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LOCAL

Rockford mayor claims progress on neighborhoods, safety, economy

Jeff Kolkey
Rockford Register Star

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara delivered his seventh State of the City address to City Council on Monday claiming progress on everything from economic development to public safety to neighborhood improvement.

"I won’t tell you that everything is perfect, as we certainly face significant challenges." McNamara said. "We have more unfunded mandates than I can count. However, I can tell you that your local government is stepping up to do everything it can to make our residents and our community successful."

Here are some highlights from McNamara's roughly 30 minute address.

Neighborhood improvement

In addition to programs to reduce homelessness, provide home rehabilitation dollars to residents and eliminate blight, McNamara said the city approved the largest Capital Improvement Program in city history in 2023. It includes reconstruction of Whitman Street, Alpine Dam improvements and resurfacing of 200 neighborhood streets. He also noted that the city has declined additional property taxes since 2016, “leaving more than $53.8 million in property taxes in the hands of our residents and our business owners since 2017.” 

Public safety

Still reeling from a week of unspeakable violence, McNamara said that since he took office the city has seen violent crime rates fall. The city has increased the police department budget by 40% and is continuing to invest in police technology like license plate readers, speed radar detectors and surveillance cameras. It is also investing in crime prevention, domestic violence intervention and trauma mitigation programs.

Saying that higher educational attainment leads to lower crime rates, McNamara said the city is supporting the Rockford Promise program which allows Rockford students with a 3.0 GPA to attend Northern Illinois University tuition free. It also implemented a training program with a minority owned contracting business to train young people to build neighborhood sidewalks and partnered with Goodwill Industries to bring an Excel Center free adult high school to Rockford.

Economic development

McNamara said the city is making strides economically. He listed a number of projects including the planned return of train service to Chicago, Stellantis' $5 billion investment in the Belvidere Assembly Plant, the soon-to-open Hard Rock Casino Rockford resort, the $106 million first phase of the Colman Yards redevelopment project, construction of a pair of new PCI Pharma facilities totaling 500,000-square-feet and plans for a more than $10 million renovation of Davis Park among others.

Jeff Kolkey writes about government, economic development and other issues for the Rockford Register Star. He can be reached at  (815) 987-1374, via email at jkolkey@rrstar.com and on X.