Rockford Mayoral Candidates Square Off On Taxes, Public Safety

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- There is less than a month until voters pick the next mayor of Rockford. All three men on the ballot answered questions about their plans for the city's future during a candidates forum on Thursday night.

It was a full house at St. Peter's Cathedral in Rockford for the forum between mayoral candidates republican Michael Kleen, Democrat Jim Hughes, and current Independent Mayor Larry Morrissey. The candidates spent much of the time talking about how they'd improve public safety; that was something voters appreciated.

“I'm very concerned as an inner city resident with the safety and they all addressed that of course,” says Signal Hill resident Merry Klemm. “I myself am in favor of the geo-policing. I like to see it broken up and to see the police in the areas that really need the policing."

Each man offered a different perspective on the removal of 2,300 street lights around Rockford.

"For any of my opponents who say let's put the resources back in the street lighting, it's great in theory and by the way, we've got a new ordinance that will give us a procedure to do that, but you've got to show me where the money's coming from,” says Morrissey.

“We got way too many stop lights. Let's make traffic flow a lot better, let’s take some of the traffic signals down," says Hughes.
"I'm willing to do just about anything to get the money to put those streetlights back in but I will tell you where we can get the money from, is eliminating some of these TIF districts,” says Kleen.

When it comes to taxes, the candidates agreed, they're too high in Rockford. However, each man presented a unique own solution to lower those taxes.

“Because we are a property tax cap community, the only way we can decrease that rate, as high as it is, is to grow the base. We can grow the base but he got to stay committed to this vision of excellence everywhere," says Morrissey.

“We need to look at the values, where they're going, we need help, we need to shore them up, we need to bring our neighborhoods back up so you get your value out of your home," says Hughes.

"This city has given millions of dollars in tax breaks to wealthy developers. That may be a great business model for them but it’s wrong for the people of Rockford,” says Kleen.

The candidates were split over whether city employees, including police and firefighters, should be required to live in Rockford. Hughes and Kleen say residency shouldn't be a job requirement. Morrissey says employees should have to live in Rockford for 8 to ten years and then be allowed to move.

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