Candidates for Rockford mayor, 14th ward alderman and school board, as well two Rockford township posts take some tough questions Tuesday night at a community forum.
Each of the candidates explained his or her background, motivation to run and top priorities if elected, then audience members had a chance to voice their concerns. A key issue raised: regaining the public trust.
"The thing that I look for in a politician is for his honesty and his forthrightness. When you say that you're going to do something I think that's what you should try to do," says 14th ward resident Deb Zandonatti.
Each of the candidates talked about making tough decisions to keep budgets balanced in this tough financial climate.
The three men running for 14th ward alderman are Ed Geeser, a local banker; Bill Robertson, a former Rockford police chief and Mark Bonne, a Rockford schools administrator. They all spoke about their roots in, and commitment to Rockford, and promised transparency in city government.
School board candidates for district F: incumbent Harmon Mitchell and challenger Jaime Salgado, a local accountant, talked about encouraging parental accountability in the schools to cut down truancy and get kids to graduation.
Plus the mayoral candidates weighed in on crime and the potential benefits of community policing.
"We have to get out of this pattern where we just run patrol and we think that's going to solve crime. Patrol, if you're waiting for the 911 call, too late crime's already committed," says Independent incumbent Mayor Larry Morrissey.
Democratic challenger Doug Block is a former police lieutenant and union leader. He adds, "We need the officers to be more in touch with the people, to get that development that confidence, the confidentiality and the information from those people out there."
Finally, Republican candidate and current Winnebago County Board member John Harmon says, "Let's arrest the real criminals, let's get them quickly and let's stop fooling around with things that have nothing in the world to do with making my life better."
Green party mayoral candidate Jesus Correa did not attend the forum.
The event was hosted by a group that rallied against bringing an asphalt plant to Mulford Quarry last year, so some of the harshest words were leveled at Mayor Morrissey for supporting that project. It passed with his tie-breaking vote. Morrissey says that's an example of the tough decisions that come with a life in politics.