He hasn’t missed a meeting in 2014.

Out of 30 meetings, Alderman Jaime Getchius (R-2) has missed all or part of nine meetings. He says that’s because of his rotating schedule at job. Getchius points out that he has been present for all the important votes, including the city budget and Amerock hotel deal. He adds, he active with the 4 neighborhood groups in his ward and attends many of their community meetings.

Alderman Linda McNeely (D-13) has missed seven meetings. She says that’s because she cares for her elderly parents. Alderman John Beck (R-12) has also missed seven meetings. He says he missed ones early in 2014 because of bad weather and also because of planned vacations.

Here’s a list of all the aldermen and how many meetings they have missed or attended late:

Alderman Tom McNamara (D-3) - 2 meetings
Alderman Kevin Frost (R-4) – 6 meetings
Alderman Venita Hervey (D-5) - 3 meetings
Alderman Marcus Hill, Sr. (D-6) – 4 meetings
Alderman Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7) – 5 meetings
Alderman Jeanne Oddo (D-8) – 3 meetings
Alderman Teena Newburg (I-9) – 5 meetings
Alderman Frank Beach (R-10) – 5 meetings
Alderman Karen Elyea (D-11) – 5 meetings

Nearly every council member has a full time job in addition to their duties as an alderman, and many acknowledge, this is a balancing act. Aldermen are paid $12,000 a year and don’t lose any of that pay if they miss a meeting.

The council is looking to add an extra person to the Planning and Development Committee to cut down this problem. Aldermen are also looking at different ways to conduct committee meetings so more people can attend and take part in the discussions.

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey has missed 4 city council meetings.

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