Rockford's former Mayor John McNamara believes the city's downtown is unified by one force: the Rock River.
"Behind the Y, going north, south, there, when you look at the city, you are looking at the face of Rockford: all ages, races and economic backgrounds," McNamara said.
The city's urban core is a central debate for the mayoral candidates. Current Mayor Doug Scott and the downtown development task force recommends expanding the river walkways around the city's museums, along with the beatification projects along North Main.
"What the Mayor has done is an example, talking about two-way streets, securing property along the waterfront, that’s a major plus," McNamara said.
The Rock is also a focal point for independent candidate Larry Morrissey. The attorney wants to better align the budgets for city's riverwalk, roadways and rail. Morrissey also wants to change downtown zoning to promote small businesses, ideas that McNamara believes would be successful.
"As far as Larry Morrissey concerned, he's been a downtown activist and advocate since he came back from living elsewhere, so in that sense they both showed and demonstrated a lot to downtown," McNamara said.
Republican candidate Gloria Cardenas Cudia wants Rockford to expand from what she calls the great's resource: its museums. She also wants to add more lights downtown, and give back to neglected urban businesses, but McNamara says his lecture about downtown was about open discussion, not petty politics.
"Absolutely, did not want any agenda, other than my own which is just concentrate on the river. I've been saying that for years," McNamara said.
Different visions for downtown, just months before one candidate is chosen to make that vision a reality.