Covering the Land of Lincoln

Rockford has many successes to celebrate

The end of one year and the beginning of another bring a lot of thought.

In the city we take time to pause and look back at what we have achieved. 2021 was a historic year for the City of Rockford. The city appointed its first female fire chief and his first black person, as well as the first woman, the police chief.

Chief Michele Pankow and Chief Carla Redd are both highly qualified, highly qualified individuals who will serve our community well.

In November, after decades of advocacy, the new temporary Rockford Casino opened its doors. The proceeds from the casino fund the Rockford Promise Northern Illinois University Scholarship. This scholarship program gives Rockford Public School students living in Rockford who earn a GPA of 3.0 the opportunity to graduate from the NIU and general fees are free.

The first class of these scholarship holders – almost 100 students – started their studies this fall. We have introduced new programs to help those most in need in our community.

More:The Mayor of Rockford is calling for a state review of changes to the Mercyhealth service on the west side of the city

Using our local tax on retail sales of adult cannabis, we launched the REGROW Grants program. The aim of the program is to empower and encourage community reinvestment and wealth creation in disproportionately affected communities, individuals and families suffering from the long-lasting negative effects of more than 80 years of cannabis prohibition laws.

We also launched a health literacy initiative aimed at addressing social determinants of health in Rockford. We partnered with Nexamp and ComEd to launch a new 15-year program to provide free solar benefits and savings to low and middle income citizens in the Rockford area, without spending any taxpayers’ money.

In 2021, we passed the largest infrastructure plan in the city’s history to improve our streets, neighborhoods and water system. We raised $ 23 million for updates to the BMO Harris Bank Center. This investment paved the way for Chicago Blackhawk’s acquisition of Rockford IceHogs, which will secure Rockford’s long-term commitment to this world-class franchise.

We have approved a development agreement with SiFi Networks to advance a citywide fiber optic network. As part of the agreement, fiber optic cables will be laid in front of every residential and commercial building in our city over the next four years.

The city council has also decided on a balanced budget for 2022 without increasing property taxes. In the past five years, the city has actually lowered its property taxes, leaving more than $ 17 million in the hands of our residents and business owners.

We cannot talk about our successes without talking about areas for improvement. One area that we need to focus on is reducing crime. Unfortunately there is no easy solution. We have to take a multi-pronged approach.

At the same time, we need to develop youth prevention programs, implement rehabilitation programs for offenders to prevent relapse, and ensure harsh punishments for our most dangerous violent criminals.

Public safety is not an either / or. It takes a holistic approach. In fact, this year we have developed many programs to deter those who have experienced trauma from getting into the pipeline from school to prison, and we have advocated that judges will judge those with the worst offenses, including guns and Strangulations, hold them accountable.

While there is still a lot to be done, we are making strides every day to improve Rockford.

Tom McNamara is the Mayor of Rockford.

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